HR 1837 Bill Reignites Water War

FEB. 22, 2012

By WAYNE LUSVARDI

California’s historic water social contract been held together by force, fraud and sometimes the consent of the governed.  The result has been Northern California giving up water to Central Valley farmers and Southern California cities in exchange for Delta flood protection, cheap hydropower and some water for themselves.

But due to the combination of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act of 2009, by Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and the California Legislature’s new Delta Reform Act, SB X7-1 from 2009, California’s historical water social contract is on the verge of cracking up.  There is too much force and fraud and too little consent of the governed.

Central Valley farmers want out of the coercive new state Delta and river restoration plans.  And for good reason: unlike a private contract where there are reciprocal benefits, there is little to nothing in the Delta Plan for farmers besides less water and more taxation that may make them uncompetitive with interstate and foreign competition.

The attitude is, “You can have your nitrate-free lettuce for $10 a head and with only symbolic resulting health or environmental benefits. And you will have to pay for Delta and San Joaquin River ‘restoration.’” “Restoration” is a sugar-coated term meaning “redevelopment” to benefit California fishing, recreational, tourist and real estate interests.

The old kind of “redevelopment” — using eminent domain to grab private property to benefit private developers — may be dead in California, but masquerading environmental “restoration” is alive and well in its place.

Rep. Nunes’ End Run Around Force and Fraud: H.R. 1837 

In response, Rep. Devin Nunes, R–Tulare, has drafted a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives called the “San Joaquin Water Reliability Act,” H.R. 1837, that would repeal the provisions of the San Joaquin River Restoration Act of 2009 on Central Valley water usage and replace it with the Bay-Delta Accord drafted in 1994Democrats such as then President Bill Clinton and Republicans such as then-Gov. Pete Wilson) approved the Bay-Delta Accord. So there was implied “consent of the governed.”

By contrast, Delta Reform Act of 2009 was entirely concocted by the Democratic Party. The San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act, H.R. 146, was passed as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.   The terms “omnibus bill” means a package of bills whereby any one bill might have been rejected otherwise.

Part of the San Joaquin River Restoration Act limits how much water certain farmers can take for irrigation; and it imposed a tiered water rate system.  It also required that renewals of water contracts had to undergo an environmental impact report.

In essence, H.R. 1837 is a potential federal end run on behalf of Central Valley farmers around the San Joaquin River Restoration Act and Delta Reform Act.   H.R. 1837 is currently still in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power chaired by Rep. Tom McClintock R-Elk Grove.  H.R. 1837 would allow water contracts to be automatically renewed and would eliminate tiered water rates and environmental impact studies.  Also, in a dry year environmental and recreational interests would not have first dibs on water over farming, as is now the law.

Siamese Twin Water Systems Joined at the Delta & San Luis Canal

To comprehend this federal vs. state water war you first have to understand that there are three government water storage and conveyance systems in California.

One is the State Water Project, or SWP, that was built beginning in Gov. Pat Brown’s era in the 1950s and 1960s.  It includes Lake Oroville on the north, the Sacramento Delta, the West Branch of the California Aqueduct ending in Lake Castaic and the East Branch ending in Lake Perris both in Southern California.

The second system was built and is run by the U.S. Bureau and Reclamation and is called the Central Valley Project, or CVP.  The Central Valley Project is bigger than the State Water Project but is less well known.  The CVP includes Shasta Lake and Folsom Lake on the north.

The Central Valley Project was begun in California by the Federal government during the 1930’s Depression Era.  At that time California was broke.  The federal government took over the state’s water plan and built it out to stimulate the agricultural economy and bail out California.  Sound familiar?  California is once again broke, but wants to put an $11 billion water bond on the November state ballot to go further into a hole.

The third system is the Colorado River Aqueduct.

Federal-State Cooperation

Both the CVP and SWP systems use the San Luis Reservoir, O`Neill Forebay and the more than 100 miles of the California Aqueduct and its related pumping and generating facilities. A portion of the mid-section of the California Aqueduct — called the San Luis Canal — is a joint federal-state facility.   The Delta-Mendota Canal forks from the California Aqueduct and serves Merced, Madera and Fresno Counties (see map). These operations are coordinated at a Joint Operations Center in Sacramento.

The Federal Central Valley Project has long-term contracts with more than 250 contractors in 29 out of 58 counties; while 29 agencies have 50-year contracts with the State Water Project.

California’s Central Valley farmers want out of the coercive San Joaquin River Restoration Act and Delta Reform Act.  As in the 1930’s, it might be better to allow farmers to rely more on the federal Central Valley Project.  Unlike the 1930’s, agribusiness is now partly globalized.

Democratic legislators are portraying the Republicans’ proposed H.R. 1837 Bill as the “Evil Twin” of the two Democratic plans.

But which is the Good Twin and the Evil Twin? 

There is so much propaganda about H.R. 1837 that it is difficult to sort out what is force, fraud or the consent of the governed.  To listen to the mainstream image makers, you would believe that, of the two competing sets of laws, Nunes’ bill is the “evil twin” and Feinstein’s San Joaquin River Restoration Act and the Delta Reform Act of 2009 is the “good twin.” But this is an oversimplified fraud perpetrated on the public.

The National Resources Defense Council blog wants you to believe that H.R. 1837 would “preempt state water law and prioritize junior water rights.” If that were the case, then Feinstein’s San Joaquin River Restoration Act of 2009 also preempted state water law and prioritized junior water rights of fishermen and recreational, tourism and real estate interests over the historical water rights of farmers.

In case you need reminding, the National Resources Defense Council is the same environmental organization that brought the lawsuit causing the phony California “drought” from 2007 to 2010 and a bogus lawsuit to protect the Delta smelt fish; the lawsuit that was thrown out of court. The federal judge ruled the scientific basis of the Delta Smelt case was fraudulent.

According to the Western States Water Council — an organization of Western state governors dealing with water issues — Nunes’ bill is “the water uncertainty act.”  But “uncertain” for whom?

Yubanet.com, — which provides online news to the California Sierras — claims the Western States Water Council is “nonpartisan.”  The WSWC representatives for California are Gov. Jerry Brown and a bunch of bureaucratic apparatchiks who serve at the pleasure of the governor.

The Western States Water Council has, unsurprisingly, sent a letter opposing H.R. 1837, along with opposition statements by Democratic California Reps. Grace Napolitano, George Miller and Mike Thompson, as well as Rep. Ed Markey D-Mass.  No Republican opposition or support was reported because there are no Republicans as California representatives to the WSWC.   So much for the “nonpartisanship” of the Western State Water Council and so-called unbiased reporting from Yubanet.com.

Sustainability as Wealth Redistribution

What the San Joaquin River Restoration Act and Delta Reform Act do is re-distribute water and wealth from farmers to fishing, recreational, tourist and real estate interests in the name of river restoration and Delta sustainability.  No new water resources are created by either act.  Since farmers are typically not affiliated with the Democratic Party, some of their water is being legally confiscated by the force of law and the fraudulent ideology of environmentalism and given to non-farming constituents.  “RestoreTheDelta.Org” even admits that its goal is the “economic sustainability” of the Delta.

As for the Delta, the major source of pollution is not agriculture but municipal sewer treatment plants in Northern California.  What the Delta Plan will do is create a huge regional sewer district to reduce urban runoff into the Delta to be paid for mainly by farmers and cities in the Southern half of the state.  The Delta Plan is a fraudulent cost-shifting plan from Northern California urban polluters to water users statewide.

The combined river and Delta restoration plans will change the existing water social contract in California so that Central Valley farmers and Southern California cities get less water and in return Northern California gets Delta flood protection, cheap hydropower and a greater share of the water. Additionally, Northern California cities around the Delta will get a giant new Delta sewage management system to be paid for mainly by farmers and cities in the Southern half of the state.

The current Blue vs. Red water war over the Delta and the San Joaquin River restorations has implications for the pending state water bond on the November ballot.  If the Federal government passes H.R. 1837 and Pres. Obama’s signs it, this may replace the need for the State Water Bond.

According to Nunes’ statement in the Central Valley Business Times, “We have crafted a good bill that not only restores the flow of water but will ultimately make unnecessary the construction of a $12 billion canal to bypass the Bay Delta.”  The bypass Nunes is referring to is the Mendota Pool Bypass authorized under the San Joaquin River Restoration Act.

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have recorded their opposition to H.R. 1837, signaling that that the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, will not pass the bill. But what tradeoffs the Republicans may be willing to offer is unknown.  Feinstein’s San Joaquin River Restoration Act of 2009 could only be passed as part of a package in an omnibus bill.  So maybe H.R. 1837 could also be passed as part of a package deal.

But should the federal government yet again bail out California with another water bill and bond as it did in the 1930’s?   If California voters reject the proposed California Water Bond on the November ballot, they will at least be voting to deny any funding for the fraudulent San Joaquin River Restoration Act and Delta Reform Act.  The public needs to be reminded that both Acts are actions of force and fraud and are not the reciprocal benefit contract of a market.

In fact, the San Joaquin River Restoration Act changes current State water contracts into mechanisms for water and wealth sharing by coercion. Democrats will buy new voter constituencies with these bills to be paid for by farmers and cities. But it will be called river and Delta restoration and sustainability.

This is also why California has had five water bonds totaling $18 billion since 2000 that have produced a mud puddle of water but a reservoir of fraud.

Force, Fraud or Consent of the Governed?

When Los Angeles water planner William Mulholland started buying land and water rights around Mono Lake in Northern California in the early 1900’s using shill buyers, there was obviously some fraud involved. There was “consent” of the parties to those transactions until Mono Lake farmers realized their water rights were being bought up and transferred elsewhere, and higher holdout prices for land could be obtained. But at least Los Angeles was paying for the farmland and water rights in voluntary transactions and at going market prices.

That is more than we can say for Feinstein’s fraudulent and coercive San Joaquin River Restoration Act and the California Legislature’s Delta Reform Act, where there is very little “consent of the governed” or just compensation as required by the U.S Constitution.

San Fernando Valley land speculation in Los Angeles has been replaced by so-called river and Delta “restoration,” but with the same wealth-transferring effect.

 

 

16 comments

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  1. Susan
    Susan 16 February, 2012, 13:18

    Very informative article. Thank you for clarifying what is going on here so we are able to see the Dems bag of tricks for what it is. As usual they want to disguise “force and fraud” so that it has the APPEARANCE of “consent of the governed.” But I’m clear now on which bill is the REAL “evil twin.”
    If we had more articles like this one the Dems sleight of hand simply wouldn’t work anymore.

    Reply this comment
  2. JKEYES
    JKEYES 22 February, 2012, 15:08

    It is time we had a Comgressman that was not afraid of the ugly twins: Boxer and Feinstein, and their handlers the Sierra Club.

    Reply this comment
  3. GX
    GX 22 February, 2012, 20:01

    Hey if you are going to highlight fraud, why not do a piece on Resnick’s/Kern water agency slick move where they fraudulently sucked out way more water from the Delta than legally allowed and then sold it back to Bay Area water agencies for a nifty $100M profit?

    Also, it would be interesting to learn the following statistics:
    – percent of total CA water consumed by farmers (further broken down by north/south and corporation/small farmers)
    – wholesale price of water of farmers vs. municipalities

    With pieces like this, it is painfully obvious who you are a shill for.

    Reply this comment
  4. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 22 February, 2012, 21:09

    Well, GX I’m not a farmer and have no conflicts of interest with them.

    Agriculture just so happens to only use 8% of all precipitation in California, not the 80% figure propagated by Peter Gleick. Gleick’s number is right but only in a dry year and using only the narrow universe of “developed” water, not all water. The California Dept. of Water Resources uses a figure of 42% on average that agriculture uses. This varies from 28% in a wet year to 52% in a dry year. But again that is only measuring the proportion of ag water to total “developed” water, not all rainfall that California gets each year. The environment gets 64% of the rainfall contrary to the prevailing misconception (Source: Cal State U. at Stanislaus).

    As I understand it, Southern California get 5% of all Delta water and Northern California get 4% – a 20% difference.

    Any good sociologist will tell you that members of the Knowledge Class has a social class hatred for corporations, farmers, banks, and anything commercial. Those who have such a class bias will project that into whatever numbers they comes up with the amount of water farmers use. Social class is a very good predictor how people will interpret water use numbers.

    What is ethical is to disclose one’s bias and to disclose the assumptions used in any numbers selected. Without telling us if the water use is in a dry year, wet year, or average year or is based on a proportion of all rainfall, all systemic water, all developed water, or all treated water, the numbers are meaningless. Pick a water number -if it works for you then you are right and you get to one up your opponent with self-righteousness about being supposedly right. That is what most people do.

    I will pay you any price you want for water – but I get to name the terms and the assumptions on which the price is based. I will always win.

    Disclose your assumptions then we can talk.

    Reply this comment
  5. GX
    GX 23 February, 2012, 08:32

    Maybe you could start with identifying where you get your funding from to write opeds like this one. Then maybe we’d appreciate your biases and why you continue to try to frame this issue in a very pro-big ag way.

    For example, I find it interesting how you try to change the denominator and obfuscate the high usage of NorCal water by ag businesses in SoCal. Your inference that since SoCal is not getting getting the equivalent 5% of Delta water and therefore not its fair share of NorCal water is humorous.

    The world doesn’t not exist soley to provide unlimited supplies of low-cost water to large SoCal ag businesses.

    Not that it’s relevant, but my situation is pretty simple. I’m a business man who is also concerned about having a stable environment – meaning a balanced outcome for all stakeholders (municipalities, agriculture, environment, etc.). Believe it or not, I quit the Sierra Club a few years ago due to their unbalanced approach for dealing with environmental issues and straying into areas where they had no business. My bias in this case is having an aversion to slanted opeds like that are masquerading as balanced articles.

    Reply this comment
  6. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 23 February, 2012, 08:55

    GX
    You should disclose your name – otherwise your credibility that you are a businessman and quit the Sierra Club is questionable.

    As for Resnick’s water trades, they were legal and open transactions and not fraudulent. Those water trades were approved by water agencies.

    And at Calwatchdog.com we make no pretense of being “balanced.” Calwatchdog.com has a free market slant to its articles.

    Most respectfully, go to the source of the raw data about water in California and run the numbers for yourself.

    Thanks for reading Calwatchdog.com

    Reply this comment
  7. nowsane
    nowsane 23 February, 2012, 10:04

    I am so sick of the National Resources Defense Council, and their so-called CA environmentalist friends, who wouldn’t know a true environmental hazard, if it bit them squarely in the butt! These are the same sickoes who are trying to save the world through the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006
    http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ab32/ab32.htm even after it has clearly been shown that the earth has been cooling for more that a decade. As Alan Caruba says
    “Greenies are the sand in the gears of modern civilization — and they intend to be.”

    Reply this comment
  8. GX
    GX 23 February, 2012, 10:21

    Since you continue to discount various data sources, maybe you could do your readers a favor by posting the sources you use to draw your conclusions. Again, it would be great to get total usage (not of rainfall but of consumed water) and wholesale prices paid. Then we can review and compare to your conclusions.

    My credibility is not relevant here. And if you truly cared, you could figure it out given the email I am required to provide to post comments like this. I am NOT interested in having my name/email made public. The only reason why I brought up my background was to counter your inference that I’m a non-business environmentalist that can’t view things in a balanced way.

    I’m not interested in being a “undermine the credibility of a critic” diversion for you.

    Lay out the complete facts/sources on this topic and then we can all draw our informed conclusions.

    Reply this comment
  9. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 23 February, 2012, 13:11

    GX
    Oh, good. We can have a conversation.

    One of the best sources is from Cal State University at Stanislaus posted at the link below (this is a slide show so scroll down the slides to the table labeled Water Balance Table)

    http://www.csustan.edu/Agstudies/documents/…/CaliforniaWaterIssues.pptDr

    It is a table showing:
    1. Total potential water
    2. Total available water
    3. Total water for human use

    The above three are then broken down by wet year, average year, and dry year and then further broken out by urban use, agricultural use, and environmental use.

    Agriculture is shown using 78% to 79% of all “human water.” But that is not all the water in California.

    If you consider the total precipitation and imported water, agriculture uses 8.2% in a wet year, 14.3% in an average year, and 19% in a dry year.

    The official source of how much water agriculture uses is the California Dept. of Water Resources. I have interviewed their experts. The DWR uses 42% as how much agriculture uses in an average year. That is based on a proportion of all “available water.”

    One of the things to note: in a wet year there is about 335 million acre feet of rainfall in the state. That is enough to support 1.675 billion people annually; or 335 million acres of farmland annually.

    Even in a dry year there is enough water to support 100 million people, agriculture, and a thriving environment.

    The critical question is not how much agriculture uses but capture, storage, conveyance and treatment of all our potential water resources. We have to manage our water resources better. There is no shortage of water only a shortage of water storage.

    Historically, it has always worked best for farmer and cities to have separate water ditches (canals or pipelines). Farming is now a global agribusiness that should not be forced to pay urban water prices; unless we want to shift to buying all our farm products from Mexico and Chile.

    WL

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  10. GX
    GX 23 February, 2012, 16:27

    Thanks for the information resources. I look forward to reviewing them and posing further comments/questions. Do you have a source for water wholesale prices paid?

    In the meantime, why shouldn’t agribusinesses be required to pay the same wholesale prices as everyone else? If they didn’t, wouldn’t this be a large subsidy for them?

    Do you have any sense for percent of total agribusiness costs that water represents? This would help determine potential impact of paying market rates.

    Reply this comment
  11. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 25 February, 2012, 00:02

    GX:
    Good questions. California socialized most water in the state long ago.

    I will post here the tiered water rates for the Metro Water District of So. California that may help you.

    Ag needs about 3 to 4 feet high of water per acre to be productive is my understanding. If ag water was, say, $100 per acre foot that would be $400 per acre for water cost. Maybe they get two crops a year per acre = $800 per acre per year. Then you would have to compare that with the type of crop and the yield of that crop per acre and the tilling, fertilizing, and harvesting costs.

    Another way to look at it is that one acre foot of water supports one acre of homes in the city. On average that is about 2 tho 4 homes per acre. If each family’s water bill is say $50/month x 4 homes per acre = $200/month x 12 months = $2400/year per acre.

    This is very rough but urban water costs per acre would be 6x ag water costs.

    More later.
    WL

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  12. GX
    GX 26 February, 2012, 14:58

    Can you confirm the URL you posted above? I was not able to find the document you referenced with the URL you provided.

    It is interesting how you frame the discussion. Of course, if one considered all rain that fell across the entire state of CA, agribusiness’s usage percentage would appear to be much lower. So would municipals’. But let’s not forget that agribusiness uses nearly 80% of water processed through our system.

    Clearly people can’t take 100% of yearly rainfall. The key question is how much water the environment needs. Leaders of agribusinesses feel it needs a lot less that others believe. Hences these discussions/arguments.

    While farm lands own 100% of the rainfall that lands on their land just like I own 100% of the rain that falls on my property, what should they be paying for common property – i.e. rainfall that lands on other public land? Is it right that they pay 1/6 of what I pay? I’m not sure but I’d be curious to get your take. This is a subsidy that people like Resnick hugely benefit from.

    I appreciate that agribusiness would change if they had to pay the same wholesale price I did, but think about what would happen if this were the case. They would have moved much earlier to find new ways to conserve water. And they would have stopped growing water-intensive plants that didn’t make sense in CA.

    So net, I have learned so far is that agribusiness uses nearly 80% of human water at 1/6 the cost of what I pay. They are pushing HR 1837 so they can be first in line with regards to water and satisfy 100% of their needs regardless of annual rainfall. Why should I support such a blatant grab of public property for the main benefit of billionaires like Resnick?

    Reply this comment
  13. GX
    GX 28 February, 2012, 16:48

    Crickets …

    Reply this comment
  14. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 28 February, 2012, 18:34

    The politicians and bureaucrats have apparently taken down the url now that I referenced it.

    I am no more “framing” the problem LARGE than Prof. Peter Gleick frames it “small.” As I have written repeatedly, you can pick your number based on how the water pool is framed. I just think the public needs to be told that we are not running out of water – as Prof. Gleick does – but we’re short on water management.

    Perhaps you do not understand the concept of water rights? The farmers along the San Joaquin River have “riparian” water rights – meaning “river” water rights. A riparian right is to land which touches any body of water such as a river, lake, stream, or creek. The farmers paid for that right when they bought their land. And they bought that land probably decades ago. That is why they are entitled to have water at one sixth the price you pay – to put it in your terms. There is no subsidy to those who have riparian water rights.

    Conversely, an appropriative water right is obtained by permit from an entity of government or a court. The Resnick farm may have appropriative water rights by permit. The San Joaquin Valley farmers on the other hand probably have riparian rights.

    So you say that Resnick has a water subsidy. OK let’s assume that for the moment. All that HR 1837 is doing is repealing HR 146 passed in 2009 and backed by Sen. Feinstein. HR 146 takes water rights from farmers and transfers them to commercial salmon fishermen, sports fishermen, water recreational and real estate interests. The Republican bill HR 1837 would repeal HR 146 and give those water rights back to farmers.

    HR 1837 would also limit the amount of water that can flow to the sea to 800,000 acre feet. The water that flows to the sea does not help the endangered Smelt fish, because a court found that fish to be mostly endangered by predator fish and runoff from urban sewer plants in the Delta area.

    So you are welcome to say that 80 percent of water goes to California – but you must disclose that is not all the potential water or even all the available water – at least according to the State Dept. of Water Resources (not me). And please contact the Dept. of Water Resources and ask them why the official percent they use is 42% of water goes to ag. You are entitled to your opinion but not your facts as Senator Pat Moynihan used to say.

    I’m not sure anything I post here will change your mind that “greedy” farmers are somehow getting a subsidy that you believe should be given to others. If you bought your house at a cheap price in 1965 and still live in it you are getting a subsidy and should have to take out a new mortgage and repurchase it at its current market value and pay higher taxes seems to be your logic.

    But again I am not writing so much to convince you but to allow others to make up their own mind who read this post.

    Thanks for stimulating the conversation.
    WL

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  15. GX
    GX 28 February, 2012, 21:37

    I am still waiting for the complete URL so I can review the water study you referenced above. Then I will have a more informed opinion regarding your 42% number vs. the more widely quoted 80% number.

    So to extend your discussion/logic on riparian water rights … given most of this water comes from snow pack in the mountains and those mountains are own by the Federal/State governments and by extension all of us, I guess we all have riparian water rights from those rivers? Maybe we (the state on behalf of all people) should claim rights up there close to the mountains and then resell it to municipalities and agribusinesses at more equal price? What would stop someone from using this approach to develop a more rational water rights framework for all stakeholders downstream?

    Your example/argument regarding subsidy is convoluted and doesn’t make sense to me. How is ownership of an asset that appreciates in value a subsidy? Taxes do increase (albeit slower than inflation sometimes) even for homes purchased long ago.

    Getting something below market value is a subsidy. The only way agribusiness can secure water so cheaply is for the rest of us to pay the rates we do. Otherwise, the cost of infrastructure would not be covered. From my perspective, the rest of CA is subsidizing the low water costs of CA agribusinesses.

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  16. GX
    GX 29 February, 2012, 17:50

    Still waiting for a valid URL …

    Reply this comment

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