14 Mar 2009

Pot, Meet Kettle

Tom Birmingham, the warrior king of the Westlands Water District, is out fighting for his People -- claiming that reductions in water exports (to save the Delta smelt and ecology) have nothing to do with reality:
"In the Central Valley, communities are facing catastrophic consequences. The federal government has announced that farmers we serve will receive no water to grow their crops. And another set of federal authorities are demanding that we waste hundreds of thousands of acre feet of freshwater into the ocean on behalf of an endangered minnow that will not benefit in any way from the losses suffered by the people who rely on water supplied by the Central Valley Project," Birmingham said.

The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to enjoin the enforcement of a biological opinion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that has cut water supplies to two-thirds of California's residents by approximately 30 percent.

"We are not trying to upset the Endangered Species Act," said Birmingham. "We are trying to ensure that the Act is implemented in a manner consistent with its requirement that decisions be based on the basis of the best available science."

The lawsuit cites numerous instances in which USFWS officials violated their own standards for scientific accuracy, contradicted their own findings, and substituted their own suppositions for hard evidence.

"On top of the enormous economic damage this biological opinion has done to millions of people, it has also had sweeping environmental impacts that have even complicated the survival of California's salmon fisheries," Birmingham said. "And yet, they did no environmental impact analysis before issuing their decree."
Hey Tom! Where is your study justifying "the enormous economic damage this biological opinion has done to millions of people"? Last I heard, it was 80,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in damages. That may be a lot in Westlands, but that's 0.4 percent of California's labor force and 0.1 percent of the State's economy.

I am NOT saying that this economic contraction is easy; I am saying that you appear to be claiming more importance than your situation justifies. (And I am sure that we would agree that more water markets would benefit Westlands as well as the other water users suffering in this man-made shortage.)

Bottom Line: In the fight to get water, the first casualty is truth.


  1. Something like 23 million Californians are served by water that goes through the pumps. And something like 4 million acres of farmland are, too.

    I think most of those people, and most of those acres, have some backup options. But still, they are impacted. It's really the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that doesn't have any backup options, and so the figures - possibly - are based upon just those direct effects, and the trickle-down.

    Is that right? Not sure what the Howitt analysis factored in.

  2. @CF -- I'm not sure. I'd figure that Howitt calculated ADDITIONAL job losses, but I'll ask him...

  3. David,

    Actually, the impacts of the Wanger decision are less than Howitt's estimates you reference. These estimates are of the no exports from this years drought impact - and my understanding is this includes indirect effects. The impacts of the Wanger decision are much less.

    And, if you check the latest state payroll data, you will find that there has yet to be any loss in farm jobs in the South Valley. Over the past 12 months, farm payrolls have expanded faster than healthcare, education, and every other major employment category in Fresno county.

    Yes, pain is coming to the farm sector this year, but you are actually being kind to their exagerrations of numbers in this post.

  4. @CF -- my post on Howitt's report goes up tomorrow pm.

    @Jeff -- in THAT post, I mention the simulation used to forecast those numbers. Note: (1) Simulations are NOT reality and (2) they are meant to cover the "holding all else equal" scenario, i.e., we may observe more jobs, but that "more" may be less than it would have been. I'd put my $ on (1), however :)


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