A Family Farm Alliance representative yesterday appeared before the full U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources for a virtual, fully remote legislative hearing that focused on thirteen bills primarily associated with oceans and coastlines. Mauricio Guardardo, the general manager of United Water Conservation District represented his district and the Alliance at the hearing, where he focused his comments on concerns with H.R. 3764, the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act of 2021 sponsored by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-AZ.
“H.R. 3764 is well-intended legislation,” Mr. Guardado testified at the hearing, while also raising concerns. “Several areas of the new legislation have the potential for far-ranging and uncertain impacts to water management and agriculture, impeding the development of critically needed water infrastructure, especially in the drought stricken Western states.”
Mr. Guardado is the general manager of United, which serves a population of approximately 400,000 and covers some 214,000 acres in Ventura County California, including a U.S. Naval Base, Port Hueneme, Oxnard, as well as several disadvantaged communities. Considered among the prime agricultural areas of the world, year-round growing seasons support high value crops such as citrus, avocados, berries, and row crops.
He also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Family Farm Alliance.
The Alliance has concerns with the vaguely referenced expansion of the authority of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Mr. Guardado has first-hand familiarity that backs his concerns.
“I have direct experience with the arbitrary and capricious regulatory edicts of NMFS,” said Mr. Guardado. “This agency, at least in Southern California, has taken federal environmental laws intended to protect species and ecosystems and, without any basis in science, historic data, or even best practices, has issued requirements that are, quite frankly, senseless.”
Mr. Guardado explained that NMFS has asserted that Ventura County’s Piru Creek is a possible steelhead resource, despite the fact that since the late 1800s, Fish and Game biologists and regulatory agencies have documented that the creek is not conducive to steelhead. In fact, steelhead have never been observed in that watershed. According to Mr. Guardado, even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) supports United’s position.
“Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, NMFS continues to demand expensive, unnecessary fish passage and habitat mitigation regardless of historical data, consistently dry conditions, natural migration barriers, and assessments of the region,” said Mr. Guardado.
For example, NMFS has required continuous water releases from United’s infrastructure into lower Piru Creek strictly for purposes of steelhead preservation. that again, have never been seen there.
“Why are we taking water away from farms and communities to accommodate fish that do not exist in the watershed?” he asked the Committee.
Mr. Guardado’s testimony before the Committee concluded with an affirmation that the Family Farm Alliance and United are dedicated to finding a balance of environmental protection and sustainable water supply.
“Following the science, good sound engineering, and historical data will yield successful results rather than foster potential conflicts,” he testified.
Mr. Guardado’s fellow witnesses on the third and final panel of the day included State Senator Chris Lee (Hawaii State Legislature), Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (Co-Founder of Urban Ocean Lab), and Ms. Marce Gutierrez-Graudins (Founder and Executive Director of Azul).
Earlier panels featured Congressional representatives and witnesses from the Biden Administration.
Click here to read Mr. Guardado’s written testimony submitted on behalf of United and the Family Farm Alliance.
Click here to watch a recording of the hearing.