[env-trinity] SF Chron 2 12 10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Feb 12 15:25:02 PST 2010


Feinstein proposes Central Valley water plan


Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington <mailto:clochhead at sfchronicle.com>
Bureau

Friday, February 12, 2010

(02-12) 04:00 PST Washington - -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein ignited a firestorm
among fellow California Democrats on Thursday as word spread of her proposal
to divert Northern California water to Central Valley farmers.

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TL&o=0> Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the target of criticism from fel...
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2010/02/12/MNBT1C05E1.D
TL&o=1> Farmland in California's Central Valley dried out as the ...
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Feinstein wants to attach the proposal as an amendment to a fast-tracked
Senate jobs bill. She is pitching the plan as a jobs measure to address the
economic calamity in the Central Valley. It would increase farm water
allocations from 10 percent last year to 40 percent this year and next, an
amount that farmers say is the bare minimum they need.

Bay Area Democrats were livid, accusing Feinstein of concocting the plan in
secret, upending fragile water negotiations that Feinstein has supported and
pitting California's Central Valley against its coast. Telephone calls flew
as lawmakers learned of Feinstein's plan. 

"I was pretty shocked," said Rep. Mike Thompson, a St. Helena Democrat and
ally of North Coast salmon fishermen who support efforts to save fish
species that are declining. 


Influential farmer


Feinstein has long supported California agriculture but began to weigh in on
the side of farmers in the water wars after requests from Stewart Resnick,
the well-connected owner of Paramount Farms, which grows citrus and nuts on
118,000 acres in Kern County. 

In September, Resnick wrote Feinstein complaining that "sloppy science" by
federal wildlife agencies was causing farm water shortages. A week later,
Feinstein forwarded the letter to Obama administration officials, who
authorized a review by the National Academy of Sciences.

"It seems to be a complete reversal of her position," Thompson said. "The
entire Bay Area delegation had agreed we would do this National Academy of
Sciences report to find out scientifically what should and shouldn't be
done, and for her to turn that on its head and go out unilaterally with this
proposal does not take into consideration the needs of all of California."

Thompson accused Feinstein of "trying to spin this as a job saver, but that
ignores the jobs up north that depend on water." He compared Feinstein's
plan to the Bush administration's water diversions in the Klamath River
Basin in 2002 that severely damaged fisheries and were later reversed.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said, "Best I can see, she's making a
decision that jobs in the Bay Area and Northern California and the Peninsula
south of San Francisco aren't as important as jobs in the Central Valley."

Feinstein contends that the amendment to the jobs bill would not waive the
Endangered Species Act but instead follow a 2003 precedent that guaranteed
water deliveries in New Mexico despite restrictions imposed to protect the
silvery minnow. 

Miller, a former chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said
Feinstein's amendment would suspend federal environmental laws that protect
fish.


Verifying the science


Feinstein made no mention Thursday of her demand for the National Academy of
Sciences report, due next month, to verify the science behind
fish-conservation demands.

Resnick's business has given $29,000 to Feinstein's campaigns and $246,000
more to Democratic political committees during years when she sought
re-election, according to a report by California Watch, an investigative
journalism nonprofit organization, that was published in The Chronicle in
December.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater (Merced County), defended Feinstein's move.
"The situation in the valley is continuing to deteriorate, and we have a
situation where even with more rain than usual, we could have less
allocations than last year," Cardoza said. He said even with large cutbacks
in water allocations to farmers, delta smelt and other fish populations have
not improved.

Cardoza said recent studies show the pumps that environmentalists say
pulverize fish are in fact destroying only a handful. "The pumps were shut
down for six or 10 additional fish," Cardoza said. "This is the height of
insanity, and it's time we quit devastating the California economy and
understand what is really going on here."

In a statement Thursday, Feinstein said that recent weeks of heavy rain and
Sierra snowfall have brought snowpacks to 130 percent of their normal level.
At the same time, "water has been gushing past the canals and into the
oceans while farms on the west side of the (Central) Valley are likely to
receive a very low percentage of their water allocations for a second year
because that water cannot be pumped and stored." 


Political jockeying


Feinstein's action comes after months of political jockeying between
Republicans and Democrats over whether the Endangered Species Act is
destroying California's farming industry. Several fisheries on the coast
from southern Oregon to San Luis Obispo have been shut down for three years
for lack of runoff, idling commercial and recreational fishing and
devastating the small businesses that depend on it. 

Farmers have also seen water supplies evaporate. Before this season's heavy
rains, a three-year drought forced big cuts in their water allotments,
forcing 400,000 acres to lie fallow and pushing unemployment in some towns
toward 40 percent.

Farmers, fishermen and environmentalists had been negotiating on a long-term
remedy to the decline of California's delta estuary, one of the largest in
the world and on a scale with Florida's Everglades, but even more heavily
damaged by a century of water diversions.

 

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)

415 519 4810 mobile

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(secondary)

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