The most recent announcement by the US Bureau of Reclamation for this year's water allocation is yet another example of a water system that is broken. While precipitation and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains are 174% above average this year, Westside farmers are only forecasted to receive 65% of their contract supply. Farmers should be receiving 100% of their contract supply in a wet year like this. We need common sense in our regulatory system, additional storage facilities and improved conveyance so that during times of plenty, water can be set aside for use during periods of drought.
We also need short term improvements that will aid in regional sufficiency and water transfers. I have co-sponsored legislation that will increase the storage capacity of Lake McClure at Merced Irrigation District's New Exchequer Dam. This modification would create approximately 70,000 acre feet of additional water and produce enough clean, renewable hydropower electricity to serve 1,600 homes. I am also working with Stanislaus County, the Cities of Modesto, Turlock and Ceres and the Patterson Irrigation District on the North Valley Water Recycling Project, an initiative that will bring as much as 50,000 acre feet of additional water for use in areas most impacted by the water supply crisis.
I also recently sponsored a bill called the More Water for Our Valley Act of 2011 that would provide congressional direction to the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. The bill would restore operational flexibility to the California water projects, would provide reasonable protection to threatened species, and would modify "reasonable and prudent" alternatives in the biological opinions for the operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. It is important that we codify a standard to ensure that our Valley gets higher water deliveries in all years.
I am pleased that the State of California has finally responded to our call to deal with the serious issue of the non-native striped bass in the Delta that prey on salmon and delta smelt. The state recently announced a pending settlement agreement to lift some of the catch restrictions on striped bass. In recent years, water supplies to San Joaquin Valley farmers have been significantly reduced as a result of federal regulations designed to protect the smelt and salmon populations. I have long argued that other causes -- including predation by non-native fish like the striped bass -- should also be considered by government agencies. This pending settlement is a significant step forward in our fight for responsible, balanced management of our fisheries and water resources.