[env-trinity] The California Spigot 11 24 10

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Wed Nov 24 09:06:03 PST 2010

Hey Byron

Here's my piece on Westlands.


Westlands Water District Withdraws from BDCP Process

by Dan Bacher

The Westlands Water District, criticizing what it described as  
“political interference,” announced on November 22 that it is  
withdrawing its support for the “continued development” of the  
controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

The BDCP, a process opposed by many fishing groups, environmental  
organizations, Indian Tribes, family farmers and Delta residents, is  
a plan started four years ago by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to  
build a peripheral canal/tunnel to facilitate the export of  
California Delta water to corporate agribusiness and southern  

In a letter to David Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Interior, the  
district’s President, Jean P. Sagouspe, wrote, “As a public agency,  
Westlands cannot continue to spend millions of our ratepayers’  
dollars on a project that is likely to deliver no more and  
potentially less water to the public than they are receiving today.”

Westlands’ withdrawal from the BDCP process was no surprise,  
considering that Thomas W. Birmingham, general manager of Westlands,  
reportedly walked out of a meeting in Washington D.C. on November 10  
with Hayes and other federal and state officials and BDCP  
stakeholders. The walk out was prodded by a discussion that the plan  
may include reduced water exports to protect endangered fish species.

Westlands has filed numerous lawsuits to stop fishery restoration  
programs in recent years, ranging from its lawsuit in 2000 to block  
Trinity River restoration to its latest litigation attacking the  
federal biological opinions protecting imperiled Central Valley  
salmon, Sacramento River chinook salmon, green sturgeon, Delta smelt  
and the southern resident killer whale populations under the  
Endangered Species Act.

The Westlands Water District includes 600,000 acres of farmland on  
the west side of the San Joaquin Valley in Fresno and Kings counties.  
73 miles long by 15 miles wide, the district stretches from Mendota  
in the north to Kettleman City in the south. Much of the land is  
laced with selenium and other salts and minerals that are toxic to  
fish and wildlife when agricultural waste water drains back into the  
San Joaquin River system.

“Westlands and the other public water agencies that rely upon water  
supplies pumped through the Delta have invested nearly $150 million  
and more than four years of effort to develop the BDCP program for  
fixing California’s broken water system,” according to a news release  
from Westlands. “BDCP was created to help resolve regulatory  
shortages through a balanced plan to meet California’s co-equal  
objectives of repairing the Delta environment and restoring reliable,  
adequate water supplies for California.”

Tom Birmingham: Interior’s Approach Is ‘Destructive’

Birmingham claimed that over the last three years, federal  
regulations have reduced California’s public water supplies by more  
than one-third.

“But instead of working to solve the problems caused by these  
regulatory shortages, the Department of the Interior, at David Hayes’  
direction, is now proposing to add even more regulatory restrictions,  
reducing even more drastically the deliveries that California’s farms  
and cities and two-thirds of the state’s residents depend on,” said  

Birmingham said Sagouspe’s letter “expresses confidence that there  
are many dedicated employees” within Reclamation, the Fish & Wildlife  
Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service who could achieve  
a successful outcome of the BDCP process if they were not being  
subjected to “misinformed political interference.”

“Instead of working with the BDCP participants, Hayes is relying on  
the same special interests that have refused to join the BDCP process  
and have opposed its development from the beginning,” Birmingham  
claimed. “He apparently agrees with the idea that ‘success’ in the  
Delta can be measured on the basis of how much water is taken away  
from the people of California.”

“Through this action we are trying to get BDCP back on track,” said  
Birmingham. “Such a destructive approach directly undermines the  
objective of fixing the water supply problem,” the Westlands letter  
concluded. “And without a project to fix the water supply problem,  
California won’t have the means to restore the Delta either. In  
short, it is our view that your myopic and unscientific  
obstructionism will bring this entire effort at water reform and  
ecosystem restoration to a halt.”

Sarah Woolf, spokesperson for Westlands, added that with Westlands  
gone from the BDCP process, “Our hope is that will elevate the need  
for the BDCP to come to some resolution on meeting everyone’s needs  
in the process. The BDCP is a very fragile and very difficult process.”

Bill Jennings: A Publicity Stunt by Westlands?

Bill Jennings, chairman/executive director of the California  
Sportfishing Protection Alliance, said he suspected that Westland’s  
announcement of their withdrawal from the BDCP process was “a  
publicity stunt to focus their attacks on the administration just  
like they did when they launched their ‘New Dust Bowl’ campaign last  

“They joined the process with the assumption that that they could get  
more water out of it,” said Jennings. “Now that they aren’t getting  
what they want, they are threatening to withdraw funding. Their  
letter strikes me as political grandstanding and an attack of David  
Hayes and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to pressure them to back  
down over their concerns that the project as proposed could have  
disastrous consequences on the Delta.”

“Westlands is obviously groaning under the weight of the cost of the  
project,” added Jennings. “The district is saying it will only play  
if they get more water. However, the best available science shows  
that the project would be a disaster for the Delta. To protect ESA  
listed species such as Central Valley salmon and Delta smelt, is is  
unlikely that water exports will be maintained at the current levels.”

The Planning and Conservation League also responded to Westlands’  
withdrawl from the BDCP in a statement. “There is overwhelming  
scientific consensus that diversions from the Delta must be reduced  
in order for its ecosystem to be revived. Although Westlands does not  
like the broad scientific consensus, they are beginning to realize  
that diversions will be reduced, not increased,” the group stated.

Department of Interior: District Decision Is ‘Short Sighted and  

The Department of Interior on November 23 issued a sharply worded  
response to the Westlands letter.

“I believe the district’s decision is short-sighted and misguided,”  
said David Hayes. “From the statements in your letter, it is also  
based on characterizations of my role in the process that are  
contrary to the facts.”

“I will not address in detail in this response your characterization  
of my role, nor will I repeat them here,” added Hayes. “But I can  
state unequivocally that the Secretary’s and my intent, and that of  
our entire Department, is to develop and complete a successful plan  
that is consistent with the twin goals of water supply reliability  
and ecosystem restoration.”

“The Secretary and I firmly believe that the BDCP process continues  
to affort the best opportunity to resolve California’s water issues.  
We would prefer to pursue this course with Westlands’ participation,”  
he concluded.

The peripheral canal/tunnel proposed by the BDCP would cost an  
estimated $23 to $53.8 billion, according to a study conducted last  
year by Steven Kasower and Associates.

The $11.14 billion water bond, taken off this November’s ballot by  
the Legislature and rescheduled to November 2012 because of its  
impending defeat by the voters this year, would not specifically fund  
the canal/tunnel. However, it would put in place the infrastructure  
for the canal and new surface storage facilities.

The ‘New Dust Bowl’ Exposed

Throughout 2009 and 2008, Astroturf groups led by the Latino Water  
Coalition and west side San Joaquin agribusiness interests claimed  
that court-imposed reductions in Delta water exports to protect Delta  
smelt had created a “New Dust Bowl” in the Central Valley.

Mother Jones magazine joined Sean Hannity, Governor Arnold  
Schwarzenegger and agribusiness “Astroturf” groups in perpetuating  
the “Big Lie” about the alleged “drought” and “New Dust Bowl (http:// 

According to an article by Lloyd Carter and Patrick Porgans (More  
Doubts About the Drought), this “New Dust Bowl” rhetoric had no basis  
in reality (http://www.lloydgcarter.com/content/100901425_more-doubts- 
about-the-drought). “Figures obtained from the U.S. Department of  
Agriculture on Tuesday, August 31, 2010, show the Golden State’s  
agricultural earnings have reached historic highs during the so- 
called three-year drought,” noted Carter and Porgans.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), California’s  
cash receipts from crop and livestock sales were $34.841 billion in  
2009, $38.407 billion in 2008 and $36.386 billon in 2007.

How could there be “New Dust Bowl” with record agricultural earnings  
in the Central Valley and other agricultural regions?

The BDCP “Complete Working Draft” is now posted online and available  
here: http://www.baydeltaconservationplan.com/BDCPPlanningProcess/ 
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