Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today questioned Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner David Palumbo on the need to request additional funding to address the severe drought in the Western United States. Senator Feinstein has been pressing the bureau for months to request the ability to use funds for drought mitigation that Congress had initially set aside for other less urgently needed programs.
During the exchange, the deputy commissioner committed to requesting additional funding for drought mitigation. The Western United States is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, with more than 72 percent of the region in a severe, extreme, or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In California, 95 percent of the state is under a severe, extreme or exceptional drought.
Video of the exchange is available here, and a full transcript follows:
Senator Feinstein: “More than 72 percent of the Western United States is now in severe drought or worse. This is the most extensive severe drought in the West in recorded history. California is unfortunately worse with 95 percent of the state in severe drought. So this is a real emergency that requires our immediate action. Does the bureau plan to send a reprogramming or supplemental funding request for drought?”
Deputy Commissioner Palumbo: “Absolutely. The Bureau of Reclamation is currently working on finalizing a reprogramming request to address a variety of factors related to drought. I would expect in the next coming weeks you will be seeing the reprogramming request with a significant focus on drought mitigation and adaptation strategies.”
Senator Feinstein: “Well I am glad to hear that and I thank you for it. Can you tell us anything about the type of immediate actions which would be permitted under this revision that you are sending?”
Deputy Commissioner Palumbo: “We are looking at a variety of tools. The immediate tools that we would deploy are water transfers, water purchases, groundwater substitutions, as well as salinity barriers to help with salinity in the delta. Another variety of tools that we are looking at are related to fish hatcheries, making sure that we have cool water available for the species that depend on water as well as humans.”