Saturday, June 04, 2011

Managing our views of California's Water Wars

Rain all day today, strange weather for June around San Jose, gives me some more time to write longer posts. It is also appropriate that I focus on the Water Ware that threatens to overtop the facts that should guide our common sense perception as the melt of this winter's snow pack will threaten to overtop the Delta's levees.

One current battle is being fought in Washington, where Congressman Devin Nunes (R - CA 21) has introduced The San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act (HR 1837). This clearly positions the needs of the farmers on the West side of the San Joaquin Valley as paramount, contrasting them to environmental protections for a "little minnow." It is enough to have Representative John Garamendi (D - CA 10) warn of an all out water war.
This legislation threatens the Delta, jeopardizes drinking water for California cities, and puts the interests of a select well-connected few above the entire state."

"In 1997, we were one signature away from agreeing to an 'all California' water policy solution – until the Westlands Water District walked away at the signing ceremony. I said they would regret it, and today they admitted it, even as they continue to demand a one-sided water grab that is not in the interests of California.

It is every much in the interest of Nunes, and the Westlands Water District, if everyone thinks of this as farmers fighting for their livelihood, and the jobs of their workers, vs the "environmental craziness" that would think a little minnow is more important. But this is only their way to spin the facts. Dan Bacher provides another set of facts... that the nuSplittails and very close to 15,000 chinook salmon. They have been doing this for a long time. I have previously taken issue with this framing of the story, most clearly here in criticizing Leslie Stahl and 60 Minutes.

Now, we find the just plain good investigative work shows just how much Nenues has shaped this story. A recent article in the Central Valley Business Times cites Deirdre Des Jardins,a researcher with California Water Research Associates.
Mapping imagery points toward soil and groundwater salinity as the primary cause of land fallowing near Mendota. This evidence, along with record of previous legal settlements, indicates that high levels of unemployment in the Mendota area are more likely the result of land fallowing that occurred prior to the most recent drought than any type of protections set in place for Delta fisheries.
Green Party policies have always focused on community involvement in determining resource use policies, especially regarding Water. Yet, time and again, government listens to those with the most highly paid lawyers and lobbyists, shutting out the citizenry, depending on spinning the story to disinterested voters who seldom wake up to what is happening until it is too late. That is what is happening with ironically named Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Once again, Governor Brown has named a fox to guard the hen house and the results are predictable. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla has an OpEd in the Stockton Record where she makes it clear just how well the deck has been stacked in this game.
Under the past governor, the BDCP process was run by a steering committee of export contractors. They failed to meet their deadline in the fall for producing a document for environmental review. Now the process is firmly under the control of Meral and the California Natural Resources Agency.

Local counties, water agencies, farmers and fishermen criticized the BDCP for denying them a meaningful role in planning for the Delta's future. Meral's response has been to create 13 working groups and to give non-exporters four days' formal notice to let him know which ones they want to join. The deadline for this formal notice was May

Meral expects some of the groups to complete their work by the end of June.

Those opposing a peripheral canal are already spread thin and facing tight budgets. For all intents and purposes, this fragmented process with its telescoped timing excludes them.
The GPCA helped start Restore the Delta, at least in co-sponsoring it's first public meeting. Still we should be doing more: educating friend, pointing out truths when we can, working to dislodge those like Nunes who distort the truth for their masters.

The real future of California is going to be determined by how we meet the ecological challenges of the coming decade. Climate, water, health care and the economy are so closely intertwined that only the Green approach can possibly find the right solution.

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