Remarks by Vice President Harris and California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot on Drought and Flood Resilience
Tujunga Spreading Ground
Los Angeles, California
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. I am here today to, first and foremost, thank the folks who, on the ground every day, have been doing the important and good work of responding to this extreme climate crisis that we have been experiencing around the world and certainly here in my home state and our home state of California.
I want to thank Wade Crowfoot for always doing the work that he has done throughout his career and being a leader on many of these issues, but, in particular, on the issue of water.
We have long — and Wade and I worked together for years back in San Francisco — have talked about the importance of taking seriously the urgency of this moment and, in particular, in dealing with the various issues that are present when we look at the climate crisis, thinking about water policy, diversifying water policy, understanding that we must have the ability to diversify our approach and our — and the resources to everything from what we do in terms of conservation to recycling, desalination, and storage of water.
This plant and this facility, in particular, is doing some of the smartest and the most contemporary kind of work that is necessary to store water, understanding that the climate crisis presents exactly what we’ve experienced here in California.
We’re going to have days — and sometimes there will be days of immense water — of rain, of storms, of flooding. And at the same time, we are a state that has experienced, for generations, drought.
And we must therefore understand that the issues that are present in the climate crisis are varied, and it requires us to be present and to be in front of each of the iterations and variations that include extreme weather that produces a lot of water and extreme weather that produces drought.
So, I am happy to be here to highlight the work that is happening at this facility and in California as an example of what can and should be happening throughout our country and around the world.
The President and I are very proud of the work that we have been able to do — a lot of it with a bipartisan Congress; and we have Senator Padilla here, who was been an extraordinary leader in the Senate — to put resources and, in fact, billions of dollars into this issue, both in terms of our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, but also most recently the work that we did with the Inflation Reduction Act, putting what we estimate will be a total for the last two years of about $1 trillion into addressing the climate crisis in America.
But in particular, $12 billion is coming to western states and into the western region of our country to address these issues in a way that we can build up resilience and adaptation and do the kind of work that is happening right here, which is investing in smart ways to store water so that we will have that water in times of crisis, such as drought.
So, again, I want to thank these great California leaders for their work. And I’m now going to pass it over to my friend, Wade.
MR. CROWFOOT: Thank you. I’m Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary. And I’ll thank by — I’ll start by thanking you, Madam Vice President.
It’s been a remarkably challenging month in California. Lives, families, communities impacted by nine atmospheric river storms in a row.
And through it all, the Vice President, the President have been a phone call away. Their leadership, their commitment has meant that we’ve been able to respond to these emergencies more quickly, pre-position personnel and assets.
And I have to say, on a personal note, the Vice President’s experience as a Californian bring so much to these challenges that we face, whether it’s flood or wildfire or drought.
And now, of course, we’re moving into recovery. Federal leadership is so critical in this respect. President Biden signed a major disaster declaration. That means reimbursements, financial support to Californians that have — have been impacted by the floods, both residents and small businesses and government and infrastructure. And so, we’re deeply thankful for that partnership and leadership.
I want to also acknowledge our congressional delegation here today, led by Senator Padilla, Congressman Cárdenas. A lot of the funding that is going to enable more projects like this, that we’re going to talk about here today, has been enabled by congressional leadership. We have a remarkable congressional delegation that’s going to help us adjust to this new normal.
So, we’re through emergency response, we’re into emergency recovery, and we’re also looking into the future.
We have recently pivoted from the driest three-year period since 1896 to the wettest three weeks on record. This weather whiplash is challenging us and challenging our infrastructure as never before.
Now, the good news is California leaders have been prepar- — preparing for this for some time. Governor Newsom, our state legislature, in the last two years alone, have allocated $8.6 billion to infrastructure in our communities to help our communities, to help all parts of California be more resilient to drought and be more resilient to floods.
And make no mistake: We will continue to experience intensifying weather whiplash, and so we need to understand how to capture all of the precipitation that falls in a set of storms like that — that which we just had for extended dry periods, which we continue to face.
And we’re focused this spring on capturing that snowmelt that’s coming off our mountains and, in some cases, may create very high flows in our rivers; focused on, how do we get that into our reservoirs and, importantly, into the ground?
Where we stand right now is one of more than two dozen spreading basins across Los Angeles that’s taking stormwater that was diverted to protect communities and putting it into the ground, letting it percolate through the soils for future — for future use.
And I have to say, the county of Los Angeles, the city of Los Angeles are leaders in our country and, I would argue, the world, in terms of their vision for reusing storm water when it comes for use later on.
And, of course, that benefits California and the West. More self-sufficiency in Los Angeles, in Greater Los Angeles, means less pressure on rivers, like the Colorado River system, and up north, like the Sacramento and San Joaquin River system.
So, today, we look to the future. And I have to say, I’m optimistic, in large part because of the leadership of the Biden-Harris administration. We have more funding to build infrastructure that we need to build to adapt to this weather whiplash than we had — we have had in a generation.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, we have literally tens of billions of dollars that’s available for this infrastructure that will benefit the lives of Californians.
So, once again, Madam Vice President, leaders of our congressional delegation: Thank you. This will make a difference.
So, next, we’re going to spend a little time with Vice President and — and help her understand how we can continue to build out this infrastructure in Greater Los Angeles and how continued federal leadership will allow us to be able to do that.
Thank you very much.