[env-trinity] Fresno Bee 2 19 10 10:34 AM

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Feb 19 12:54:44 PST 2010


Feinstein may drop Valley water plan

She responds to 11 upset West Coast Dems.

Posted at 10:34 PM on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010

 

WASHINGTON -- Facing objections from a dozen West Coast lawmakers, Sen.
Dianne 

By Michael Doyle / Bee Washington Bureau

 

Feinstein said Thursday that she might drop her controversial bid to direct
more water to

San Joaquin Valley farmers if the Interior Department takes action on its
own.

 

"If there can be some administrative action taken to take advantage of the
recent bountiful

rain and snow and provide reasonable water supplies this year, the
legislation may not be

necessary," she wrote to one of the lawmakers late Thursday, adding that she
will "remain

open to ideas" offered by other Democrats.

 

Feinstein's suggestion could disappoint water-starved west-side Valley
farmers, who were

hoping her proposed legislation would override federal water delivery
decisions.

But Westlands Water District spokeswoman Sarah Woolf remained optimistic
that Feinstein

will keep pressing for more farm water. "I don't take that to mean her
efforts won't

continue. I don't think she's backing away," Woolf said.

 

Citing potential dangers both to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and West
Coast salmon

industry, 11 lawmakers from California, Oregon and Washington on Thursday
wrote

Feinstein, bluntly urging her to withdraw her controversial water proposal.

 

"I think it's a massive miscalculation," Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez,
said in an interview.

"It's destructive, both environmentally and politically."

 

The objections raised by Miller and his House of Representatives colleagues
mirror warnings

by California salmon fishermen and environmentalists. The congressional
objections carry

special weight, though, because they hinder Feinstein's ability to
accomplish her goal.

 

The escalating fight pits region against region, and some of California's
most influential

politicians against one another. It's already splitting fragile alliances
among California water

users, who in recent years have inched toward comity.

 

On Thursday, Fresno-area Rep. Jim Costa -- a supporter of Feinstein's water
legislation --

retorted that other Democrats are being "entirely insensitive and crass" in
their attitude

toward San Joaquin Valley residents. The Democrats opposed to delivering
more irrigation

water want the Valley to "dry up and blow away," Costa added.

 

With the support of farm organizations like Westlands, Feinstein wants
Congress to partially

override two "biological opinions" that protect endangered species and
govern water

deliveries.

 

Feinstein's proposal would boost irrigation deliveries to west-side farms to
40% or so of the

farms' contractual allocation. Last year, drought and environmental
restrictions meant some

farmers received only 10% of their allocations.

 

Feinstein has cited the San Joaquin Valley's "unprecedented economic crisis"
and her desire

to "simply allow San Joaquin Valley farmers to plant, hire and harvest."

It's unclear whether Feinstein fully anticipated the uproar that's resulted.

 

Feinstein's move "seriously jeopardizes" existing water coalitions and
relations among

colleagues, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, said Thursday.

 

Miller said Congress should await a National Research Council study on the
biological

opinions, due in March. The scientific review was originally undertaken at
Feinstein's behest.

 

The congressional lineup opposing Feinstein is hefty enough to call into
question Feinstein's

ability to overcome it.

 

Miller is one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's key lieutenants, and a former
chairman of

what's now called the House Natural Resources Committee. Another lawmaker
unhappy

with Feinstein, Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, chairs the powerful House
subcommittee

responsible for the Interior Department's budget.

 

The chairwoman of the House water and power subcommittee, Rep. Grace
Napolitano, DSanta

Fe Springs, has previously objected to Feinstein's efforts.

 

On past water issues, Feinstein has traditionally combined the role of
facilitator and

enforcer: getting all parties into a room and making sure they cut a deal.
With the new water

amendment, she explicitly allied herself with farm interests.

 

"Your draft amendment is inconsistent with your record of pursuing
compromise solutions

to environmental conflicts," the new letter to Feinstein states.

 

The 11 lawmakers further warn Feinstein that her plan would "drive
California's and much

of Oregon's salmon to extinction" and threaten "thousands of jobs."

 

Feinstein's draft water amendment includes an unspecified amount of funding
to assist

salmon fishermen. She has suggested adding the water the water delivery
amendment to a Senate jobs

bill, which could be considered as early as next week.

 

BEE STAFF WRITER PAULA LLOYD CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT. THE REPORTER

CAN BE REACHED ATMDOYLE at MCCLATCHYDC.COM OR (202) 383-0006.

 

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

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 

 

 

 

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