I watched the start of CALFED with a skeptical eye. Everyone heralded the beginning of a new collaborative approach that would satisfy everyone and bring an end to the endless lawsuits and gridlock and impossibility of water in the 1990s. I wasn’t so sure. I’d been forced into the Garamendi Process, hosted by Reclamation in the 90’s, which was also supposed to be a collaborative approach that would satisfy everyone and find the win-win solutions. But the Garamendi Process wasn’t professionally facilitated, and turned into the most unprofessional bullying I’ve yet seen. (I still resent Garamendi for that, and also for being such a fucking tool that he insisted that the process be named for him. Since it collapsed into nothing, I’m happy for him to own it.) Anyway, coming out of a terrible collaborative process, I was pretty suspicious about another big one. Far as I was concerned, endless lawsuits couldn’t be more hostile and produce less than the collaborative process I’d just witnessed. Then CALFED fell apart, without much accounting for the billion dollars it spent*. What I’m saying is that I wasn’t convinced that joint collaborative solutions are better than endless lawsuits and impossible gridlock. I haven’t seen it work, you know.
But, the lawsuits this past year have been astounding. Day to day reversal of temporary restraining orders**? Aquafornia reports new suits, some of them reaching the foundation of our system, nearly every day. There really is no certainty, nor hope of future certainty like this. The different suits crack me up, because I have little at stake. But another year or so of this, and I’ll start to think they’re worse than collaborative solutions after all. If collaboration can’t work*** when the BATNAs are so fluid, and the suits are in too many venues, with too many appeal options, I don’t see a process with potential for longterm certainty. A statewide watermaster with dictatorial powers? Dunno.
*Actually, I’m willing to believe they did good science and made incremental improvements in the Delta that are hard to document. I haven’t paid close attention, so I don’t know what we got for the billion dollars CALFED spent. Maybe it was the informational base for Delta Vision. Or not, I don’t know.
**I partially blame Tom Birmingham. Hire a lawyer to be your GM, and what your district is going to do is sue. Couldn’t you find a nice ag engineer?
***Roos-Collins and Peltier acknowledged at the Water Law Symposium that only schizophrenia (the very same people collaborating inside the room, and suing outside the room) keeps BDCP alive. Schizophrenia should not be required for our solution processes.