The letter cited below, from valley congressmen Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa is a testament to the dissolution of local journalism. If newspapers were doing their jobs, the boys from Congress would not have dared to write such drivel.
San Joaquin Valley representatives Jim Costa and Dennis Cardoza stumble to the stately rhythms of the latest Valley two-step, the Costoza -- half tango, half cock fight. They do the Valley Whine that a water project so large it is only one of two human structures visible from outerspace is too small for California.
1. Small San Joaquin Valley towns are not "now home to world-class universities and good jobs, and are wonderful places to raise families." They are home to three state colleges (mislabeled "state universities") and one UC campus that is not anywhere close to being a university yet, let alone world-class. It is however, a member campus in a huge educational consortium called University of California, whose greatest claim to university status is the creation atomic and nuclear weapons.
Official Valley unemployment is around 20 percent. The Valley is an increasingly environmentally unhealthy and socially violent place in which to raise children. Cardoza moved his wife and children to Annapolis MD last year.
2. Our state's water system was not built "more than 50 years ago." Parts of it are much older, some younger. Bakersfield seems to be the only city in the Valley that gets water from the State Water Project. Most cities rely primarily on groundwater, some, like Fresno and Visalia also rely on federal water developed in the New Deal era, some like Modesto and Stockton in addition to groundwater rely on local streams and reservoirs.
3. "Fifty years ago, President Kennedy and Gov. Pat Brown had a vision to irrigate California's farmland and meet the needs of the growing population."
Actually, the State Water Project and the Delta Pumps were on a ballot initiative in 1960, voted on the same day Kennedy was voted president and Vice President Richard Nixon began running for governor of California against Pat Brown two years later, and Brown began collecing campaign contributions from LA and Valley growers soon after. It was a huge boondoggle that promised a great deal more water to a great deal more people than it ever delivered to anyone. Jack Kennedy had nothing to do with it at all.
4. "Our state's economic backbone, agriculture, is being threatened by the drought and if not alleviated, will impact the food security of our nation."
Our state's "economic backbone" may have once been agriculture, but it is now finance, insurance and real estate, which have joined to create a global recession and a local depression due to fraudulent lending practices. In fact, California's economic backbone is broken and we now have the worst bond rating in the nation. In fact, what "security" Valley farmers have is in the value of their real estate, not in their agricultural production.
You can't blame the boys for not doing a rain dance. How is the "food security of our nation" aleviated by reduction in cotton acreage, almond acreage, pistachio acreage, pomegranite acreage or acreage for ethanol corn? Will the nation starve without wine grapes, asparagus and iceberg lettuce? Wasn't the Shrimp Slayer recently howling in Congress about subsidies for California's specialty crops, which Midwesterners call "luxury crops."
As for the large, fat tears falling from cold eyes for unemployed farmworkers, that ain't pity, it's fear. One way or another, unemployed farmworkers are going to cost the Valley a lot of money this year. But, if you just say "Jack Kennedy" often enough, maybe it won't be too bad. Very few farmworkers know what Pat Brown did for them or what it cost
There are two theories about this "drought." To listen to the Costoza's financial contributors, many of them being members of what the Valley's best water journalist, Lloyd Carter, calls the "hydraulic brotherhood," its cause is the Endangered Species Act, which prevents unlimited pumping of water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta, where endangered species are going extinct because of over-pumping. The alternative version is
that the state Department of Water Resources bet on a wet spring in 2008, and filled Southern California reservoirs by pumping Northern California reservoirs very low.
Both sides claim this is a "man-made" drought.
The alternative to the version that the drought has been caused by the Endangered Species Act is written in two articles:
"Drought or Water Heist, Tom Steinstra, Oct. 26, 2008, SF Chronicle,
and "State Uses Announcement of Proposed Water Cuts to Push Canal and Dams," Dan Bacher,
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, October 31, 2008,
The Steinstra/Bacher version is part "Chinatown," part bureaucratic Keystone Cops in the state Department of Water Resources. The prize sought by the hydraulic brotherhood since 1919 is a peripheral canal, now known by the term "water conveyance system." The project requires a statewide bond initiative. It has been tried and it failed in 1982. Curiously, none of the five water-bond proposals currently floating around the state Capitol specify
a peripheral canal. Perhaps the politicians and their paymasters have decided the people are not thirsty and scared enough yet. The Keystone Cops side of the situation is that apparently the best minds in state hydraulogy bet on a wet spring in 2008 -- the federal Bureau of Reclamation started off its estimate at 40 percent delivery -- and lost the bet. This year the BOR has started at zero and remained there so far, though in part due
to a federal court decision on the ESA last summer.
The Valley Congressional Delegation's position, bipartisan on this issue, is that the ESA should be suspended, the pumps opened, the crops watered and leave California salmon fishermen with another suspended season and Oregon with its first, and probable extinction for several species of Delta fish from six years of overpumping.
Meanwhile, Congress passed and the president signed the San Joaquin River Settlement, which will mean the river will flow again with something other than ag drainage upstream from Friant Dam, another environmental law rather than agribusiness special interest-based decision. No wonder the Costoza harks back to imaginary visions of Kennedy and Brown, when the water system was built with half the present population but for the benefit of the next half.
5. "Over time, it has become evident that the Endangered Species Act and the Central Valley Improvement Act, both passed by Democratic Congresses and signed by Republican presidents, are inflexible and created dysfunctional water policies in the West."
Cardoza tried to weaken the ESA three times through legislation. Finally, most of what he and Pombo wanted to do to the ESA was incorporated into a lame duck administrative order by President Bush. As far as we know, Obama has not yet signed the order rescinding this version of the gutting of the ESA.
Cardoza's district contains three cities where residential development sprawled enormously onto sensitive wildlife habitat. Today, in his nominal hometown of Merced, the average price of a home is less than half of that price three years ago. Finance, insurance and real estate special interests achieved an almost total feeding frenzy in Merced, Modesto and Stockton. Cardoza was behind it 100 percent.
How did that happen if the ESA is so inflexible? It happened because the ESA and other environmental law and regulation must be enforced by human agencies, very sensitive to political pressure by members of Congress. The only place Old Flexibility Cardoza can't corrupt environmental law and regulation is in courtrooms, not that he didn't try as hard
as he could to gut the public right to sue under ESA.
Dysfunctional water policies in the West were created by members of Congress and of state legislatures in the pay of developers of the "Sun Belt."
6. "The inflexibility of these laws ..." This sounds like a line out of the Federal Judge Songbook:
"Please change the law
Please change the law
So we can be popular
Oh, change the law,
So you will like
Our wise decisions
Please change the law
So we can golf and dine
And sip wine in public
With all our friends again.
Oh, please change the law!"
7. "California has constantly been at war with itself over water; ranting and finger pointing to say "you're wrong" does nothing to help this situation.
This debate should not pit Democrats against Republicans. On the contrary, it should bring ideas from all parties on improving water management and use."
First, water has never been a partisan issue in California. It has always been, at greater or lesser degrees of tension, a matter of water rights, a cause which has never respected political parties. Both parties have always been for "More Water!" because more water means more development, mainly residental but also agricultural. At present, California agriculture still consumes about 80 percent of the total supply of delivered water. And neither one of those parties has had a new idea about water since the Civil
War. The people who have had new ideas about water have been environmentalists. But it doesn't look like the Costoza is inviting the environmentalists to the dance.
8. "...we need more dams, improvements in the Delta, and modifications to the Endangered Species Act."
This is new thinking at its finest. And the best thing about it is its "flexibility."
9. "We need to face a clear fact: California's water system is broken and incapable of sustaining our state's projected population growth, let alone providing water for our farms and sustaining the environment.
In the short term, federal regulators must use existing discretion within the law to bring as much water to the Valley as we can during the next six months."
In other words, we are still talking about finance, insurance and real estate, not agriculture. "Projected population growth" is still firmly in control despite the total wreck of the state's economy based on it.
"...existing discretion" means regulatory "flexibility" achieved by relentless political pressure on state and federal resource agencies charged with defending environmental law and regulation, including species going extinct. And there are other economies to consider, like the west coast salmon fishery, for example, a great deal more sustainable than west side cotton growing.
10. "In the long term, we need to fix the Delta and build more storage capacity. The state must take the lead in these efforts, and not hinder these projects. On the federal level, we need to make modifications to the Endangered Species Act and continue to provide additional federal funding. Clearly, if the act were successfully working, we would not have the decline in the species that we are experiencing today."
It's late in this tango/cock fight. "Fix the Delta" -- now there's a phrase. The CalFed process, a consortium of state and federal resource agencies, was supposed to be doing that for the last 15 years. Put the state in charge? Speak memory: Wasn't state Department of Water Resources Director Lester "Less" Snow the first director of CalFed. Hasn't "Less" made his whole public career out of watching the Delta disintegrate? But, hey, we're talking new ideas here.
Build more storage capacity! Now, there's another new idea from the Gold Rush.
"On the federal level" ... weaken the ESA and give us more money. Yet another brilliant new idea, two in fact. One can almost hear the faint scratching sounds of the brilliant minds of these congressmen from within the sealed envelope addressed to finance, insurance and real estate.
But it is the last point, that decline of the species is caused by the unsuccessful working of the ESA, where the Costoza becomes completely airborn. It is a brilliantly composed piece of propaganda. One goes from lie to greater lies to, finally, the Big Lie. It makes you wonder who the composer of this tango/cock fight really was. The boys from Congress are only the dancers. But, you can be sure that they are leaning on the resource agencies every day to be more "flexible" on the ESA, which will accelerate the decline of endangered species.
11. "World history has shown us that when people practice poor management of natural resources, the resources die out. It is vital that our farmers have water for their crops to continue to grow a healthy and safe food supply for our nation.
Our cities need water for its residences. And yes, the environment needs water for lakes, streams and rivers. Ignoring one of these factors for any reason is not smart water policy and will hurt our state for generations to come."
The Grand Summation.
We would suggest that the residential over-development of Southern California is the essence of poor management. We would suggest that the agricultural development of the alkali/selenium flats of the west side is another example of poor management. Both have had a huge impact on water supply.
Our farmers do not grow a healthy and safe food supply for our nation. They grow specialty crops for export, largely to other nations.
Wetlands and the endangered species that inhabit them, most importantly in Cardoza's district, also need water. Without it, they aren't wet anymore. There is far less than 5 percent of the original wetlands left in California. This is not only a wildlife habitat issue; it is also an important water-quality issue. But, as long as you limit debate to Republicans and Democrats that sort of concern is very unlikely to make it to the table.
REPS. JIM COSTA AND DENNIS CARDOZA: Rebalancing our state's water system...Reps. Jim
Costa and Dennis Cardoza