Feinstein's Water Bomb

California senator takes aim at Delta fish protections


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As a sop to fishermen put out of work by the salmon-fishing ban, the rider contains a provision for disaster assistance funds for fishing communities. But Feinstein’s announcement is threatening a much quieter, and potentially more far-sighted, round of deal making that has been underway in Sacramento. In that negotiation, which started three and a half years ago, water agencies like Westlands and the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies 19 million people in Los Angeles and San Diego, invited state and federal agencies and environmental groups to meet. The goal of that effort is an agreement on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a long-term strategy that would allow water pumping to continue for the next half-century in a way that complies with the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. That effort is now intended to create the operational blueprint for the sweeping water package passed by the state legislature last fall.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has been firm in its support of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its commitment to seek solutions that don’t require suspending endangered species protections. Last September, after Sen. DeMint introduced his amendment, Lester Snow — who was then director of the California Department of Water Resources and is now Schwarzenegger’s resources secretary — wrote to Feinstein to "express our strong opposition to any effort to set aside, suspend, or otherwise weaken the Endangered Species Act."
"The state is committed to working with stakeholders and our federal partners in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process to achieve the co-equal goals of a healthy ecosystem and a reliable water supply," Snow wrote. "Weakening or suspending (the Endangered Species Act) does not contribute to this effort."
Now, however, faced with the specter of Feinstein introducing an amendment that could weaken protections for fish, most of the environmental groups that are participating in the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan — including the Environmental Defense Fund, Defenders of Wildlife and the Bay Institute — are contemplating a walkout.
"The rider would effectively pull the rug out from under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan," says Ann Hayden, a senior water resources analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund. Ramped-up pumping would, she says, worsen already bad conditions for salmon and smelt. "It would create an even bigger hole that we have to dig our way out of."
If the environmental groups pull out of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, that could increase the water agencies' exposure to legal challenges later this year, when they seek approval for the final plan from state and federal regulators. "To the extent that fewer and fewer environmental interests are involved in the process, it becomes more and more like a water-user wish list," says Gary Bobker, the program director for the Bay Institute. "You’re inviting failure."
Last fall, in response to a request from a large farming corporation called Paramount Farms, Sen. Feinstein asked the National Academy of Sciences to carry out a pair of reviews of the science behind the current pumping restrictions. The environmental groups participating in the Bay Delta negotiations have stood behind the National Academy, which is scheduled to release its first report in March.
Now, however, with Sen. Feinstein introducing legislation that will revamp pumping requirements before the first National Academies report is even completed, and with water agencies inside the Bay Delta Conservation Plan mounting numerous challenges to the Endangered Species Act on the outside, the environmental groups that gambled on the plan are beginning to smell a set-up.
"We’re being pushed into a corner," says Hayden. "We are losing this. We're getting played."

Lane County, Oregon's successful management of water issues
marty weiss
marty weiss
Feb 18, 2010 10:54 AM
Lane County, Oregon brought the Willamette River back from a paper manufacturer's sewer to a bounty of salmon and trout. They basically did it by enacting land-use ordinances. It was controversial at first and many land owners were limited from further development and increasing population concentration. The new regulation limited development to current levels at that time. Water-quality and pollution controls brought the salmon and trout back.

If California wants to preserve its quality of life in an already overpopulated and industry-laden climate, land-use ordinances may be mandatory. While the issue of species extinction is critical, the other side of the equation is population and industry. Clearly wildlife has given all it can and remain viable. Something's got to give, and I think it must be limits on population, development and industry.
If they don't enact limits, nobody's going to want to farm, do business or live there anyway-- and only scavengers like coyotes, gated communities and the desperately poor will be able to.
zoning vs environment
Feb 18, 2010 02:37 PM
Feinstein's turn saddens me because of it's future implication. I have been waiting and hoping that southern California would begin to see itself as a desert state. We would stop trying to make our yards into hawaii or ohio and accept water budgeted landscaping. Instead of politicians being willing to go against the lawn. Why must we sacrifice the environment to maintain some 50s vision of our residential identity? I for one would appreciate an opportunity to relandscape my yard, to be fed based on my yards rainfall, and then have those saving returned to the environment. We need new ideas, not desperation. The priorities are health, environment, then profit. I think Feinstein needs a reminder that their are changes we can still make and this short term gain for westlands will be a hge sacrifice for us all. Look at Brad Lancasters' work. We have options, but we need political will to bring them forward.
Robert Laybourne
Robert Laybourne
Feb 18, 2010 03:17 PM
Feinstein has now joined all those senators from the other side of the aisle in being demonstrably a hypocrite.
Feinstein's "Water" Bomb
c minor
c minor
Feb 20, 2010 06:08 PM
How embarassing for the world of professional women to see a so-called role model roll over, play brain dead and otherwise
re-enact the predicatable behaviors of other unscrupulous politicians.
Overpopulation and Water
Earl Babbie
Earl Babbie
Feb 22, 2010 06:44 AM
We should get used to stories like this. As long as population growth is allowed to continue unchecked, the fight for water will intensify. The salmon will die out because of this short-sighted decision. What will we do when there is not enough for both agriculture and people? Cut back on agriculture and go hungry or cut back on water and go thirsty?

Or, I know, stop having so many babies. They're just going to want water and food, and eventually there won't be any.
The real problem
Dave Simmons
Dave Simmons
Mar 08, 2010 10:11 AM
The real problem is that we are sending millions of acre feet of water to the ocean and it is not helping fish or people. In fact the fish populations are worse off now than when first started pumping rstrictions. The Endangered Species Act is way out of whack. It sacrifices people on the alter of eco-nazism. Today they take away our water, tomorrow they take your water.
Diane Feinstein needs a wake up call
Felice Pace
Felice Pace
Mar 07, 2010 11:19 AM
Diane Feinstein has again demonstrated that when it comes to a choice between progressive principles and corporate money she will always choose corporate money. In short she is a Republicrat, that is, a Republican masquerading as a Democrat.

California Democrats are overwhelmingly progressive and strongly environmental. We have put up with Feinstein for far too long. The time has come to mount a progressive challenge to her rule. This should happen in the next primary election in which she runs. And, while it will likely take more than one election to unseat her, there is no better time to begin than now. Ms. Feinstein must learn that she will either reflect the values of Progressive Californians or will be asked by the voters to step down.