Feinstein Waves White Flag in Water War
By WAYNE LUSVARDI
In California’s historical water wars force and fraud typically prevail during battle. The consent of the governed only emerges when there is a necessity for peace and compromise.
On March 9. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., signaled she would seek a deal rather than keep fighting H.R. 1837. That’s the San Joaquin River Valley Water Reliability Act sponsored by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Clovis. HR 1837 would have repealed Feinstein’s three-year-old H.R. 146, the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act of 2009. Forget the similar sounding titles to these opposing pieces of legislation.
Feinstein’s H.R. 146 took water from Central Valley farmers to redistribute to commercial and recreational fishing interests in the San Joaquin River; raised water rates for Central Valley farmers to subsidize fishing and recreational “restoration”; and required that renewal of agricultural water contracts had to go through an environmental review for distribution of mitigations to special interests.
The Republican-backed H.R. 1837 would undo all this.
The problem that Feinstein faces is that two of her own generals in the Central Valley Water War defected to the enemy Republicans. The defectors are her fellow Democrats Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno and Dennis Cardoza of Atwater), both representing agricultural parts of the Central Valley of California.
And six other Democratic water warriors in the House representing agricultural areas in other states voted for the Republican bill: Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Sanford Bishop of Georgia, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Larry Kissell of North Carolina, Jim Matheson of Utah and Colin Peterson of Minnesota.
Even Democrat Rep. Jason Altmire, who authored the amendment that broke the stalemate on the Omnibus Lands Act of 2009, voted for the Republic-sponsored H.R. 1837. Feinstein’s H.R. 146 passed in 2009 as a rider bill on the Omnibus Lands Act.
Unsignable Bill Becomes Signable
Up until last week, falsehoods and political posturing mainly framed the issue of the San Joaquin River in the media. And the mainstream newspaper press bit into the water issue literally and figuratively by hook, line, and sinker.
As recently as Feb. 12, Sen. Feinstein twittered that she opposed H.R. 1837.
On Feb. 17, Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., issued a press release stating, “H.R. 1837’s potential for harm to our state cannot be overstated.” But was it harmful when Feinstein took water from farmers in 2009 under HR 146 to give it to fishing, recreational and real estate interests?
The green Bay Institute wrote on Feb. 29 a bulletin entitled, “It’s Back! Extremists Push Legislation in Congress to Gut the Bay Delta Project.” Hmmm. Only Republicans are “extremists”?
Dan Bacher, editor of Fish Sniffer Magazine, called H.R. 1837 “the Salmon Extinction Bill.” No mention was made of what land or water rights — riparian, appropriative or “area of origin” — that fishing interests held to demand environmental mitigations for their supposed losses. They wanted water rights created out of legislation and political favoritism. And Feinstein’s H.R. 146 would have given them water rights for fishing and recreation that would have trumped agriculture even during a drought!
Instead of buying land or water rights, fishing and recreational interests want politicians to give it to them in the name of environmental restoration. Environmentalism is just a cover for California’s water wars. Feinstein’s HR 146 would have created no new water — just redistributed agricultural water to other voting interests and had farmers pay the tab on top of that with higher water rates. Paraphrasing an Arab proverb: It would have been wiser for Sen. Feinstein to bring some water when going out to redistribute water. But her political party is based on dividing water, not creating new water resources.
Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, asserted that H.R. 1837 was starting a “water war.” But that water war had begun three years earlier when Feinstein grabbed water from Central Valley farmers for redistribution to fishing, recreational and real estate interests in the San Joaquin Valley
On Feb 28, President Barack Obama vowed to veto H.R. 1837.
But according to the Fresno Bee newspaper, by March 9 Feinstein was in meetings with Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock to negotiate a halt to the propaganda and water grabbing war.
‘Fire, water and government know nothing of mercy.’
Feinstein and Boxer and their voting block in the U.S. Senate could have killed H.R. 1837, could have rewritten their own bill to send back to the U.S. House or could have done nothing.
But this is an election year. Feinstein herself is up for re-election. Democrats may not have the votes needed to shoot down H.R. 1837 in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. Or Democrats may need bipartisan support to pass other legislation for jobs bills in their home districts to “bring home the bacon” before the election.
Thus, consent of the governed is emerging only because of political necessity, not out of any concern for a phony Delta “democracy.” Up until Feinstein offered to call a truce and negotiate a new treaty, the only “democracy” that had emerged was a kleptocratic democracy (a government characterized by rampant greed and corruption).
“Fire, water, and government may know nothing of mercy,” runs a proverb. But hopefully Democrats and Republicans will come to an agreement of the “consent of the governed” in negotiating new terms to California’s historic water social contract between farmers and other interests in California’s perpetual water wars.
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