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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar jabs GOP on San Joaquin River pact

September 19, 2011 |  3:35 pm

San Joaquin River
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took some shots Monday at Republican efforts to roll back environmental protections and repeal a historic agreement on river restoration in California.

The GOP majority in the House is floating a number of bills that would freeze or dismantle an array of environmental regulations, arguing that they strangle business and hurt the economy.  

In a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Salazar took particular aim at a proposal introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) that would increase water deliveries to Central Valley farmers, eliminate long-standing reforms to federal irrigation contracts and repeal a legal settlement that calls for increased flows and the restoration of salmon runs on the San Joaquin River.

"A few members of Congress are bent on killing a restoration program that is restoring water flows to the river, bringing stability and certainty to agricultural users, and that will bring the first salmon runs in half a century," Salazar said in a copy of his prepared remarks.

More broadly, the former Democratic senator from Colorado said Americans face two competing visions of how to deal with the nation's economic problems: Under one, he contended, "It’s a place where we give up on the rules and standards that give us clean water, abundant wildlife and open lands to hunt, hike and fish. It’s a place where we cut taxes for the few and abandon the less fortunate among us, rather than make the investments we need to compete and win."

The tenor of the speech was unusual for Salazar, whose public remarks tend to the bland. 

He also promoted another pact opposed by some in California's GOP House delegation, an agreement that calls for the removal of salmon-blocking dams on the Klamath River on the Oregon-California border.

While Salazar said environmental documents scheduled for release later this week conclude the project will cut hydroelectric power generation and eliminate some recreation on the river's reservoirs, it would restore 68 miles of coho salmon habitat and 420 miles of steelhead habitat.

The restoration and dam work would bring "4,600 jobs to the regional economy over 15 years, including around 1,400 during the year of dam removal," he added.


Scientists find holes in Klamath River dam removal plan

House GOP budget bill aims to slash environmental regulation

Settlement Will Provide Water for Parched River

-- Bettina Boxall

Photo: Water flows are being restored to this dry stretch of the San Joaquin River under a restoration agreement. Credit: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times