Water collage in shades of gray

Submitted: May 19, 2014
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 We Californians are known as an artistic people. Those of us of a certain age grew up attending public schools with excellent art programs and these encouraged us toward a variety of expression, which becomes essential when one faces issues like the California Water Problem.

So, in a more experimental vein than usual here on the hopelessly linear-think Badlands, we’ve decided to put  together a small collage of articles – from different angles and different times -- that might explain better than we have been able to, how the current crop of representatives of finance, insurance and real estate in government have lost all sense of the Public Good, even most of the rhetoric of it.

These are not "bad people." On the contrary, they are highly civilized, generous, sociable, concerned citizens at least in some part of their activities, but they have been turned into jerks by their money, their power, and particularly by the combination of the two.-- blj

 

 

5-17-14

California Economic Summit

Phil Isenberg says knowing who pays for your water could help end California’s water wars...Justin Ewers

http://www.caeconomy.org/reporting/entry/knowing-who-pays-for-your-water-could-help-end-californias-water-wars

 

If more people knew the answer to this question, Phil Isenberg thinks it could fundamentally change the way California responds to the water crisis—and maybe even put an end to the state’s decades-old water wars.

The question is this: Who do you think pays for California’s water system—that is, the $30 billion spent every year on everything from aqueducts and dams to recycling projects and levees that safely deliver water to a population of 38 million and support one of the largest economies in the world?

Think it’s the federal government, operators of the mammoth Central Valley Project, a vast network of dams and aqueducts built in the 1930s to provide irrigation to San Joaquin Valley farmers?

Nope: Federal spending is only about 4 percent of California’s water costs.

What about state government, whose engineers operate the largest publicly built and operated water project in the world, providing drinking water to 23 million people?

Wrong again: State spending makes up only about 12 percent of the state’s annual water investments.

Who does that leave? Well, you. That is, California water users, who pay about 84 cents on every dollar spent to maintain the state’s sprawling water system—most of it through fees levied by water supply and wastewater providers that add up to nearly $26 billion each a year.

Why does this matter? “Well for one thing because this is directly contrary to popular perception and most of the recommendations of interest groups who come to Sacramento—or at least the ones who talk to us,” says Isenberg, past chair and one of seven members of the Delta Stewardship Council, an independent state agency created in 2009 to help achieve California’s “coequal” goals of creating a more reliable water supply and a sustainable Delta ecosystem.

This disconnect, Isenberg believes, is no small thing: “So much of politics is really about money—it’s about who pays what.” But what these numbers tell Isenberg is that California’s notoriously divisive water politics—with their decades-long squabbles between north and south, urban and rural—may actually be focused on the wrong solutions.

A state of distraction

Even as the drought has increased the urgency around this year’s water debate, the truth is—whether it is federal legislation or a state water bond aimed at water exports or building new dams and underground water storage—Isenberg believes lawmakers are spending most of their time arguing over policies that will make only tiny improvements on the margins of its enormous, mostly locally-funded system of water infrastructure.

“Most of the water decisions about what to build and who pays are made locally in California—and grumpy ratepayers pay the majority of the cost,” says Isenberg, pointing out that only $1 billion of the $30 billion spent on the state's water infrastructure each year comes from, for example, bond funds.

But that isn’t what California’s long-running water “wars” focus on. “Instead, it’s about regional antagonism, economic competition, finding a way to make someone else pay—all fueled by a blind belief that somewhere out there there’s an endlessly available water supply that, if we could only build new things, everyone would be happy for all time.”

Case in point, in his view: Negotiations over whether to include as much as $3 billion for storage facilities (i.e. dams) in a new water bond—one of the major sticking points in negotiations this year. “Whether it’s BDCP or any of these storage facilities being discussed, all that does is give you a bit more operational flexibility. You might be able to say for ten or 15 years: ‘Our water reliability in the state project could go from 60 percent reliability to 67 percent.’ We might able to go four dry years in a row without appreciable damage. Or five dry years. But we couldn’t do six.”

Missing from the conversation, he believes, are a set of lower-profile policy solutions aimed at strengthening California’s locally-funded infrastructure system—ideas that may be able to do much more to preserve the state’s long-term fiscal and environmental sustainability.

“It may very well be inevitable that strengthening the hands of local governments to raise fees for water and water-related purposes may be 50 times more important than anything else that could be done,” says Isenberg. “Unfortunately that perspective—which I think is the most sobering perspective—is missing from the debate.”

How Isenberg—and the Summit—think the state can get there

There is an important lesson here for policymakers—one Isenberg believes could inform a set of water policies that can change the zero-sum nature of the debate. The Public Policy Institute of California featured a comprehensive list of such proposals in a March report. Many of these ideas have also been raised this year by the Economic Summit, which has outlined 11 recommendations for how the state could respond to the drought in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.

Some of Isenberg’s favorites:

·         Locally financed storage: Isenberg remains skeptical about the prospects of three major new dam proposals (combined pricetag: nearly $10 billion) currently vying for funding in this year’s water bond. This is largely because local interests—that is, the dams’ water users—have not yet demonstrated how they plan to share in the costs. “Instead, they’re waiting for the federal or state officials to offer to pay, which is not likely to happen,” says Isenberg.

·         Isenberg believes the state has other, better opportunities at hand to build storage within the existing local financing model—supporting projects local water users are willing to support themselves. Isenberg’s colleague, Randy Fiorini, chairman of the Delta Stewardship Council, is currently working with ACWA and the Department of Water Resources to reexamine dozens of smaller storage projects Isenberg believes were “passed over [in recent years] because they didn’t meet the test of ‘we only want to do big things.’”

·         “Randy indicates we need to look at smaller projects where you can see the beneficiaries more clearly and where there’s a tradition of [local financing], and moving on those projects,” says Isenberg. “This is where the use of state bonds—in a process with open, competitive bids—could be successfully used to achieve more water storage."

·         Changing Prop 218 to give locals more funding flexibility: While California’s infrastructure system may be funded locally, those same local governments face a range of constitutional restrictions on exactly what types of infrastructure they are allowed to invest in. Proposition 218, in particular, a measure approved by voters in 1996, restricts the ability of local authorities to raise fees to support popular, next-generation projects designed to capture stormwater and better manage groundwater, for example.

·         The governor has reportedly expressed interest in expanding the definition of what constitutes “water service” under the law—and the PPIC report details just how much funding is needed for flood control and ecosystem protection, in particular—but Isenberg believes more may be necessary: “Some provisions like Prop 218 are just nutty, but they serve another goal of the public, which is to reduce costs for themselves,” says Isenberg. He believes any changes to Prop 218 will have to show they’ll provide something the public wants just as much: “A regular supply of cheap water.

·         Local flexibility must also have its limits: While the state has historically relied on local management—and financing—of water infrastructure, lawmakers this year have also been forced to confront the limitations of this approach. Case in point: groundwater, the invisible, underground source of water for almost half the state’s population in dry years—and one that has been overused for decades, even in wet years.

·         Momentum may be building in Sacramento around efforts to more sustainably manage this vital part of the water system—with most stakeholders now embracing the idea of local groundwater management plans. But Isenberg believes this is only a first step: “For this to work, these agencies should be required not just to develop, but also to implement their plans—and to fund the implementation,” says Isenberg. “Unless the requirement to implement is legally enforceable, we’re going to see locals forgetting about the problem when it rains and deciding the problem is over…until the next drought, when they [will be] shocked to discover that the groundwater overuse is still around.”

With the right incentives in place, Isenberg believes, it doesn’t have to be this way. If the state can accept that infrastructure may be financed best when it’s financed locally—and then find ways to help locals make the right decisions to ensure long-term water sustainability—Isenberg is convinced California’s water challenges may not be so intractable, after all.

 

5-16-14

San Francisco Chronicle

Feinstein: Environmentalists no help on California drought...Carolyn Lochhead

http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Feinstein-Environmentalists-no-help-on-5481560.php

Washington -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein will try to fast-track farm-friendly drought legislation through the Senate over the objections of environmentalists, who the senator complains have done nothing to help her adapt California's aging water system to deal with climate change and the addition of millions of thirsty residents.

Environmentalists "have never been helpful to me in producing good water policy," the California Democrat said. "You can't have a water infrastructure for 16 million people and say, 'Oh, it's fine for 38 million people,' when we're losing the Sierra Nevada snowpack.' "

Asked about opposition from environmental groups, Feinstein said, "Well, that's really too bad, isn't it? I would be very happy to know what they propose. ... I have not had a single constructive view from environmentalists of how to provide water when there is no snowpack."

Feinstein's bill, SB2198, co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would ease restrictions on water exports from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta to farms and cities.

GOP House version

Feinstein said her intention is to take legislation into conference with the House, where Republicans passed a bill in February to waive environmental laws protecting endangered fish to get more water to farms.

Feinstein's bill - and her effort to fast-track it through the Senate - alarm both environmentalists and Bay Area House Democrats, who fear she would tilt California water policy away from the state's devastated salmon runs.

They said Feinstein has already achieved her goals through political pressure on state water agencies, which have maximized pumping within the limits of the law to free up water for people and crops during the drought.

'She's won'

"The truth is, she's won," said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena. "There isn't any need to go forward with the legislation, which could be hijacked by some of our House colleagues and create bigger problems."

Most of what Feinstein's bill adds in flexibility to move water from rivers to other uses has "been done administratively, because of her involvement and her legislation," Thompson said. "So one could argue, as many of us did, that she ought to declare victory and not worry about the bill, but she's interested in seeing it through."

Seven California House Democrats met privately with Feinstein last week, including Thompson. Most said they were heartened by her effort to address their concerns, but remain opposed to her bill.

"The real danger I and others see moving forward is that this opens the door to a conference committee with a truly terrible piece of legislation in the House and that can only lead to a worse situation," said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

Caving to growers?

Bob Wright, a lawyer with Friends of the River, an environmental group, accused Feinstein of exploiting the drought to "cater to the wishes of powerful growers in Westlands and Kern County water districts."

Feinstein conceded that parts of her bill have already been executed by administrative action, but said others haven't. She said her bill would not usurp any environmental laws.

She said her bill is intended to "maximize pumping" within the confines of endangered species protections "for the length of the emergency. And I suspect the emergency is going to go on some time."

Her bill would remain in effect until Gov. Jerry Brown lifts the emergency drought declaration he imposed in January. The declaration permits water agencies to relax certain environmental rules temporarily to ensure water supplies for human use.

Diverting San Joaquin

One of the Feinstein provisions that most concerns critics would lock in complete diversion of the San Joaquin River for as long as the drought lasts. Such diversions are already allowed during "critical dry years."

The diversion is already damaging endangered steelhead trout and commercial chinook salmon, said Jon Rosenfield, a conservation biologist at the Bay Institute, a San Francisco environmental group.

Under current law, if more rains arrive next year, river flows must be increased. But under Feinstein's bill, the total diversion would be locked in place.

"It's either naivete and lack of understanding" of what is already in the law, Rosenfield said, "or opportunism to lock in low levels of protection even if water supplies increase next year."

Working on upgrade

He disputed Feinstein's charge that environmentalists have not worked to provide more water for all parties in the state. "We've all spent vast amounts of time and resources to design a plan to upgrade California's water infrastructure and increase water supply and reliability," Rosenfield said.

Feinstein's bill has been stuck in the Senate since February, and she needs the assent of all 100 senators to get to a quick vote. She plans to use what is called a hotline procedure next week to determine exactly who is blocking the bill.

"We will find out who the holdouts are," she said

 

5-13-14

Sacramento Bee

New entity to manage planning for massive Delta tunnels...Matt Weiser

clip_image001http://www.sacbee.com/2014/05/12/6399315/new-entity-to-manage-planning.html

Construction planning for the giant water diversion tunnels proposed in the California Delta is about to be handed off to a new entity, one that gives a prominent role to the water diverters that will benefit from the project.

The California Department of Water Resources, which has led the project engineering so far, has agreed to start sharing that duty in a joint powers arrangement with the water agencies it serves, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Kern County Water Agency.

The arrangement will be operational as of June 1, according to a memo sent to employees last week by DWR Director Mark Cowin.

“It’s past conceptual at this point,” Cowin said in an interview. “We’ve come to agreement on some principles on how we can move forward.”

The tunnel project is the centerpiece of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to improve water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a source of water for 25 million people and 3 million acres of farmland across the state. The project, slated for approval by the end of this year, calls for building three large water intakes on the Sacramento River near Courtland. These would feed two tunnels, each 40 feet in diameter and 150 feet underground, that would divert the water to existing state and federal diversion canals near Tracy.

The tunnels are the largest piece of hardware in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a $25 billion proposal to balance water demand and environmental protection in the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. The plan also calls for restoring 100,000 acres of habitat to benefit endangered species, including Delta smelt and Chinook salmon.

Critics of the tunnels fear that allowing the water diverters to take a major role in planning the construction will translate into less concern for the hardships facing Delta residents, who must endure the project’s extensive environmental impacts. This includes condemning thousands of acres for the project, which will dislocate dozens of farms and families.

“From a practical standpoint, their accountability is to their ratepayers,” said Osha Meserve, an attorney who represents a variety of Delta property owners. “Their main concern is trying to reduce costs. But that’s not in our interest.”

She argued that DWR should retain control of the project independently, because it has a duty to represent everyone in the state, not just the water contractors.

“The more we see this getting delegated out, the more we worry,” Meserve said. “To what extent is DWR really an independent department that is accountable to the population of the state at this point?”

Cowin said DWR worked carefully to retain ultimate authority over the new entity, which will be called the “Design and Construction Enterprise.” It will be managed by a consultant hired by DWR, and staffed by DWR employees, as well as employees of the water contractors and other consultants. The DWR director will hold ultimate veto power over any decisions, and bids will be awarded to contractors using DWR’s existing legal authorities.

“It’s a bit of a hybrid, and that’s why it’s going to take some time to make it work,” he said. “An essential thing in this potential organization is that DWR retain its decision-making authority.”

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is expected to take a major role in designing and planning the tunnels, Cowin said, because it has recent experience in building a water tunnel through the San Bernardino Mountains.

The controversial task of land acquisition will remain in DWR’s hands. “It’s something we recognize there is a lot of public concern about,” Cowin said.

The Design and Construction Enterprise is intended to function only until the tunnels are operational – after a decadelong construction process – and then be dissolved. The tunnels will be owned and operated by DWR, through a complex governance structure that also gives the water contractors a significant role.

Though the new entity is about three weeks from becoming active, Cowin said there is still no formal agreement between DWR and the water contractors on how it will operate. Crucial details about how routine decisions are made have not been finalized.

He said there will be an opportunity for public input on the new entity before it begins operating. It also is expected to follow state law concerning public records and access to meetings, said Roger Patterson, assistant general manager at the Metropolitan Water District.

Patterson said the new entity is important to the water contractors, which will have to make huge investments to begin building the tunnels.

“Our interest is being able to have participation, since we’re putting up money for it,” said Patterson, whose agency delivers water to nearly 19 million people in six Southern California counties. “Wherever the best experience is, let’s make them available to this office. We want to be prepared to go, because time matters.”

 

5-8-14

Cortez Journal

In California’s drought, fortunes are being made

http://www.cortezjournal.com/article/20140508/OPINION02/140509809/In-California%E2%80%99s-drought-fortunes-are-being-made

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – This summer, even drinking water may be hard to find in some central California towns. This region is in its third year of drought, among the worst in recorded history.

Yet agribusinesses are planting huge new groves of thirsty almond and pistachio trees. Bear in mind, these are permanent plantings. A quick crop such as alfalfa can be plowed under during a water crisis. Trees and vines, on the other hand, need years to mature. An acre could be a $3 million investment.

So what gives? What gives is a byzantine system of allocating water to a farming empire built where it shouldn’t be — in a desert. In Louisiana and Mississippi, water for cotton falls from the heavens. Under these dry skies, it comes from engineers.

Farmers draining the underground aquifers increasingly rely on state and federal projects to bring in supplies from elsewhere. Much of the “new” water comes from the overtaxed Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, home of several endangered fish and plant species.

California has about 3,000 water districts, but the California Department of Water Resources doesn’t know the exact number. Nor does it have a clear idea what the districts are doing.

Out of complexity hidden in darkness rise corruption and reckless public spending. And fortunes are made.

In normal times, the water scheme holds up. These aren’t normal times.

“This year, all bets are off,” Lois Henry, an investigative columnist for The Bakersfield Californian, told me.

Henry let me jump in her truck to tour a corner of the vast Central Valley. We stopped at a strawberry farm, perfectly spaced rows of fat, red perfection going on and on. Down the road, however, we passed a small plot of Kern County in its natural state – a dreary piece of desert scrub.

What bothers Henry these days are the massive plantings of new crop trees right in the jaws of a drought. Put in only a year or two ago, lines of tiny trees stretch to the horizon with military precision. Between 2008 and 2012, agribusiness planted 68,000 more acres of permanent crops in Kern County alone.

California is the only state that doesn’t regulate groundwater. Farmers may plant anywhere.

Residential developers, however, must first show that they have a source of water. So investors buy farmland, not for the land but for the groundwater. And though they are banned from selling any water they move through the publicly owned system of canals for urban development, they do.

Example. Billionaires Lynda and Stewart Resnick of Beverly Hills own Paramount Farms, an agricultural titan. Again, the water they obtain through public infrastructure may be used only for agriculture or restoring groundwater — according to law, anyway.

But that doesn’t seem to matter. The Resnicks appear to be selling some of their water to a developer seeking to create a new 2,000-acre planned community, Gateway Village, in another county. This is being done through a web of exotic arrangements – with the water bouncing through a maze of Resnick-owned companies, West Side Park Mutual Water Co. in particular.

Henry surmises that the Root Creek Water District, where Gateway is located, is in on the deal. Its lawyers will argue that the water being moved around is really just meant to recharge depleted groundwater. And that groundwater will be used for ... the pistachio and almond trees.

Have you seen the movie “Chinatown”?

The drought is getting so bad that the water barons have begun turning on one another. What happens if there’s hardly a drop left?

“It would be almost the perfect solution to our problem,” Henry said, “because we’d have to come to a solution.”

 

3-6-14

Cal Coast News.com

Resnick’s water bank takes big judicial hit

http://calcoastnews.com/2014/03/resnicks-water-bank-takes-big-judicial-hit/

 

Billionaire Stewart Resnick’s nut dynasty in the Central Valley has taken a major hit following a ruling Wednesday by a Sacramento judge that state officials failed to “properly analyze” the environmental impact of the Kern Water Bank. [Los Angeles Times]

That ruling calls into question elements of the controversial practice of “water banking,” and may seriously impede efforts by state water developers to create more of these banks.

Resnick and his agribusiness giant Paramount Farms gained control of the Kern Water Bank through a series of secret maneuvers two decades ago, and has dealt with lawsuits ever since.

Resnick purchased the 750-acre Hardham Ranch on the southeastern edge of Paso Robles in 2010 and quietly converted the land from a dry-farm ranch to a fully planted and irrigated vineyard. Numerous professional associates of Resnick’s are now involved in plans to form a transfer-capable water district to manage the Paso Robles water basin.

Judge Timothy Frawley’s decision noted the potential of damaging effects of the Kern Water Bank on groundwater supplies and quality. Banking is the practice of storing water when supplies are abundant to use in dry periods, a practice which also creates the opportunity and infrastructure to sell, swap, transfer or barter water with geographically-distant users.

In the Imperial Valley, a fiercely-fought scrap over the sale of water from farms to cities has become mired in litigation despite being hailed in 2003 as a “good deal” for everyone.

 

2-10-14

Daly Kos

Stewart Resnick, the Environmentalist?

byDan Bacher

Conservation International features Rob Walton and Resnick on board

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/10/1276455/-Stewart-Resnick-the-Environmentalist

The Center for Investigative Reporting describes Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills billionaire owner of Paramount Farms in Kern County, as a "one-man environmental wrecking crew.” 

 

The powerful agribusiness tycoon has been instrumental in campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt, to eradicate striped bass in California, and to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels.

 

Yet the wealthy agribusinessman also wears another hat - "environmental leader." Yes, Resnick serves on the board of directors of Conservation International, a corporate "environmental" NGO, noted for its top-down approach to conservation and involvement with corporate greenwashing throughout the world.

 

Conservation International was the top recipient of Walton Family Foundation money in 2012, receiving $22,650,774, including $5,725,000 for the Bird’s Head Seascape, $4,214,881 for the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape and 12,718,763 for “Other Environmental Grants.” 

 

While serving on the board of Conservation International, Resnick become notorious for buying subsidized Delta water and then selling it back to the public for a big profit, as revealed in an article by the late Mike Taugher in the Contra Costa Times on May 23, 2009. (http://www.revivethesanjoaquin.org/...)

 

“As the West Coast’s largest estuary plunged to the brink of collapse from 2000 to 2007, state water officials pumped unprecedented amounts of water out of the Delta only to effectively buy some of it back at taxpayer expense for a failed environmental protection plan, a MediaNews investigation has found,” said Taugher.

 

Taugher said the “environmental water account” set up in 2000 to “improve” the Delta ecosystem spent nearly $200 million mostly to benefit water users while also creating a “cash stream for private landowners and water agencies in the Bakersfield area.”

 

“No one appears to have benefited more than companies owned or controlled by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire, philanthropist and major political donor whose companies, including Paramount Farms, own more than 115,000 acres in Kern County,” Taugher stated. “Resnick’s water and farm companies collected about 20 cents of every dollar spent by the program.” 

 

Resnick and his wife, Lynda, own Roll International, Paramount Farms and Paramount Citrus Companies, making them the nation's largest farmers of tree crops, as well as the floral service Teleflora. Dubbed the "POM Queen," Lynda is behind the marketing success of POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice.

 

Roll International, one of the largest private water brokers in the U.S., makes millions of dollars in profits off marketing subsidized public water back to the public, confirmed reporter Yasha Levine.

 

“Through a series of subsidiary companies and organizations, Roll International is able to convert California’s water from a public, shared resource into a private asset that can be sold on the market to the highest bidder,” said Levine in “How Limousine Liberals, Water Oligarchs and Even Sean Hannity are Hijacking Our Water” on alternet.org. (http://www.alternet.org/...) 

 

More recently, Lois Henry of the Bakersfield Californian revealed how the Resnicks have made a profit selling water from the Kern County Water Bank, through a complicated series of maneuvers, to finance a 2,000 acre development called Gateway Village in Madera County.(http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/...)

 

The Resnicks are known for the influence they have exerted over California politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, including former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and others, through campaign contributions. (http://www.indybay.org/...)

 

The Resnicks contributed $99,000 to Jerry Brown’s 2010 campaign (http://californiawatch.org/...).

 

The Resnicks exert their influence over California politics in other ways besides direct contributions to political campaigns. For example, the executives of Paramount Farms have also set up an Astroturf group, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, that engages in green washing campaigns such as one blaming striped bass, rather than water exports, for salmon and other fish declines. 

 

Stewart Resnick's position on the board of an "environmental" NGO while he and wife promote policies that are devastating fish, rivers, the Delta and California's environment provides a glimpse of the larger picture of corporate greenwashing that occurs with groups that receive grants from the Walton Family Foundation, the organization set up by the owners of Walmart.

 

Ironically, Restore the Delta, a coalition opposed to the construction of the peripheral tunnels, pointed out that Resnick, who is one of the biggest Delta Water diverters, is not suffering during the drought as family farmers, northern California cities and counties and imperiled salmon and steelhead are. 

 

In fact, Fortune magazine on January 21, 2014 wrote about Resnick's $100,000,00 five year advertising campaign to market the "Halos" brand mandarins, as well as their $220 million packinghouse to process the crop.

 

"Halos' owner -- Los Angeles-based company Roll Global, which also makes POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and Fiji Water -- plans to as much as double output in the next five years," the magazine said. "In order to juice demand, the company recently launched a five-year, $100 million ad campaign, $20 million of which will be spent this year on marketing and TV ads already playing across the country. This season the Halos packinghouse will process the country's largest mandarin harvest, tens of millions of boxes of the fruit." (http://money.cnn.com/...)

 

Feeding off the Walmart trough

 

Walmart, the country’s largest retailer and employer, makes more than $17 billion in profits annually, so it has a lot of money to dump into “environmental” groups such as Conservation International that serve its agenda of privatization of the public trust. The wealth of the Walton family totals over $144.7 billion – equal to that of 42% of Americans.

 

The Walton Family Foundation reported “investments” totaling more than $91.4 million in “environmental initiatives” in 2012, including contributions to corporate “environmental” NGOs pushing ocean privatization through the “catch shares” programs and so-called “marine protected areas” like those created under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, as well as to groups supporting the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels.

 

According to a press release from the Walmart Headquarters in Bentonville Arkansas, “the foundation awarded grants of more than $91 million to groups and programs that create benefits for local economies and communities through lasting conservation solutions for oceans and rivers.”

 

The foundation directed an overwhelming majority of the grants toward its two core environmental initiatives – “Freshwater Conservation” and Marine Conservation.”

 

“Our work is rooted in our belief that the conservation solutions that last are the ones that make economic sense,” gushed Scott Burns, director of the foundation’s Environment Focus Area. “The foundation and our grantees embrace ‘conservationomics’ – the idea that conservation efforts can and should bring economic prosperity to local communities.”

 

The foundation donated $38,648,952 to “Marine Conservation,” $29,367,340 to “Freshwater Conservation” and $23,683,286 for “Other Environment Grants” in 2012.

 

The Environmental Defense Fund, the second largest recipient, received a total of $12,943,017, including $7,800,000 for catch shares, $1,881,652 for the Colorado River, $3,032,300 for the Mississippi River, $20,000 for the Gulf Of Mexico and $209,065 for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

 

Environmental Defense Fund  is known for its market-based approach to conservation and its push for “catch shares” that essentially privatize the oceans. The relationship between the group and the retail giant is so close that it operates an office in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered.

 

Ocean Conservancy, a strong supporter of the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act Initiative to create “marine protected areas” in California, received the third largest chunk of money from the foundation in 2012, $5,447,354, including $2,112,500 for “Marine Conservation” in the Gulf of Mexico and $3,334,854 for the oil spill in the Gulf.

 

Nature Conservancy, Inc. received $4,509,616, the fourth largest amount of money, including $1,700,000 for the Colorado River, $725,557 for the Mississippi River, $553,148 for the Bird’s Head Seascape, $21,000 for Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape, $350,000 for Gulf of Mexico projects, $400,825 for catch shares and $759,086 for “other conservation grants.”

 

The Nature Conservancy is known for its strong support of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels that Resnick and other corporate agribusiness interests so avidly support.

 

Other recipients of Walton Foundation money in 2012 include American Rivers, the Center for American Progress, Environmental Working Group, Marine Stewardship Council, National Audubon Society, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Geographic Society, Oxfam America, Inc., Resources Legacy Fund, World Wildlife Fund and many other NGOs.

 

A complete list of Walton Family Foundation recipients is available at: http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/.... 

 

12-19-03

Los Angeles Time

Massive Farm Owned by L.A. Man Uses Water Bank Conceived for State Needs

California Water Politics Paper Water

By Mark Arax, staff writer

http://www.c-win.org/news/massive-farm-owned-la-man-uses-water-bank-conceived-state-needs.html

BAKERSFIELD — The Kern River, dry as bone, meets Interstate 5 on an expanse of land no longer tamed by agriculture. The last stand of cotton was plowed under a decade ago, and now tumbleweeds hide jackrabbits and coyotes.

But cotton's white gold has given way to new riches stored deep below the ground. That's where 730,000 acre-feet of water — a lake worth more than $180 million on the open market — awaits the pump.

In a new era of buying and selling water, there may be no bigger stockpile than the Kern Water Bank. It was conceived in the mid-1980s by the state Department of Water Resources as a way to store water in the aquifer in wet years so that it can be pumped out in dry years.

Today, though, the massive underground pool is controlled by one corporate farmer, wealthy Los Angeles businessman Stewart Resnick, who owns Paramount Farming Co., the Franklin Mint, and Teleflora, a flowers-by-wire service.

The Kern bank, which was intended to help balance out the state's water supply to cities, farms and fish, has instead allowed Paramount Farming to double its acres of nuts and fruits since 1994.

In recent years, Paramount received enough water from the state to irrigate its existing orchards and withdraw enough water from the bank to plant more trees.

Paramount Farming is now the largest grower and seller of almonds and pistachios in the world, according to an international business directory. Paramount Citrus, also owned by Resnick, ranks as the largest citrus grower and packer in the U.S.

Critics say Resnick's control of the water bank is a glaring example of the perversion of water marketing — how a handful of California's most powerful and wealthy men continue to grab the state's most precious natural resource.

The state purchased the 20,000 acres along I-5 and funded the initial planning and plumbing, a public investment totaling $74 million. But the water bank went from public to private hands after a series of closed meetings between state water bureaucrats and large water contractors, including Paramount.

"A water bank designed as a safeguard against drought is being used by Paramount and other mega-farms to grow even bigger," said John Gibler of Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization founded by Ralph Nader.

"In some cases, this water is being promised to major developers, such as Newhall Ranch, as a way to get thousands of houses green-lighted by county governments. A public resource has been privatized by and for the wealthiest."

William D. Phillimore, Paramount's vice president as well as chairman of the Kern Water Bank, said his company is not the only one to benefit.

The water, by dint of legal contracts with the State Water Project, belongs to Paramount and other farming entities that make up five local water districts. Although Paramount does control more than 50% of the water bank, scores of other farming operators, as well as residents in nearby Bakersfield, also draw water from the bank, he said.

By banking water and drawing less from Northern California rivers during dry times, he said, farmers also are helping the environment.

"The water bank, as it currently exists, is an asset for the entire state. The problem with these water deals is they are very convoluted and very complicated," Phillimore said. "But anyone advancing the argument that the benefits are going to one grower hasn't done their homework."

Resnick, one of the richest people in Los Angeles — with an estimated net worth of $740 million — didn't begin farming in the San Joaquin Valley until the mid-1980s. He and his wife, Lynda, had built their fortune on flowers and burglar alarms before buying the Franklin Mint in 1984 and marketing such items as John Wayne Collector Plates.

Resnick now oversees more than 100,000 acres from his office on Olympic Boulevard in West Los Angeles, placing him second only to cotton king J.G. Boswell, America's biggest farmer with 150,000 acres in Kings County. Paramount's buying spree, which now includes 6,000 acres of pomegranates, would not have been possible without the water bank, managers agree.

But Resnick, 65, isn't inclined to talk about the rise of his farm, which consists of leftover chunks of old Texaco, Mobil Oil and Dole Foods land.

His one subsidiary that controls the largest share of the water bank has no office and no telephone number. His Los Angeles-based holding company, Roll International, has no public relations arm. The secretary answering the phone shoos away reporters with no wasted words. "We don't talk to the press. Goodbye."

The story of how the state's largest water bank — jump-started with $74 million in taxpayer money — ended up as an integral piece of the private empire of Stewart Resnick begins with a lawsuit, or at least the threat of it.

A seven-year drought ending in the early 1990s pitted Southern California water contractors, such as the Metropolitan Water District, against agricultural contractors, such as the Kern County Water Agency. Each region made its case to the state, telling why it deserved to receive the water guaranteed by long-standing contracts. In the drought's worst years, urban users got 30% of the draw, while Kern farmers received less than 5%.

In 1994, agricultural and urban interests threatened to sue the state for nondelivery. The main parties gathered in a closed-door meeting in Monterey to hash out a settlement. Public interest groups, environmentalists and smaller water contractors — locked out of the meeting — cried foul.

When it was over, the very flow of California water had been redirected.

The state Department of Water Resources set the stage for water banking and marketing on a larger scale. Water marketing became more important because the State Water Project had never been fully built out. As a result, Water Resources couldn't live up to its yearly contractual obligation to deliver 4.2 million acre-feet of water to cities and farms statewide.

To create more water, the department agreed to turn over its fledgling water bank to the Kern County Water Agency and let area farmers capture more water in wet years. In return for the water bank, Kern agreed to amend its contract with the state by reducing its draw of 1.1 million acre-feet by 45,000 acre-feet.

"At the time we took over the water bank, it was the biggest white elephant boondoggle that DWR had ever wasted its money on. There were no recharge ponds, no new wells," said Scott Hamilton, Paramount's resource planning manager.

"We gave up 45,000 acre-feet of water to get it, and then we spent $30 million on infrastructure. It's the locals here who built the water bank."

Public Citizen, in a report by Gibler titled "Water Heist" to be released today, contends that the state's transfer of the bank led to a water grab by Resnick and other big corporate farmers.

"The state invested a lot of money and created a bank that could store 1 million acre-feet — for the benefit of the entire state," Gibler said. "It was absurd to then trade that away to a privileged few."

Gibler argues that the 45,000 acre-foot entitlement that Kern County gave up was really "paper water." It existed only as a promise on a contract between the Kern County Water Agency and the Department of Water Resources. Because the state consistently fell short on those contracts, Gibler said, the 45,000 acre feet wasn't real water actually shipped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

"Kern County gave up a pittance at best and got an invaluable water storage facility in return," he said.

Current and former staff at Water Resources say both sides are partly right. Yes, the 45,000 acre-feet could be considered an illusion in most years. But the water bank itself was nowhere near to being in working order when the state handed it over to Kern.

"We bought the land and put in the money, but we couldn't make it work," said Steve Macaulay, the department's former chief deputy director.

With the bank in hand, the Kern County Water Agency signed a joint powers agreement in 1995 with four other local water districts and one private water company. The agreement divided up the ownership of the water bank, with the largest share, about 48%, going to Westside Mutual Water, a subsidiary of Paramount Farming.

Dudley Ridge Water District, whose president, Joseph C. MacIlvane, is also the president of Paramount Farming, got 10%.

As a result, Resnick now controlled a water bank capable of extracting 240,000 acre-feet each year — enough water to furnish the needs of 500,000 households.

"He's got some 5 million almond trees planted in the desert. Most of the water has gone to create a nut empire," Gibler said. "By controlling the water bank, they are now poised to profit from water sales to urban development.

"And don't think it won't happen. Look at Newhall and Tejon ranches. Big Ag is becoming Big Sprawl through water trading."

Resnick, a major philanthropist and art collector who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic political candidates, including personal friends Bill and Hillary Clinton, has put his farming empire in the hands of experts, locals say.

Paramount's vice president, Phillimore, declined to answer questions about the company's holdings or plans to sell water for urban growth. "We honestly don't like to share information with people," he said. "It's one of the advantages of being a private company."

Other Paramount managers took issue with the notion that the water bank was purely a vehicle to enrich Resnick. When the Delta has needed more water during heavy pumping months to spare fish, the Kern Water Bank has been a willing seller, they said. #

 

9-19-09

Farm baron gets high-level help

By Mike Taugher

Contra Costa Times

http://www.contracostatimes.com/california/ci_13377530?forced=true

 

Acting at the request of Beverly Hills billionaire and Kern County water baron Stewart Resnick, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is seeking a high-level scientific review of new endangered-species permits that farmers and others blame for water shortages.

 

The Sept. 11 request to two members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet carries striking parallels to a 2001 gambit, reportedly initiated by former Vice President Dick Cheney, to seek a similar review in hopes of relieving pressure on water supplies for farmers in the Klamath River basin. That review sowed initial doubt about the environmental permits on the Klamath and led to a temporary, and controversial, increase in water supplies.

 

Critics say Resnick is trying to use the science review process to expose potential flaws that can be used to challenge the Delta permits, known as "biological opinions," in court, or the court of public opinion, as part of a campaign to loosen permit conditions and increase the flow of Delta water to San Joaquin Valley farmers.

 

"Part of what he's asking is questions that will give him leverage to overturn the biological opinions," said Glen Spain, northwest regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association, a commercial salmon group. "We're not afraid of a science review. But you have to ask the questions that have to be asked but never have been answered — how much water do we have to leave in the Delta, not how much water do we take out."

 

The request, which follows the Obama administration's refusal to rewrite the two biological opinions that regulate water deliveries from the Delta, specifically tells Cabinet secretaries of Resnick's desire to complete an initial study within six months and encloses his team's ideas on how a series of three studies could be designed.

 

In addition to being one of the state's most influential individual farmers, Resnick is a major campaign contributor and owns the largest share of the Kern Water Bank, an underground storage facility that the state Department of Water Resources turned over to Resnick and other Kern County water interests in the mid-1990s.

 

Resnick has a huge stake in the outcome of numerous lawsuits swirling over environmental regulations in the Delta. One group that has filed some of those lawsuits, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, is housed in Resnick's Bakersfield offices.

 

"He's an individual with very deep ties to a number of politicians, and obviously he's using those connections to get something he wants," said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the Center of Responsive Politics, which monitors money in politics. "It's a lot easier for you to do what's being done here because you have status, and you've purchased that status."

 

In a letter forwarded by Feinstein to the Obama administration, Resnick accuses the agencies of using "sloppy science" to inappropriately attribute the Delta's environmental problems to state and federal water projects.

 

"I believe that the (National Research Council) is the only body that has the reputation, credibility and expertise to conduct a truly independent science review in the requisite time frame," Resnick wrote.

 

The research council's reputation for credibility, rigor, integrity and independence is hardly in question, but several experts raised concerns about the advisability of a research council review.

 

"It's a completely reasonable thing to do, but we've done it," said Bruce Herbold, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who was on a panel of scientists that reviewed the Delta smelt permit issued in December.

 

Convening another science panel would either take Delta experts away from important ongoing work or would take a long time to bring outside scientists up to speed on a highly complex problem, Herbold said.

 

The new Delta permits were issued last December and in June after previous versions were invalidated by a federal court because they failed to protect Delta smelt, salmon and other fish from extinction.

 

Despite claims to the contrary, those permits have had relatively little impact this year, having cost water users several hundred thousand acre-feet of water in a year when their overall supply is down more than 1 million acre-feet.

 

The bigger problem this year is a run of three dry years. Still, the permits will cut deeper into water supplies in average years and wet years and will, over the long term, substantially reduce water supplies to California's farms and cities.

 

A panel of the National Research Council would likely hold the permits to a higher standard than is required by endangered species laws, something farmers say is a good idea given the potential economic impact they carry.

 

'BEST AVAILABLE'

 

Endangered-species laws require the "best available" science be used, while a research council review could demand more certainty in any conclusions that are reached.

 

"If every decision made under the Endangered Species Act had to withstand that rigorous level of review, there would be no decisions under the Endangered Species Act," said J.B. Ruhl, a Florida State University law professor who was part of the research council committee that studied the Klamath permits.

 

"The Endangered Species Act would grind to a complete halt," he added.

 

Before issuing the permits in December and in June, federal agency managers went beyond the law's requirements by seeking outside peer reviews, at least in part because of the certainty that any decision they reached would be challenged in court.

 

Like the conflict in the Delta, the Klamath was the scene of massive farmer protests in the early 2000s after endangered species permits for salmon and suckers cut into farmers' water supplies by requiring, on one hand, that water be kept in storage to benefit one kind of fish and, on the other, that river flows be increased for other kinds of fish. Either of those requirements can affect water supply, but in the Klamath and in the Delta both of them are in play, further cutting into how much water goes to farms.

 

Lacking options to get around the Klamath permits' conditions and increase water deliveries to farms, Cheney opted in 2001 to get an outside scientific review, The Washington Post reported six years later.

 

It paid off in increased farm deliveries in 2002.

 

KLAMATH QUESTIONS

 

In the Klamath, the research council made an initial finding in 2002 that the regulations were too focused on the level of river flows, a conclusion that water managers interpreted to mean they could reduce river flows further. That decision was blamed for a salmon kill-off later that year.

 

"The Bureau of Reclamation did not faithfully apply ... the NRC's conclusions," Ruhl said.

 

Courts have since been running the river.

 

"The genius of the Klamath thing was the way they asked the questions," said Jeff Mount, a UC Davis geologist who also was on the NRC committee. "Someone who is clever can design the questions in a way they can get the answer they're looking for, or that they're hoping for."

 

"I hate it that I feel like we were manipulated for political reasons," Mount said, adding that the panel's final report was comprehensive.

 

Mount and others praised the NRC's independence, but he said a study that relied on scientists not familiar with the Delta would take too long.

 

A critical scientific review could find flaws, but there is little opportunity in the Delta for "advocacy science" to creep into permits as it did in the Klamath because Delta science takes place is a more rigorous environment, Mount said"I believe that

 

SALAZAR, LOCKE CONTACTED

 

A Feinstein spokesman said there was nothing unusual about forwarding Resnick's concerns and recommendations for a study design because he "has been acting as a spokesman for many of the farmers here."

 

Feinstein is seeking $750,000 in next year's budget for the study, but she asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to begin work on a study now.

 

"She thinks it's good to have an independent study," said Gil Duran, the Feinstein spokesman. He rejected any comparisons to the Klamath or Cheney's involvement.

 

The final report on the Klamath by the National Research Council concluded, among other things, that endangered fish could not recover unless regulators broadened their focus to include other environmental threats.

 

That is exactly the case that many of the Delta's largest water users have been making — that they are bearing the brunt of regulators' rules even though there are plenty of other problems to deal with.

 

They might be right. The Delta is under assault by many environmental threats.

 

But the permits acknowledge that water deliveries from the federal Central Valley Project and the state-owned State Water Project are not the sole cause of the Delta's decline. And the Delta smelt permit makes the case that the projects worsen other environmental problems, like pollution and invasive species, by reducing and altering flows.

 

Still, relatively little attention is paid to upstream water diverters.

 

The projects cranked about 6 million acre-feet of water a year out of the Delta in a series of record-breaking years recently that coincided with the collapse of fish populations, but about 9 million acre-feet of water is taken out each year before it ever reaches the Delta by San Francisco, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, Sacramento and upstream farm districts, all of which have so far remained unaffected by the Delta's crisis.

 

 

 

12-6-09

San Francisco Chronicle

Major donor got Feinstein's help on delta plan

Lance Williams

 

http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Major-donor-got-Feinstein-s-help-on-delta-plan-3279015.php

 

Schwarzenegger has called them "some of my dearest, dearest friends," and like Feinstein, he has urged a review of the science behind the delta restoration plan. Davis appointed Resnick co-chair of a special state committee on water and agriculture.

 

A more enduring benefit came during Wilson's administration, when Paramount Farms gained part ownership of what was to have been a state-owned storage bank for surplus water.

 

As recounted in a report by the advocacy group Public Citizen ( www.citizen.org/california/water/heist/), state water officials in the 1980s devised a plan to ease the impact of future droughts by collecting excess water during rainy years and storing it underground.

 

The water was to be pumped south via the California Aqueduct, then put into a vast aquifer in Kern County that could hold a year's water supply for 1 million homes.

 

The state spent about $75 million to buy a 20,000-acre site and to design the water bank. But in 1994, state water officials transferred the water bank site to the local Kern County Water Agency in exchange for significant water rights, Resnick said. The agency developed the water bank in partnership with four other public agencies and one private business - a subsidiary of Paramount Farms. Paramount wound up controlling a 48 percent share of the bank.

 

Resnick said the state had been unable to develop the water bank and gave up on the project. The local agencies and his company spent about $50 million to engineer the project and make the bank a success, he said.

 

Paramount's control of the bank continues to infuriate some environmentalists. In recent dry years, the bank sold some of its stored water back to the state at a premium, Public Citizen reported.

 

"Resnick likes to call himself a farmer, but he is in the business of selling public water, with none of the profits returned to the taxpayers," said Walter Shubin, a director of the Revive the San Joaquin environmental group in Fresno.

 

Supportive community

When she first emerged as a statewide candidate in the 1990 governor's race, Feinstein made little headway in the Central Valley and was defeated by Wilson. After she was elected to the Senate two years later, Feinstein set out to befriend farmers.

 

Her attention to agriculture and water issues has paid off, says Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and a former Wilson aide.

 

"That community has been very supportive of her, much more for her than for most statewide Democrats," Schnur says.

 

The Resnicks contributed $4,000 to Feinstein's 1994 re-election campaign. When she ran again in 2000, they gave her $7,000. Resnick also donated $225,000 to Democratic political committees that were active in key Democratic races.

 

Resnick said he first got to know Feinstein personally 10 or 12 years ago because the senator also has a second home in Aspen.

 

In August 2000, when the Democratic National convention was in Los Angeles, the Resnicks hosted a cocktail party for Feinstein in their home. Among the guests were the singer Nancy Sinatra, then-Gov. Davis and former President Jimmy Carter, the Los Angeles Times reported.

 

In 2007, they gave $10,000 to the Fund for the Majority, Feinstein's political action committee. In June, another committee to which Resnick has contributed, the California Citrus Mutual PAC, spent $2,500 to host a fundraiser for Feinstein, records show.

 

Feinstein also socializes with the Resnicks. Arianna Huffington, the blog editor and former candidate for governor, told the New York Observer in 2006 that she had spent New Year's with Feinstein at the Resnicks' home in Aspen. "We wore silly hats and had lots of streamers and everything," she said of the party.

 

On Aug. 26, Feinstein met with growers and water agency officials in Coalinga (Fresno County). While there, she told the Fresno Bee that she wanted the U.S. Interior Department to reconsider the biological opinions underlying the delta protection plan.

 

The following week, she received the letter from Resnick, which was first reported by the Contra Costa Times. She then sent her own letters to Interior Secretary Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Days later, the administration agreed to pay $750,000 to have the National Academy of Sciences re-study the scientific issues underlying the delta protection plan.

 

Last month, state lawmakers enacted a package of measures aimed at reforming the state's outmoded water allocation system. The centerpiece - an $11 billion bond to build new dams and canals - must be approved by voters.

 

Schwarzenegger has called them "some of my dearest, dearest friends," and like Feinstein, he has urged a review of the science behind the delta restoration plan. Davis appointed Resnick co-chair of a special state committee on water and agriculture.

 

A more enduring benefit came during Wilson's administration, when Paramount Farms gained part ownership of what was to have been a state-owned storage bank for surplus water.

 

As recounted in a report by the advocacy group Public Citizen ( www.citizen.org/california/water/heist/), state water officials in the 1980s devised a plan to ease the impact of future droughts by collecting excess water during rainy years and storing it underground.

 

The water was to be pumped south via the California Aqueduct, then put into a vast aquifer in Kern County that could hold a year's water supply for 1 million homes.

 

The state spent about $75 million to buy a 20,000-acre site and to design the water bank. But in 1994, state water officials transferred the water bank site to the local Kern County Water Agency in exchange for significant water rights, Resnick said. The agency developed the water bank in partnership with four other public agencies and one private business - a subsidiary of Paramount Farms. Paramount wound up controlling a 48 percent share of the bank.

 

Resnick said the state had been unable to develop the water bank and gave up on the project. The local agencies and his company spent about $50 million to engineer the project and make the bank a success, he said.

 

Paramount's control of the bank continues to infuriate some environmentalists. In recent dry years, the bank sold some of its stored water back to the state at a premium, Public Citizen reported.

 

"Resnick likes to call himself a farmer, but he is in the business of selling public water, with none of the profits returned to the taxpayers," said Walter Shubin, a director of the Revive the San Joaquin environmental group in Fresno.

 

Supportive community

When she first emerged as a statewide candidate in the 1990 governor's race, Feinstein made little headway in the Central Valley and was defeated by Wilson. After she was elected to the Senate two years later, Feinstein set out to befriend farmers.

 

Her attention to agriculture and water issues has paid off, says Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and a former Wilson aide.

 

"That community has been very supportive of her, much more for her than for most statewide Democrats," Schnur says.

 

The Resnicks contributed $4,000 to Feinstein's 1994 re-election campaign. When she ran again in 2000, they gave her $7,000. Resnick also donated $225,000 to Democratic political committees that were active in key Democratic races.

 

Resnick said he first got to know Feinstein personally 10 or 12 years ago because the senator also has a second home in Aspen.

 

In August 2000, when the Democratic National convention was in Los Angeles, the Resnicks hosted a cocktail party for Feinstein in their home. Among the guests were the singer Nancy Sinatra, then-Gov. Davis and former President Jimmy Carter, the Los Angeles Times reported.

 

In 2007, they gave $10,000 to the Fund for the Majority, Feinstein's political action committee. In June, another committee to which Resnick has contributed, the California Citrus Mutual PAC, spent $2,500 to host a fundraiser for Feinstein, records show.

 

Feinstein also socializes with the Resnicks. Arianna Huffington, the blog editor and former candidate for governor, told the New York Observer in 2006 that she had spent New Year's with Feinstein at the Resnicks' home in Aspen. "We wore silly hats and had lots of streamers and everything," she said of the party.

 

On Aug. 26, Feinstein met with growers and water agency officials in Coalinga (Fresno County). While there, she told the Fresno Bee that she wanted the U.S. Interior Department to reconsider the biological opinions underlying the delta protection plan.

 

The following week, she received the letter from Resnick, which was first reported by the Contra Costa Times. She then sent her own letters to Interior Secretary Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Days later, the administration agreed to pay $750,000 to have the National Academy of Sciences re-study the scientific issues underlying the delta protection plan.

 

Last month, state lawmakers enacted a package of measures aimed at reforming the state's outmoded water allocation system. The centerpiece - an $11 billion bond to build new dams and canals - must be approved by voters.

 

Schwarzenegger has called them "some of my dearest, dearest friends," and like Feinstein, he has urged a review of the science behind the delta restoration plan. Davis appointed Resnick co-chair of a special state committee on water and agriculture.

 

A more enduring benefit came during Wilson's administration, when Paramount Farms gained part ownership of what was to have been a state-owned storage bank for surplus water.

 

As recounted in a report by the advocacy group Public Citizen ( www.citizen.org/california/water/heist/), state water officials in the 1980s devised a plan to ease the impact of future droughts by collecting excess water during rainy years and storing it underground.

 

The water was to be pumped south via the California Aqueduct, then put into a vast aquifer in Kern County that could hold a year's water supply for 1 million homes.

 

The state spent about $75 million to buy a 20,000-acre site and to design the water bank. But in 1994, state water officials transferred the water bank site to the local Kern County Water Agency in exchange for significant water rights, Resnick said. The agency developed the water bank in partnership with four other public agencies and one private business - a subsidiary of Paramount Farms. Paramount wound up controlling a 48 percent share of the bank.

 

Resnick said the state had been unable to develop the water bank and gave up on the project. The local agencies and his company spent about $50 million to engineer the project and make the bank a success, he said.

 

Paramount's control of the bank continues to infuriate some environmentalists. In recent dry years, the bank sold some of its stored water back to the state at a premium, Public Citizen reported.

 

"Resnick likes to call himself a farmer, but he is in the business of selling public water, with none of the profits returned to the taxpayers," said Walter Shubin, a director of the Revive the San Joaquin environmental group in Fresno.

 

Supportive community

When she first emerged as a statewide candidate in the 1990 governor's race, Feinstein made little headway in the Central Valley and was defeated by Wilson. After she was elected to the Senate two years later, Feinstein set out to befriend farmers.

 

Her attention to agriculture and water issues has paid off, says Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and a former Wilson aide.

 

"That community has been very supportive of her, much more for her than for most statewide Democrats," Schnur says.

 

The Resnicks contributed $4,000 to Feinstein's 1994 re-election campaign. When she ran again in 2000, they gave her $7,000. Resnick also donated $225,000 to Democratic political committees that were active in key Democratic races.

 

Resnick said he first got to know Feinstein personally 10 or 12 years ago because the senator also has a second home in Aspen.

 

In August 2000, when the Democratic National convention was in Los Angeles, the Resnicks hosted a cocktail party for Feinstein in their home. Among the guests were the singer Nancy Sinatra, then-Gov. Davis and former President Jimmy Carter, the Los Angeles Times reported.

 

In 2007, they gave $10,000 to the Fund for the Majority, Feinstein's political action committee. In June, another committee to which Resnick has contributed, the California Citrus Mutual PAC, spent $2,500 to host a fundraiser for Feinstein, records show.

 

Feinstein also socializes with the Resnicks. Arianna Huffington, the blog editor and former candidate for governor, told the New York Observer in 2006 that she had spent New Year's with Feinstein at the Resnicks' home in Aspen. "We wore silly hats and had lots of streamers and everything," she said of the party.

 

On Aug. 26, Feinstein met with growers and water agency officials in Coalinga (Fresno County). While there, she told the Fresno Bee that she wanted the U.S. Interior Department to reconsider the biological opinions underlying the delta protection plan.

 

The following week, she received the letter from Resnick, which was first reported by the Contra Costa Times. She then sent her own letters to Interior Secretary Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Days later, the administration agreed to pay $750,000 to have the National Academy of Sciences re-study the scientific issues underlying the delta protection plan.

 

Last month, state lawmakers enacted a package of measures aimed at reforming the state's outmoded water allocation system. The centerpiece - an $11 billion bond to build new dams and canals - must be approved by voters.

 

| »

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Copy the characters (respecting upper/lower case) from the image.

To manage site Login