16 Nov 2009

Some more comments on the water bill (aka FAIL)

As I said two weeks ago, I was not pleased at the lack of progress embodied in California's water bills. (Someone else's critique)

Here are a few more items on that:
  1. Senate President pro-tem Steinberg (D-Sacramento) indulged in the most blatant hypocrisy and non-leadership I've seen in years, by inserting a $10 million earmark for his pet project (a community center). He was shamed into removing it. Dan Waters also points out that Steinberg -- a guy who claims to support transparency -- is directing his "investigations" team towards political ends. He should be impeached
  2. This article shows where the $11 billion is supposed to go. I see a whole bunch of pork for projects that should be funded by locals/users, and not the general fund/bonds.
  3. Speaking of pork, Assemblywoman Lori Saldana (D-San Diego) told environmentalists that she was going to vote against the bond, before she voted for it. In between her no and yes came $100 million in earmarked funds for SDCWA. Coincidence? I think not!
  4. Schwarzennger rewarded John Benoit (R-Riverside) with a Riverside county supervisor position on the same day as the vote for the water bills. Benoit claims this was a coincidence. I think not!
  5. This Fresno Bee article does a pretty good job at profiling pork-laden Westlands. One farmer claims that "If that were true [Westlands has big political muscles], why wouldn't we have more success at getting the water we need?" Nice try. If Westlands didn't have all its political pull, it would have been shut down years ago. But that's not the best part of this article. Try this:
    "It would be a tragedy and a blow to national security if we did not have Westlands," Costa said. "Where would the food products come from for Americans' dinner tables?"
    Well, Jim, how about other farmers? I sure hope that Rep Costa (D-Fresno) gets LOTS of campaign contributions for his kind words propaganda.
  6. I reviewed the bills' shortcomings to my class, not so that they would hear me rant, but so they would understand the gap between words and deeds. The class is about "environmental economics and policy," after all! Watch this video (from 54:55) if you want to hear some harsh criticism of our "leaders."

As I said in that lecture, the four "governance" reforms do very little:
  • The Delta Council can be stacked with the governor's fans. It has no enforcement power.
  • Groundwater regulation is timid, at the wrong scale (monitor at the basin level activities that take place at the irrigation district or farm level, with penalties at the county level), and administered by DWR, an organization that's controlled by agricultural interests.
  • The "increase in resources" at the SWRCB is trivial (25 staff?), when what's needed are annual water permit fees, retirement of paper permits, strong penalties for illegal diversions, control over groundwater use (when it interferes with surface water), etc. None of this is happening. Even worse (as Michael Hanemann never fails to point out [PDF], SWRCB has consistently failed to do its job -- for more than 40 years. What makes anyone think they will start working now?
  • 20% reduction in urban water, but "try hard" for ag water? Yeah right.
The $11 billion bond will go down in flames, of course. Nothing like spending money you don't have (and that's not yours!) on Projects of Regional Koncern!

Bottom Line: Our political leaders tried to hit a grand slam, hit a foul ball and then claimed a triple. Fail.

hattips to DW and CM