I often have a hard time understanding Devin Nunes, which is fine, since I am not his intended audience. Normally, I would use “narrow political interest” to explain politicians, but ever since Devin Nunes threw a fit and scolded (IIRC) Paramount Farms and the State Water Contractors for selling out to the radical environmentalists, I haven’t been sure who he considers his base. I have to consider the likelihood that Nunes is more motivated by spiting environmentalists than by representing Republicans/agribusiness in the Valley. If that is the case, his latest bill doesn’t represent what “his supporters like Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms, and the 40 families or so who run the Westlands Water District” want, no matter what Ms. Barrigan-Parrilla says. Nunes might just be a rabid loose cannon looking for strokes from rightwing talk radio. But he might also have proposed a water bill that gives us insight into what big Valley ag wants. I’m not confident of that, because rabid loose cannon is such a plausible alternative, but for a few more paragraphs, let’s stipulate that his bill represents what big Valley ag wants. If that is the case, it is really fucking interesting that the bill “also nullifies the need to construct of a canal to bypass the Bay-Delta, savings $12 billion.”
Big ag in the Valley doesn’t want a Peripheral Canal anymore?! I see two interpretations. First, they realize they can’t farm with water expensive enough to pay back the costs of building a Peripheral Canal. They won’t get enough new water to spread those costs over, and the reliability aspect of a new Peripheral Canal isn’t worth the money to them. (Maybe they’ve come to this conclusion based on early access to whatever BDCP has produced, I don’t know.) AND, they’re willing to accept a different form of reliability.
My interpretation is that big ag in the Valley is willing to accept a re-write of water rights law giving them priority in lieu of a canal. They don’t need expensive new cement if they can get the feds and the courts to make sure they get the first portion of our variable supply. Maybe they’re willing to trust that because Westlands has been diligent about staffing the district with very politically connected folks from the Bush Administration and because their GM is an extremely litigious lawyer.
It makes for an interesting contrast to the widespread “plumbing is destiny” belief in the Delta and Northern California. Canal opponents in the Delta and NoCal simply do not believe that a Peripheral Canal won’t be used to “take more water”. If the big canal is built, it will get filled, and no governance structures (Delta flow requirements, a Delta Plan, state laws, agreements, DWR’s solemn promise) will stop LA and Big Ag from using every cfs of canal capacity at the Delta’s expense. I personally don’t share this view, but I understand that it is compelling.
I’m just guessing, and like I say, Nunes is too erratic to be a good predictor of much. But I’m intrigued by this possibility that big Valley ag isn’t interested in a Peripheral Canal anymore (even if they’re still looking for substitutes, like shameless governance structures that favor them). If they drop out, the purposes of a Peripheral Canal (insure a reliable urban supply to the South, separate water conveyance from Delta habitat requirements) become much purer and we can decide how we value those.