16 November 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

7 comments:

  1. Have you spoken with any of the offending pols in a way that has gotten them to listen and/or change?

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  2. The best thing to happen to water policy would be if the Central Valley would vote out its Democrats, while the Democratic Party maintains a controlling majority at the fed. and state levels. The Blue Dogs' clout on this one issue is disproportionately great.

    Unfortunately, Truman's adage no longer holds true.

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  3. Across the state, taxpayers will pay an additional $20 billion + (when you include the interest payments the state will have to make on the bonds).

    Then as water ratepayers SoCal customers will end up paying another $12-15 billion to cover the projected costs of the new peripheral canal. The manager of the Otay Water District says that would double existing water rates in his district...

    So the estimated tab for this bond and the canal it enables will end up somewhere north of $35 billion, not counting years of litigation which will probably double that estimate.

    This proposal is poison for northern Californians. Otherwise MWD and Westlands wouldn't be so happy with it. The Governor will stack the new Delta board with appointees who won't buck MWD or Westlands, and will approve the new canal, even if the enviros figure out what's going on and fight it. Then the lawsuits will begin to fly.

    New water projects have been built to subsidize more Southern California growth, not to meet the needs of existing customers. So the canal would enable more housing subdivisions in the hottest areas of southern California. Just what we don't need.

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  4. ps/The state, DWR, MWD and Westlands, along with the billionaire boy farmers in the Central Valley will spend millions on ads to get the bonds to pass.

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  5. Good post.

    Millions will be wasted by all sides campaigning on this bond. All of it money and energy that could go to something beneficial.

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  6. This is the tragedy of the commons or the multiperson prisoners' dilemma all over again.

    If I were a farmer, I would try to get the bond passed because I would make money from it. I would feel that if the rest of the state wanted some other outcome then, since they had all the people, they could elect legislators who would represent them well. If they chose not to elect such people and the people that they elected chose to give money to me.

    A. That is not my problem. I am just trying to get my farm to work.
    B. I, as a farmer, can't do anything about the behavior of legislators from LA anyway.

    Some of the water rights situations are interesting if I try to look at them from each person's point of view.

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  7. @Eric(1) -- no, I have not spoken with them, but I have offered to "help" (Huffman, Schwarzenegger, Snow) -- about 5 times -- and never heard back...

    @Eric(2) -- yes, that's right, but let's not have hypocrisy about "helping everyone."

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