"If you got the money, honey,
I got the water..."
The Delta Whiners
Osha Meserve, a lawyer for Local agencies of the North Delta, said delta farmers should be worried.
“I think it is a lot like ‘Chinatown,’” she said, referring to the 1974 Roman Polanski film about deceptive tactics used by Los Angeles interests to secure water rights to the Owens Valley, east of the Sierra, in 1937. “What do you do if you have trouble with the locals? You buy them out. It is concerning to have that much land go into the hands of people who have no interest in protecting the delta as a place. Like the Owens Valley, the tunnels plan is the opposite of the interests of the people.”-- Peter Fimrite, sfgate.com, Nov. 10, 2015
The Badlands editorial board thinks Ms. Meserve is being fetchingly grassroots here, as she criticizes a potential land-and-water deal for Delta islands between Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and a troubled Swiss insurance conglomerate. She and the inveterate spokeswoman for Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, both seem to miss the point that there is a willing seller in this deal, a foreign transnational corporation, definitely not a family of Delta yeomen Caterpillar drivers. We wonder how many other parcels of prime Delta farming land are owned by insurance companies and other speculating finance, insurance and real-estate investment corporations.
In short, didn't that horse leave the barn some time ago? -- blj
L.A.’s water board seeks to buy key delta lands
By Peter Fimrite
The powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California decided Tuesday to begin negotiations to buy thousands of acres including four islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, an effort to secure steady flows of water amid the historic drought.
But delta advocates and environmentalists called the bold move by the nation’s biggest water agency, which serves 19 million people, a blatant water grab.
The 37-member board of directors, representing 26 agencies in Southern California, directed district staff to begin negotiating an option to buy 20,369 acres of land encompassing Webb Tract, Bacon Island, Bouldin Island, most of Holland Tract and a portion of Chipps Island in Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Solano counties.
Two of the islands — Bouldin and Bacon — are directly in the proposed path of Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial twin-tunnels project, which would divert supplies from the Sacramento River to agencies that provide water to farms and some urban areas, including Los Angeles and parts of the Bay Area.
“It’s pretty clear what their motive is. It lines up directly with the delta tunnels,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the executive director of the environmental group Restore the Delta, which has opposed the tunnels. “They are full-speed-ahead supportive of the delta tunnels. It’s their business model. ... Their whole goal is to figure out how to pull more water out of the delta.”
The owner of the land, Delta Wetlands Properties, a subsidiary of insurance giant Zurich, recently gained approval to build reservoirs and flood Bacon Island and Webb Tract, and convert Bouldin Island and Holland Tract to wildlife habitat, after years of negotiations.
Farmers on nearby islands had filed a lawsuit to stop those plans, arguing that the flooding would undermine levees and endanger crops, but a settlement was reached that included safeguards to protect their property.
Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District, said after Tuesday’s board meeting that the district is interested in the land mainly for the environmental benefits, including waterfowl protection, fish food supply enhancement, carbon sequestration and turbidity studies.
Such projects, he said, could be used to mitigate future water projects. In addition, he acknowledged, the islands could be used for storage and to transfer water in times of need.
The land would also undoubtedly come in handy if the delta tunnels project — officially known as California WaterFix — is built, Kightlinger said.
“It would make it easier to build the tunnels. On the other hand, the decision to build the delta tunnels is not ours to make,” Kightlinger said. “We would have to work with state and federal governments to see what they are building and make sure it is within the Metropolitan Water District’s best interests.”
The district is talking with other water suppliers in Southern California, including the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Bakersfield and two agencies in Kern County, about jointly entering into a one-year option to buy the land, which Kightlinger said is worth between $7,500 and $12,000 an acre.
Osha Meserve, a lawyer for Local Agencies of the North Delta, said delta farmers should be worried.
“I think it is a lot like ‘Chinatown,’” she said, referring to the 1974 Roman Polanski film about deceptive tactics used by Los Angeles interests to secure water rights to the Owens Valley, east of the Sierra, in 1937. “What do you do if you have trouble with the locals? You buy them out. It is concerning to have that much land go into the hands of people who have no interest in protecting the delta as a place. Like the Owens Valley, the tunnels plan is the opposite of the interests of the people.”
Zurich Insurance Plans to Replace CEO Senn, Reports Swiss Magazine
By Jan-Henrik Förster and Jeffrey Vögeli
Zurich Insurance Group AG is seeking to replace Chief Executive Officer Martin Senn after third-quarter losses forced it to abandon its bid for Britain’s RSA Insurance Group Plc, according to a Swiss business magazine.
Switzerland’s biggest insurer has hired the London firm MWM Consulting to conduct the search, Swiss business magazine Bilanz reported Thursday on its website, without saying where it got the information.
Zurich Insurance declines to discuss the report, said Riccardo Moretto, a spokesman.
Zurich abandoned its proposed bid for RSA Insurance in September after underestimating North American auto and construction liabilities. Profit fell 79 percent in the three months through September to $207 million from a year earlier as the company set aside $367 million to cover the shortfall in reserves. It also booked $275 million in losses from the mid-August explosions in the Chinese city of Tianjin.
Senn, who took over as CEO in 2010, has been under pressure to increase profit. Shares are down 14 percent this year, compared with 15 percent increase in the Stoxx Europe 600 Insurance Index. The shares climbed as much as 0.8 percent after the report and were trading 0.4 percent higher at 268.30 francs at 12:22 p.m. in Zurich.
The company detailed an overhaul of its non-life insurance unit last week that includes about 200 job cuts and an exit from part of the U.S. transportation business. Positions will be eliminated in Switzerland, the U.S., Ireland and the U.K., said Kristof Terryn, who was named head of general insurance and global life in September, replacing Mike Kerner.
Senn joined Zurich as chief investment officer in 2006. In 2011, he oversaw the purchase of a 51 percent stake in Banco Santander SA’s insurance division in 2011 for $1.67 billion.
Credit Suisse Group AG used MWM Consulting to recruit Tidjane Thiam for its top job earlier this year, Bilanz said. The recruitment firm could not immediately be reached for comment.