Presumptive governor visits Valley

 The State Water Resources Control Board made its priorities clear in announcing its recommendation in early July. The board cherry-picked old statistics to insist the Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus fisheries are on the brink of collapse. It pointed out that creeping salinity from San Francisco Bay imperils the Delta. The board insists only more of the water from our rivers can solve both problems.
But the board ignored more recent data showing fish numbers are improving. And the board made no mention of the fact that the Sacramento River supplies 80 percent of the Delta’s water, making it far more essential than our rivers in countering salinity. Editorial board, Modesto Bee, July 17, 2018


There is politics and there is law. Then there is California water. And after that, the California WaterFIX, as infelicitous a title for another water grab as tone-deaf Sacramento bureaucrats have come up with since UC Merced.  

The Modesto Bee editorial board appear here as if they were a string orchestra playing Albinoni's Adagio standing in the dirt beside the railcar of some 19th-century San Francisco merchant prince.

Please, Please, Please, Lord Newsom, take pity!

And Newsom is playing them like the Cheshire Cat with a ping pong ball.
Our three tributary rivers to the San Joaquin River have been irrigating orchards for more than a century, and long before the west side of the San Joaquin Valley south of Los Banos was sheep, cow, coyote, roadrunner and oil country. Although not as rich as the Delta land, the land around our rivers will not salt up as quickly as either the Delta once the Sacramento River is piped away, or as quickly as the land irrigated by Westlands Water District is now salting up and polluting agricultural runoff with heavy metals.
And South Bay and Southern California development, of course, cannot continue to grow if its supply of drinking water does not also continue to grow.
But Newsom, the Frisco merchant prince, would not appear to have anyone near him who gives a damn about any of that.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants his family-legacy, twin tunnel project.
Willie Brown is not friend of the San Joaquin Valley. Early in his career in the Legislature, he proposed consolidating the 50 Northern California counties into less than ten, if memory serves. When he became speaker, a landlord tried to deny him the penthouse he chose to rent in Sacramento. As Assembly speaker, his last gift to Modesto was arranging the election of Margaret Snyder, D-Modesto, to one term in the Assembly.
Newsom's financial backers, the J. Gordon Getty family, were large landowners in Kern County. But the person best able to tell us where the Getty family billions is now invested is the candidate's father, William Newsom, lifelong one-client attorney to J. Paul, and later J. Gordon Getty. Gavin Newson's businesses, wineries, restaurants and cafes have always been bankrolled by Gordon Getty.
"His word was ubiquitously known to be bad," Peskin said. "If Gavin said yes, yes could mean no. Maybe could mean yes. No could mean yes."--  Ashley Harrell, SF Weekly, Sept. 9. 2009  (Aaron Peskin was chairman of the San Francisco Democratic Party Central Committee from 2008-2012.)1.
What if this is another Trumpish situation -- Newsom will be impossible to predict because he doesn't know what he wants except possibly higher and higher political positions; and who knows what the Gettys want from quarter to quarter? The presumptive governor's father?
But haven't many people -- even the Gettys -- found investment in California real estate safe and profitable? And surface real estate may include mineral resources below it and, to develop it, requires other resources, first of all, water.
--- blj
Modesto Bee
What Gavin Newsom said – and didn’t say – during his visit Monday in Modesto
Gavin Newsom came to Modesto on Monday night to shake hands and meet important people.
Most, if not all, wanted to know one thing: Newsom’s position on water. Specifically, the water flowing down the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. Water the state is trying to take from us.
As a Democrat running against a little-known Republican to replace Jerry Brown, Newsom is destined to be California’s next governor. Of the problems Brown is handing off to his replacement, none is more delicate or difficult than water.
It was the hottest topic among those packed into Surla’s Restaurant. Would Newsom stick with his predecessor’s California WaterFix, the elaborate plan – which Brown refused to put to a vote of the people – that will supposedly fix the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and simultaneously send more water to the thirsty south? Or will he try to find a better way?

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As Brown’s departure draws near, he’s rushing to get the WaterFix  started.  
The WaterFix’s two goals are supposedly “co-equal.” In reality, Brown’s essential goal is to move water south. The plan’s centerpiece is a pair of tunnels – each 40-feet in diameter – capable of sucking most of the enormous Sacramento River under the Delta to southbound pumps.
The State Water Resources Control Board made its priorities clear in announcing its recommendation in early July. The board cherry-picked old statistics to insist the Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus fisheries are on the brink of collapse. It pointed out that creeping salinity from San Francisco Bay imperils the Delta. The board insists only more of the water from our rivers can solve both problems.
But the board ignored more recent data showing fish numbers are improving. And the board made no mention of the fact that the Sacramento River supplies 80 percent of the Delta’s water, making it far more essential than our rivers in countering salinity.
People in Turlock, Modesto, Merced, Manteca, Oakdale and all points in between have vowed to fight this blatant grab. That’s what brought them to Surla’s.
Smart and persuasive, Newsom was ready with an answer that provided a glimmer of hope without committing to anything.
“None of these things are on autopilot,” he said. “I’m not wedded to the presumptions of the current administration.” Sounds good.
Having been raised in the Bay Area, Newsom didn’t have to be reminded that the Tuolumne River supplies San Francisco and 22 other Bay Area cities with drinking water.
“I floated down the Tuolumne River as a child, many times. You can’t be from San Francisco without being connected, almost spiritually, to Modesto and Turlock through the river.”
Even better. But now the “but…”
“A great deal of time has been consumed studying this issue,” he said. “I know (Gov. Brown’s) point of view.” It’s important, said Newsom, to do his own research, but also to be respectful of past efforts.
That was Newsom’s way of asking us to recognize the difficulty of providing water for 40 million Californians. While we can’t lose sight of the cost to our region – a crippling $1.6 billion annually – the needs of the entire state can’t be ignored.
Everyone in the room Monday evening should have had one priority: To help the presumptive governor understand the devastating costs to our region. But we also should commit to helping him resolve the problem.
If we can, perhaps we can strengthen that connection that runs through the Tuolumne River all the way to San Francisco. Maybe we can help a new governor find a better solution than the one being pushed by Jerry Brown’s water board. It’s our best hope.

McClatchy DC
Interior Secretary Zinke to visit California as GOP steps up fight over state’s water
With little clout in Sacramento, Republicans are trying to use their power in Washington to reshape California’s water policies.
Less than two weeks after state regulators announced sweeping new water allocation limits, the GOP-controlled House is expected this week to pass spending legislation that would block federal funding for that allocation plan. It also includes measures that would bar legal challenges to major water infrastructure projects in the state.
On Friday, Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock is hosting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in his district to “discuss the administration’s potential role in improving water infrastructure and protecting Valley water rights.”

That’s a sign the Trump administration may fight the allocation proposal, which was announced by the California State Water Resources Control Board on July 6. 
The legislative proposals have little chance of passing in the Senate, where California’s Democratic senators have already pledged to block provisions that preempt the state’s powers. The legislation would probably need 60 votes to cut off a filibuster, and Republicans control 51 of the chamber’s 100 seats.
California Republicans may have more success enlisting their allies in the Trump administration to battle state regulators. President Donald Trump vowed to have the government deliver more water to San Joaquin Valley farmers during the 2016 campaign. 

In January, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation unveiled a proposal to “maximize water deliveries” in the Central Valley, the opposite of what the state water board is now looking to do.
If nothing else, the latest salvos from Washington allow California Republicans to argue they are fighting for agriculture interests and Southern California water consumers — key political constituencies — in their long-running battles with conservation groups over stewardship of the state’s rivers and reservoirs.
The state’s environmentalists were outraged this spring when House Republican budget-writers, led by Riverside County Rep. Ken Calvert, released a 142-page draft spending bill for the Interior Department and related agencies, that included languageprohibiting state or federal lawsuits against the multibillion-dollar California Delta tunnels project.
Formally known as California Water Fix, the controversial project would construct two tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to connect freshwater from the river to aqueducts conveying water south. It’s been championed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who is in his final year in office, but vehemently opposed by many conservation groups and other Democratic politicians.
Republicans were not deterred by the pushback. Instead, at a committee markup in June, they adopted another provision, introduced by Rep. David Valadao of Hanford, to extend the ban on legal challenges to virtually every other major infrastructure project that distributes water across the state --including projects to manage the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as well as the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, two networks of reservoirs, dams and aqueducts.
This week, the House will vote on another amendment, drafted by Denham, targeting the recent proposal by the California Water Board that would restrict the flow of water from the San Joaquin river and its tributaries into Denham’s district and other parts of the Central Valley.
The board says the move is necessary to protect a depleted salmon population, but Denham argues that science isn’t sound, as salmon populations have fluctuated every year.
The California State Water Resources Control Board is an easy target in California farming communities that don’t want to see their water shortages exacerbated.
“This is a water grab that will devastate our community both from a water quality standpoint and starving off some communities from water at all,” Denham said. “I feel it’s a social justice issue when you’re shutting off our water, that can completely devastate our community, over a plan to save the fish that’s not based on science at all — so we are pulling the Interior money back so it can’t be used to implement this plan.”
The board will vote to finalize its new allocation limits in August. The proposal was widely unpopular in Denham’s district, where there is already a water shortage in a farming community that depends on water for its livelihood and has an unemployment rate that is 50 percent higher than the national average.
Denham’s effort would strip funding for any attempt to modify the flows of the federally-controlled New Melones Reservoir, effectively killing the California Water Board’s decision before it’s finalized in parts of the San Joaquin Valley. Zinke is planning to visit that reservoir along with the Don Pedro Dam on Friday.
The House plans to vote on the proposal this week. If approved, it would become part of the House’s Interior spending bill. Denham said he is confident, based on conversations with House leadership, that it will pass.
The broader legislation is also expected to sail through the House with Republican support.
“It’ll pass out of the House,” predicted Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, who represents Davis, Fairfield and other communities to the north and west of Sacramento.
Garamendi and several other California Democrats introduced amendments to remove the language barring legal challenges to state water projects. House Republicans, who have a strong majority in the chamber, refused to allow a vote on their proposals.
Garamendi called the language barring lawsuits “foolish” and “counterproductive.”
“It is entirely possible, if that became law, for the tunnels to be built, with no lawsuits, and then no water in the tunnels. And you can’t sue!” he told The Bee. “It’s a soundbite for Republicans,” he added, noting that the Senate will kill those portions of the legislation.
Indeed, California’s two senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both Democrats, have publicly opposed the proposals barring lawsuits against state water projects.
In a May 21 letter to the leaders of Congress’ appropriations committees, Feinstein underscored her “strong opposition” to Calvert’s proposal blocking lawsuits to the tunnels project. “A project as divisive and complex as the $17 billion Water Fix should only proceed subject to the full scrutiny of our state and federal laws and our established institutions, including review by independent judges,” Feinstein wrote.
The senators have not commented on Denham’s amendment as it has not passed.
Garamendi acknowledged that even if the Senate strips the California-related measures, Republicans could use the House-passed legislation as leverage to wring other concessions on water policy in future spending negotiations. “Leverage is always part of the process here, you try to gain the upper hand so that you can get your way,” he said.
But he said California Republicans’ latest gambit was bad policy. “There are other things they can do to get leverage, they’ve got the votes.”


Sacramento Bee
Lobbyist for Big Ag gets ready to regulate his past clients
As the revolving door swings in Washington, D.C., David L. Bernhardt is an understandable choice to be second in command in the Trump administration’s Interior Department, a post with a direct hand in California water.
Bernhardt is, according to those who know him, highly intelligent and a skilled lawyer. Given his pedigree in and out of government, Bernhardt certainly understands the complexities of California water policy and politics. But because of his clients, Bernhardt is hardly the ideal choice for this state.
The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to convene a confirmation hearing for Bernhardt on Thursday. Senators ought to come armed with pointed questions. And though California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris don’t sit on the committee, they need to make their presence known by urging that the committee delve into Bernhardt’s conflicts and elicit promises to avoid assisting past clients.
Berhardt worked as a Republican congressional staffer, later as a lawyer-lobbyist in the Clinton years and then as a high-ranking Interior official during George W. Bush’s administration, rising to the position of solicitor.
During the Obama administration, Bernhardt returned to his old firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a law-lobbying operation whose motto is: “Where business, law and politics converge.” Brownstein billed its Washington clients $25 million last year.
Bernhardt’s clients included Westlands Water District, the agricultural powerhouse made up of some of the nation’s richest farming operations. During Bernhardt’s time as Westland’s lobbyist, Westlands paid Brownstein Hyatt $1.43 million, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports.
During those years, the Los Angeles Times reported, Brownstein Hyatt sued Interior four times on Westlands’ behalf. Bernhardt helped write legislation on behalf of Westlands, Stuart Leavenworth of the McClatchy D.C. Bureau has reported.
Brownstein Hyatt also represents Cadiz Inc., which has long sought approval of a controversial plan to tap into an aquifer beneath the Mojave Desert east of Los Angeles, and sell the water to urban users. The Obama administration blocked the plan, but the Trump administration has taken steps toward approving it.
In past administrations, the deputy secretary at Interior has been directly involved in virtually every aspect of California water, from the Colorado River agreement in the south to the Klamath River in the north, and, especially, the operations of the Central Valley Project.
Westlands has a major interest in deliveries of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, via the Central Valley Project, and would have a stake in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to build two 30-mile-long tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento River channel south and west to cities and farms.
Westlands leaders haven’t committed to the tunnels project, but decision time is fast approaching. The Interior Department is sure to have a hand in the decisions involving the tunnels and in the amount of water they deliver.
At the start of his tenure, President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring appointees such as Bernhardt to recuse themselves from matters involving former clients. But any administration can issue waivers permitting officials to get involved.
The administration also could argue that the exclusion would not apply if Bernhardt gets involved in matters that affect water policy broadly, whether or not his actions would benefit Westlands, Cadiz or any other Brownstein client. That’s where the Senate must come in.
By now, four months into the Trump administration, voters no doubt are seeing that Trump’s claim that he would “drain the swamp” was a cheap applause line, and that he didn’t mean that he’d actually change how business gets done.
And so David L. Bernhardt, a smart and accomplished lawyer and a consummate insider, walks through the revolving door, back to the federal government. It’s the nature of Washington. Before they confirm him, as they almost certainly will, we can only hope that senators insist that he not help past clients and future clients.

Fresno Bee
Newsom talks gas tax, water storage and rural vs. urban divide in Fresno stop
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom toured a Fresno trade school Tuesday as part of a series of central San Joaquin Valley campaign stops in his bid to become California’s next governor.
During a news conference after the tour, Newsom answered questions on many of the Valley’s most pressing political issues: water storage, the gas tax, crime, high-speed rail and what he called a “divide” and “growing animus” between California’s urban and rural residents.
“I feel a deep sense of responsibility, if I’m successful as governor, to reconcile (the divide) and to get serious about that,” he said. “I don’t want to become a meme. I don’t want to become the guy that’s here before an election and you never see again.”

Newsom spent time with plumbing, electrical and sheet metal apprentices and journeymen, as well as representatives from their respective unions, at the Fresno Area Electrical Training Center near Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
The Democratic frontrunner spent about an hour with the students and staff, exchanging small talk and taking notes on the program using a small notebook he kept in his pocket.
He did his best to put those around him at ease, but the tall, coiffed, well-dressed millionaire couldn’t help but draw reverence as he asked instructors about various electrical training apparatus dangling from the walls.

Newsom said visits like Tuesday’s were important, because Democrats “often don’t treat folks who don’t go to college as we should.” There is space in the state budget to “exponentially increase” programs like the one he toured in Fresno, which he said crucially provided a living wage to trade workers and their families.

Brian Brokaw, a consultant working with Newsom’s campaign, said the candidate also had several private meetings before the tour and planned to have several more Tuesday before flying back to the Bay Area. Newsom had a similarly busy schedule in Modesto on Monday. 

At the news conference, Newsom defended the gas tax – a hot-button issue for conservatives, who led a successful campaign to bring the issue to voters in November.

He said voters are free to kill the tax, but they would also be ending thousands of infrastructure projects across the state. Canceled road repairs will lead to more money spent by residents on car repairs, and he said the $5 billion generated by the tax could not be generated elsewhere in the budget, as Republicans have suggested.

When asked about the Temperance Flat proposal, Newsom said many projects are fighting for a finite amount of money. He stressed, however, that some form of above-ground storage would be built in the near future, as dictated by the voters. 

Newsom rejected claims from local law enforcement leaders, including Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, that Proposition 47 had increased crime rates in the state.


He said independent analysis has proven precisely the opposite. Local officials sometimes use Prop. 47, which downgraded some crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor, as a scapegoat for crime in their jurisdictions, he added.

Newsom said the ballooning costs for the high-speed rail project are concerning, but he believes a “(Silicon) Valley to (Central) Valley” train will happen. Once it does, the program will likely need private investment to extend the line south.
This was Newsom’s third official visit to Fresno in the last year, having campaigned here in February and August.
The area is not a strong support base for him, as he received only 17 percent of the vote in Fresno County. Republican John Cox, who will face Newsom again in November, finished first with 34 percent of the vote. Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa was second with 20 percent.
(1) The Wrong Stuff 
Candidate Newsom is “narcissistic,” “thin-skinned,” “disloyal,” and “friendless.” And that’s from his former supporters.
By Ashley Harrell, SF Weekly,  Sept. 9, 2009