Federal, state lawmakers make case for more dams at water symposium | TheUnion.com
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Federal, state lawmakers make case for more dams at water symposium

Peaceful demonstrators lined both sides of New Airport Road Friday morning in protest of a Mountain Counties Water Resources Association regional water symposium held at The Ridge Golf Course and Event Center in Auburn.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

Federal and state lawmakers on Friday urged the need for infrastructure improvements, citing the Oroville Dam spillway and calling for increased water storage in California.

Speaking at an Auburn symposium hosted by the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association, Republican legislators alternatively called for the construction of more dams and slammed environmental regulations they say stymie necessary projects.

U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, whose district includes most of Nevada County, said the Centennial Dam is an opportunity for the area. If approved, the project would create a new reservoir on the Bear River between the Combie and Rollins reservoirs.

“It’s a local decision and we support that,” LaMalfa said.

LaMalfa, who was called by President Donald Trump during the Oroville spillway emergency, said he didn’t want a feud between California legislators and the White House to negatively affect the state. He acknowledged that some people are excited about the Trump administration while others are worried — a nod to hundreds of protesters outside the symposium at the Ridge Golf Course and Events Center.

LaMalfa noted that government moves slow and exists to serve the people.

“We’re going to be all right,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, whose district includes a small portion of Nevada County, said environmental laws that hamper projects must be curtailed.

According to McClintock, the price of one water-based project in Foresthill jumped to $11 million from $2 million after environmental reviews, mitigation and the rerouting of a trail and campsites came into play.

McClintock said the Trump administration could lead to an infrastructure improvement renaissance, arguing water projects should be priorities. However, lawmakers must change regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act to meet infrastructure goals.

“We must educate the public that there is a better way,” McClintock said.

State Sen. Tom Berryhill argued that the California Environmental Quality Act must be amended.

“The way things are right now, these dams aren’t going to be built for years,” he said. “Environmentalists do love their regulations.”

Berryhill, whose district stretches from Amador to Tulare counties, slammed what he called “Sacramento liberals,” saying they don’t understand the problems mountain counties face.

“At the end of the day, we need those dams built,” Berryhill said.

State Sen. Ted Gaines, whose district includes Nevada County, said the state’s future is bright. However, like Berryhill, he laments a state Legislature dominated by Democrats. The state spends an inordinate amount of time on issues Gaines dismissed.

“We’re talking about stupid things like a bag ban when we’ve got crumbling infrastructure,” Gaines said.

Protest

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the country club before and during the symposium. They waved signs and at times sang, at one point chanting “Do your job” to one arriving legislator.

Tece Markel, of Newcastle, held a sign that stated “Welcome to climate change.” A resident of McClintock’s district, Markel said she wants her representative to accept the science of the changing climate.

“That’s why we’re having floods and droughts,” she added.

Luann Welborn stood on a stone barrier behind Markel. She held signs depicting the earth that stated “Senator Gaines/Stop killing your mother.”

“They need to start listening to their constituents,” Welborn said. “Not just the people that voted for them — their entire constituency.”

Passing vehicles regularly honked their horns at the protesters, eliciting waves from those standing on either side of New Airport Road.

Kristen Stinnett-Brown, of Nevada City, held a sign that stated “Please hear our voices.” She said she attended the protest over her concern about changes on the national level.

“I hope that our peaceful presence encourages LaMalfa and McClintock to take notice of our concerns and our voice,” she said. “They work for us, not President Trump.”

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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