Monthly Archives: March 2012

Oh Devin Nunes, you crazy loon.

Devin Nunes gave a whole bunch of interviews about his water bill, which means he talked a whole lot of crazytalk and easily refuted lies. But whatever. That’s what he does, and we’ve spent enough time on many of them. This bill isn’t going far, so it isn’t like I’m worried about it or anything. I only have a couple thoughts worth putting up here.

1. For a bill this drastic, I can’t believe how petty and smallminded it is. I mean, if you’re going to write a federal bill that supercedes state water rights law for the first time, nullifies two previous well-established Congressional laws, breaks open settled litigation, and invites all hell to break loose, why would you waste your time on serving such a small set of masters? He does all this just for the monetary interests of powerful West Side ag. That’s so banal. Believe you me, the day I get to completely supercede state water rights law, nullify a couple Congressional laws, re-open settled litigation and invite all hell to break loose, it’ll be for some giant-ass principle, or to make history, or something supercool. Not so that rich people in the San Joaquin Valley can stay rich.

2. Bird’s gotta fly; stallion’s gotta run; Nunes has to say crazy insulting shit. That’s fine. He is who he is. Mostly I can let it slide or laugh at it. But occasionally, he still catches me offguard with something. This bit? Pissed me off.

Rep. Devin Nunes, author of H.R. 1873,  jumped on board, too.

“The communities on the west side of San Joaquin County, I guess perhaps they don’t matter to the minority (Democrats),” he said. “Because evidently, by opposing this bill, you’re basically guaranteeing that the city of Tracy and those water districts where those jobs are created are going to be cut off from their water this year.”

Alex Breitler did a nice bit of fact checking, and showed that it wasn’t accurate about the city of Tracy. But I’m infuriated by Nunes’s statement that the minority communities on the west side of San Joaquin County don’t matter to Democrats. Let us be real clear about what Nunes’s interest in getting water to the west side means. It does not mean getting clean and safe drinking water into farmworker communities in the Valley as so many of those towns desperately need. No. Nunes means that he wants to get agricultural water supplies to the largest farms in California, farms comprising tens of thousands of acres, so that as a byproduct of their raising crops, they can offer menial farm labor to the permanently impoverished communities on the west side. Perhaps that is better than not offering menial farm labor to the permanently impoverished communities on the west side, but it is trickle-down concern at best.

Real concern about “water” for poor communities in the Valley would be about getting those communities affordable clean drinking water. And hey, look who is working on that! Fran Pavley and a bunch of enviros. Hey, another enviro. A Democrat from Fresno. A Democratic governor.

I mostly watch the water politicking and laugh. I mostly watch Devin Nunes and laugh even harder. But the thing that made me the angriest in all the drought propaganda was West Side agriculture suddenly pretending to care about the only sympathetic group of people in their counties, and hiding behind the plight of communities that they have exploited for generations. Fuck that, and fuck Nunes’s insulting bullshit about who “cares” about farmworker communities in the Valley. If Nunes wants to show he cares, he could get some towns in his own damn district some clean, safe drinking water.

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On the release of the BDCP environmental documents.

You know that I’m not actually going to read those, right? I base my comments instead on the news summary, because that’s the kind of in-depth reporting you’ve come to expect here. What I read makes me simultaneously more cynical and more optimistic. It also tells me what the new direction for the Peripheral Canal must be, if it is going to exist.

You guys know that I’m in favor of the Peripheral Canal, because I don’t think there’s hope for the Delta to be both a functioning ecosystem and an important drinking water conveyance system. I want those functions separated. So I trot around to the blogs and say things like, ‘but it doesn’t have to be a “water grab.” It could be for reliability without being for pumping more water. Reliability for urban drinking water for 25 million people is really fucking valuable.’ Then opponents laugh at me and say, ‘of course it isn’t for reliability. Of course it is for pumping additional water.’. After today, I have to admit, yep. They’re right. The Preferred Alternative is the big tunnel, and it proposes to export more water than Delta has been able to support since its fisheries collapsed. The Peripheral Canal in these documents is, in fact, a bid to get more new water south of the Delta.

So that makes me cynical. Here’s what makes me not-cynical. We totally knew all this was true in the Schwarzenegger administration. The game was rigged then, like we knew. It is, however, the only game going on this scale. The Brown administration has been forced to play it, as has everyone. What else can they do, start from scratch? The new administration swears they are all transparent now, and the process is all open to new voices and stuff. After today, at least, it is way more transparent. It is a transparent bid for more water through giant tunnels. They have finally declared themselves. Now we can see whether the “open” part is also true. I don’t know what goes on in high level executive stuff. But I have somewhat more hope that the Brown administration would consider different Peripheral Canal options than they were handed from the last administration.

Which leads me to my other thought on the new information on the Peripheral Canal. The documents today released cost estimates, and Dr. Michael broke that down into $/af for us, which is what I need.

That comes out to between $3600 and $730 per acre foot of new supply – not counting operations costs – just to get the new water to the Tracy pumps.  Add a few hundred dollars more for operating costs and pumping to Los Angeles.

Y’all, this is not ag water. There are almost no crops that can return a profit on $1000/af water. Avocados. Strawberries. Maybe weed, before it is legalized and everyone can grow it. Paying for this water would bankrupt the West Side. They are beginning to realize this, which is why they are looking for other ways to secure their water supply. (If I were on the East Side of the SJV, I would start getting nervous, because they are some relentless motherfuckers.) This is, however, still cheaper than de-sal. This may yet be worth it to urban SoCal, especially a SoCal that sees water levels in Lake Mead falling and is in litigation over allocating water to dust control in the Owens Valley. In a catastrophic failure of the Delta levees, it would totally be worth it.

I am still a proponent of a PC, so I am glad to have this all out in the public. People can push back against taking more water from an unstable Delta ecosystem. We can figure out who wants this water at this price. We can figure out if there are cheaper Peripheral Canal options that still protect SoCal’s water reliability. This is all progress, which has me back to being mildly optimistic again.

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