Monday, November 02, 2009

Politics of Water Splits Environmental Organizations

If you want to know more about what we should really be doing regarding water in California, you need to read Mato Ska here. here, here, or here. I want to talk about the politics. That is beginning to splinter over more than North / South, Valley / Coast or even the widening gap between Democrats and Republicans.

Let me call your attention to two things that happened today. One is the fact that the California League of Conservation Voters sent a floor alert to the members of the California Assembly giving strong support to the Steinberg proposal.  In this, they join three other environmental organizations that have already taken this position: Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the Nature Conservancy.  Each of the latter has strong ties to corporate funding and seem to be taking the corporate position.  There is strong evidence that staff for Natural Resources Defense Council have been meeting behind closed doors with the water districts who have the most to gain were the the Steinberg legislation legislation enacted. 

Dan Bacher, Ed. Fishsniffer magazine, has harsh words for the CLCV.
NRDC, Environmental Defense, the Nature Conservancy and now the California League of Conservation Voters are giving “green” cover to policies that will lead to the death of the Delta and the extinction of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations. We must expose these corporate greenwashers for the frauds that they are!

On the other side of this issue are the Sierra Club, Planning and Conservation League, Environmental Justice,Clean Water Action, Green LA, Heal the Bay, Restore the Delta and others. Together, they have fashioned the basis of a new plan, one that is both equitable and sustainable, but it is not what the legislature is delivering.

Today, Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, weighed in on the controversy at Huffington Post
Indeed, it's fair to say that Sacramento is in deep denial of a fundamental reality. California's landscapes, forests, farmlands, and cities must now be managed primarily to meet the biggest challenge of the 21st century: an adequate, secure, clean, and safe  water supply for urgent human and environmental needs. Water is precious. We need to stop wasting it.
The legislature met today in special session, supposedly to pass legislation that would provide new governance for the Delta and to authorize putting a new bond issue on the 2010 ballot.  The governance creates new bureaucracies rather than rationalizing the existing ones and then gives the new boards and councils no enforcement authority and no funding.  The bonds themselves are a give away to major water users, moving $billions of cost from the actual beneficiaries of new water conveyance… once called a peripheral canal… to the taxpayers.  I am sure that the residents of Eureka or Monterey have no interest in paying for a handout to corporate agriculture.

Handout: that is what you call selling water at $70 / acre ft. for agriculture when the going rate is over $200 / acre ft and the cost of desalination water can be as high as $1000 / acre foot.   And on top to that, the bond would have the taxpayers fund any and all environmental mitigation that a new canal would require.  Gimme a break.

They say that water flows to toward money.  There can not be any better example of this than what is happening in Sacramento this week.

Behind all of the smoke and mirrors, the legislature is doing nothing to rationalize California's mixed up system of water right where Government has issued permits for some 5 to 8 times the amount of water that we get in a normal year.  It is time for someone to pull aside the curtain and reveal the Wizard in his shambles. 


Anonymous said...

Please visit or Sierra Club to send messages to your Assemblymember, who is voting today, or better yet, call them directly NOW to urge a NO vote on this water giveaway to big corporate AG.

John Bass said...

You quote Carl Pope:

"Indeed, it's fair to say that Sacramento is in deep denial of a fundamental reality. California's landscapes, forests, farmlands, and cities must now be managed primarily to meet the biggest challenge of the 21st century: an adequate, secure, clean, and safe water supply for urgent human and environmental needs. Water is precious. We need to stop wasting it."

No question, but on the other hand, really? In what way is "Sacramento in deep denial" when the EDF, NRDC, etc. fall on one edge of the knife, and the Sierra Club, "Restore" the Delta, and other groups (whose agenda is not entirely Green consonant, possibly) fall on the other? Does an ally that simply become an opponent?

Is it possible that you see white and your opponents see black, but only shades of gray exist? As you read it, Pope's quote, whether he will admit it or not, is full of, if oblivious to, that problem of seeing.

I could go on, but if Greens can't see the problem in this simple tension, there is no point. Just as there is no point with Hannity, Nunes, and the black view of reality.

Anonymous said...

The above poster, John Bass, runs a curious, and very glossy website DeltaNationlaPark that looks and feels like it's a stalking horse for monied interests hoping to buy up Delta lands to "mitigate" how messed up the Delta will be.

The money for this? The legislature just rolled over and gave it's ok to a $11 Billion Bond, to build useless dams, maybe a peripheral canal, and lotsa lotsa pork.
There is a catch, though. California voters have to pass this porker with a 2/3's vote, as about as likely as the environmental community ever trusting the big corporate groups such as NRDC, EDF, and Nature Conservancy ever again.

John Bass said...

anonymous (is that your real name, by the way), i am an associate professor of architecture at the university of british columbia, and not anyone's stalking horse.

if you have spent any time at my website, you'll see that i am basically uninterested in fundamentalism of any type.

it's a mistake on your part, anonymous, to equate well-designed, organized and complex information produced on my dime with "monied" interests. i care about the delta, simple as that. stop being so paranoid, anonymous.

Wes said...

Well, since Mr. Bass says that he is from British Columbia, he should know that Greens can be a strong force for good government that works for the citizens.

As far as I am concerned, this is much more clear cut than you imagine. The legislation in question does not protect the ecosystem, only positions the bureaucracy to approve increased diversions. The dysfunctional legislature of California has recognized that they can do nothing other than stage amusing shows of cooperation while passing all of the responsibility to a bureaucracy that they will not be able to adequately fund.

It makes less sense than Sarah Palin on a bad day.

John bass said...

Wes, with respect and acknowledgment of your concerns, I have to ask, how can you see this issue as "clear cut?" Fundamentalists like Sarah Palin always see things as clear cut, too, don't you agree?

Since you posted your response to my provocation (something I like to do, just to have debate, which I believe is important), the Governor has predicably said, from his and his cohorts' perspective, that California is “going to fix the delta and to build a canal around the delta.” No surprise that he would be getting way ahead of himself, considering the source(s).

At the same time, the EDF is saying:

"It is important to realize that the legislation does not authorize a peripheral canal. It does assure, however, that a canal will only be built if important habitats are restored, water exports from the Delta are biologically sustainable, and the beneficiaries of those exports pay the full cost of construction, including environmental mitigation. …”

Is the EDF statement clear cut? No. It is filled with contingencies, and they are clearly expressed as principle. I refer again to my original foray into this discussion, and the Carl Pope quote.

The legislature kicked the ball down the field, good for them. But the effect of that kick is not known and, thankfully, what will result from the kick is not clear cut.

Wes said...

No, the results are not clear cut, unless you mean that this legislation is a jobs creation program for lawyers and lobbyists.

What we do know, what is clear cut, it that we have no quantitative measurement of how much fresh water will be necessary to maintain the ecological health of the Delta. Already plans are being put in place for increased diversions. The whole idea of a new conveyance, which Governor Schwarzenegger says "will be built" is based on the assumption that increased diversions will be allowed.

If you want to go back to the earlier writings of Jeffrey Mount, he says that some of the delta must be abandoned. I hope that you would not want to be the one circling islands on the map and telling the residents and beneficial users of that land "Sorry, you gotta go." Because that it the future that has been defined.

John Bass said...

Wes, I agree entirely with all of your last points. I have blogged about some of them, so you can confirm that if you wish to.

The map that Mount and the PPIC produced is typical of a way of thinking that we criticize at the DNP. I prefer synthetic, not reductive, ways of thinking about and imagining solutions to problems.

That is why I am agnostic about the peripheral canal, because it is not yet quantitatively known whether it could actually help to improve the health of the Delta ecosystem.

And I have blogged about that, too. I hope that you and me and all of us will insist on good science here, and get beyond divisive statements that are as of yet unproven. In my opinion that is where effective argument begins.

Like I said, I am no stalking horse. I love the Delta.

Martin Zehr said...

Thanks, Wes. I got confused by this thinking it came from Barbara on Aquafornia.

Linda Robertson said...

Interesting article...after attending ALL the BDCP meetings, and being a resident as well as owning land and a small commercial harbor in the Delta, here is my take, said in a very simple manner based on having been in the Delta for over 30....Prior to the pumps that went on board in the 1960's, all the fish ( the same ones that BDCP WANTS TO KILL) were in harmony with the environment, native species or not, water quality was good to great. Then the pumps came and the Delta has been losing ground ever since. CALFED, in it's deplorable management, allowed over-pumping and did not enforce the laws already on the books...not even a wrist slap was handed news that we are in our third year of drought, but the media has stated that we, in NoCal, turned off the pumps and put "fish before people" where is the drought mentioned in Hannity's tirade's...nor did he or Paul Rodriguez honor repeated requests to just come talk to US, who are being asked to fund farms built on horrid land, with more water promised and contracted than the Delta even contains during normal rainfall year....nowhere is it mentioned that fabulous farm ground here in the Delta will be carved up for Kern County and LA...that OUR farmers are going to lose to fund THEIR farms....and because the water quality has plummeted due to these same corporate farms, one water sale of 77 MILLION DOLLARS in water DURING a supposed shortage (their documentation shown to have been holding SURPLUS water THIS YEAR), our fishing includes salt water species never before seen this far into the Delta, year round sea lions here, but we are the bad guys? Explain how taking EVEN MORE WATER is a CONSERVATION move, how killing fish for three years as AN EXPERIMENT to see if it will help the salmon come back is a conservation effort????? I am appalled that BOTH the EDF and NRDC failed to not see the true intentions of the bills signed by Arnie the A****** which is MONEY, greed by Resnick and corporate farmers that could have hleped their cousins on the other side of the valley have their surplus water but instead sold it to Vegas...come on, people, this is not rocket science...there is no conservation effort for farmers included in these bills, no mandate that they clean their polluted water and not produce another Kesterson...this bill is a pork barrel at BEST that is going to further decimate the Delta I have grown up on my entire life....