[env-trinity] Trinity Journal Editorial: Feinstein water bill needs consensus, full airing

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Dec 3 08:51:10 PST 2014

Feinstein water bill needs consensus, full airing
Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2014 6:15 am
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s latest efforts to bring about new drought legislation have been postponed until next year. We applaud that delay.
Feinstein, D-Calif., admitted Nov. 20, “We will be unable to present an agreed-upon proposal before Congress adjourns this year.” Feinstein may or may not have been using the metaphoric “we,” but it was who was and wasn’t at the table to negotiate the proposed bill that set off alarm bells across California’s vast water community.
Reportedly at the table were Tom Birmingham of the Westlands Water District, Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Kern County Water Agency. All heavy hitters, all major water recipients. Not at the table were Delta and Northern California legislators, tribes, small family farmers, and fisheries and river advocates.
The controversial negotiations had centered on working out differences with HR 3964, passed by the House in February. That bill seeks to garner more water for San Joaquin Valley agriculture by allowing more pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It’s hard to imagine how that happens without further damaging the Delta or pumping additional water from Northern California reservoirs.
A group of seven Northern California legislators issued a statement following the announced delay: “We are pleased Senator Feinstein will not be pursuing passage of the water legislation secretly negotiated by her and House Republicans. This legislation would have eviscerated environmental laws protecting fisheries, California watersheds, local water supplies, and tribal and local economies in order to benefit a few powerful Delta water exporters. We applaud the Senator for stepping away from this deeply flawed legislation and realizing that a bill of this magnitude requires public hearings and regular committee process.” We couldn’t agree more.
Feinstein protested this wasn’t “some kind of secret process.” Which, to a degree, is true as the meetings were hardly a secret. However, it wasn’t an inclusionary process, a process one would expect when dealing with something the magnitude of California water. You can’t have all of the major water recipients at the table without including those who might be impacted.
It is our hope that as Feinstein moves forward she includes those previously left out (ironically, many of which are from her own party). Otherwise, it is simply a water grab, plain and simple. And Northern California watersheds and fisheries will pay the price.
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