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.

 

 



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