[env-trinity] Sac Bee Ed on Feinstein

Patrick Truman truman at jeffnet.org
Mon Dec 14 09:15:56 PST 2009


http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/index.html

 


This story is taken from Sacbee / Opinion



Editorial: Senator needs to balance interests
Published Monday, Dec. 14, 2009


Dianne Feinstein was quick to respond in September when a big corporate farmer sought her help in challenging limits on the export of water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Unfortunately, she's rarely shown that level of interest in representing the concerns of commercial salmon fishermen.

They are arguably far more vulnerable to how those flows are regulated. An article by the investigative group California Watch, which appeared in last Monday's Bee, revealed some of Feinstein's priorities.

The article reports that Beverly Hills entrepreneur Stewart Resnick sought Feinstein's help in getting more water for Paramount Farms, the immense Central Valley agricultural operation he owns. 

Resnick wrote a letter to Feinstein that contends that federal efforts to restore the Delta's endangered salmon and shad fisheries were "exacerbating the state's severe drought" because they reduced the water that could be used for crops.

Feinstein forwarded the letter to two U.S. Cabinet secretaries, calling on the administration to spend $750,000 on a reappraisal of Delta environmental policy. Shortly afterward, the Obama administration OK'd the review.

According to the California Watch article, Resnick's letter had more behind it than the power of its arguments. As with many politicians, Feinstein's approach on some policies is heavily influenced by relationships.

Her relationship with Resnick is both political and personal. Financially, Resnick has been a major player in state politics for nearly two decades. He, his wife and executives of his firms have made nearly $4 million in political contributions since 1993. Feinstein was one of the manypoliticians in both parties to benefit from that largesse - receiving $29,000 for her own campaigns, with $246,000 more given to Democratic political committees in years she has sought re-election.

Beyond that, the two are friends. Resnick held a party in Feinstein's honor at his Beverly Hills home, and he and his wife hosted Feinstein in Aspen over New Year's.

None of this is unusual or necessarily unethical. But it would behoove Feinstein, and the state she represents, if she spent as much personal time with dry-docked salmon fishermenas corporate farmers who have a fairly limited view on the subject of water. The salmon fishermen's claim on the water flows that course though the Delta is just as compelling as agriculture's.

It might be more so. The Central Valley and the Trinity River were once prolific producers of salmon. But diversions of water - including those that helped the San Joaquin Valley bloom - have harmed salmon and the fishing families that depend on those fish.

No doubt, ocean conditions and other mysterious factors have hurt salmon stocks on the West Coast. But the loss of salmon has been steady over decades, coinciding with increased diversions from waterways such as the Sacramento River.

Feinstein, who has long been an environmental advocate on many fronts, is key in helping the state balance these interests. She has done this many times in the past.

Environmentalists credit her with playing a valuable role, for instance, in a pact that is returning water to the San Joaquin River.

To take that same constructive approach in the Delta, she must forge ties with all the players, including the beleaguered fishermen and Indian tribes of the North Coast. 
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