Faux Latino grassroots groups; paying subsidence damages.

I very much enjoyed this New York Times story on how Westlands Water District is funding faux Latino grassroots groups to advocate for breaking environmental laws to deliver more water to their huge farms.  I had two main thoughts about the story:

  1.  No mention of Schwarzenegger and the Latino Water Coalition?  They were the first to try this strategy in the last drought, also paid for by west side agricultural groups.
  2. I am more and more convinced that the truly sharp political players in this game are not Westlands with their traceable lobbying funds and visible attempts at political power.  More and more I respect the districts immediately south of them, some of whom I had never heard of until I actively started searching for them.  Now those people know how to keep their heads down and grow tree nuts.  Everytime one of the owners of Dudley Ridge WD sees Westlands in the news, he must think, “Pikers.”


I am pleased to see the issue of paying for infrastructure damage caused by subsidence come up in new venues.  I was appalled by one of the suggestions for how it will get paid for:

Should these costs be assessed by difficult lawsuits under tort law, left to an arrangement under the basin plans required under the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, suffered by canal owners or flood victims (Ronald Coase lives!), or paid for by the public under some future water bond?  And who should be responsible for pursuing these remedies?  These seem to be the most relevant points of state policy to resolve while we avoid panic that the Earth is falling.

[emphasis added]

By bond measure?  That’s horrible.  The only thing that could be less fair to 99% of Californians than paying for these damages out of the general fund is making future Californians pay for these damages (plus interest) out of the general fund.  Future Californians deserve to pay for the externalities of today’s growers even less than almost all current Californians deserve to pay for them.

URGENT UPDATE (1/9):  A source points out that a former front site for a fake grassroots organization, waterforall.com now has lovely pictures of horsies  (warning, music autoplay).  Those are some nice looking horses, so the world is a better place.


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15 responses to “Faux Latino grassroots groups; paying subsidence damages.

  1. Uti

    Whoa, that suggestion is appalling, but not unexpected. Does anyone expect the ones who are clearly causing the subsidence to accept responsibility? I don’t. What I do expect is the playing of the usual cards: we’re creating jobs and we’re feeding the country, neither of which is entirely true. So in order to keep the public from demanding compensation for damages somebody wants to kick the can down the road and keep their business profitable.

  2. Steve Bloom

    WWD’s prominence in the public eye probably has mostly to do with Kesterson.

    This paper came out last year (title/abstract):

    Uplift and seismicity driven by groundwater depletion in central California

    “Groundwater use in California’s San Joaquin Valley exceeds replenishment of the aquifer, leading to substantial diminution of this resource and rapid subsidence of the valley floor. The volume of groundwater lost over the past century and a half also represents a substantial reduction in mass and a large-scale unburdening of the lithosphere, with significant but unexplored potential impacts on crustal deformation and seismicity. Here we use vertical global positioning system measurements to show that a broad zone of rock uplift of up to 1–3 mm per year surrounds the southern San Joaquin Valley. The observed uplift matches well with predicted flexure from a simple elastic model of current rates of water-storage loss, most of which is caused by groundwater depletion. The height of the adjacent central Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada is strongly seasonal and peaks during the dry late summer and autumn, out of phase with uplift of the valley floor during wetter months. Our results suggest that long-term and late-summer flexural uplift of the Coast Ranges reduce the effective normal stress resolved on the San Andreas Fault. This process brings the fault closer to failure, thereby providing a viable mechanism for observed seasonality in microseismicity at Parkfield and potentially affecting long-term seismicity rates for fault systems adjacent to the valley. We also infer that the observed contemporary uplift of the southern Sierra Nevada previously attributed to tectonic or mantle-derived forces is partly a consequence of human-caused groundwater depletion.” (Emphasis added.)

    Basis for an injunction to halt groundwater pumping? If this isn’t, I don’t know what would be. What’s interesting is how little attention the paper got.

  3. Patricia Schifferle

    I agree with you…about Dudley Ridge—Resnicks and Vidovich etc….do you have any specific information of their ties to these faux groups? Thanks Patricia Schifferle

    • onthepublicrecord

      No, I don’t. The Dolphin Group lists some irrigation districts as clients, but that’s pretty tenuous.

  4. LarryF

    Any suggestions for how to motivate the legislature and local governments to not shift this infrastructure cost to the public? I would guess that the SWP will try to have all SWP contractors pay for the subsidence damage to SWP facilities – that should be stopped too. But after the SWP robbery by agriculture that was called the Monterey Agreement by hope is fragile. Looking forward to your ideas.

    • onthepublicrecord

      The first testing ground will be paying for any damages to the California Aqueduct. If those costs are spread evenly, and MWD agrees to shoulder its share rather than sue the vandals who caused the damage, then the issue won’t go public and we’ll all get stuck with the costs. But if MWD faces a ratepayer revolt, or just decides on its own that it won’t pay until the west side farmers who are causing subsidence have paid what they can to repair the aquaduct, then the public will have a nice clean example to learn about the issue.

      The other thing that could alert the public is if something big and visible breaks. An overpass or a building, or that bridge that has sunk below water level. If there were something for cameras to linger over, the public would notice more.

    • onthepublicrecord

      The difficulty is that construction/maintenance costs are so high that they’ll be more than growers can pay. So they’ll have an accurate claim that this would put them out of business. But when people cause externalities that are more expensive than the value they create, they are a net loss to us all.

      I am very curious how this is playing out in CCID. They’re already making repairs, and I wonder if they’re hearing from their landowners that the specific people causing subsidence should be the first to pay the costs.

  5. Aqua Velvet

    Water is for lying over-whiskey is for lying under

  6. Aqua Velvet

    Living in the CV, one can’t help but notice the rather amazing amount of freshly planted fruit & nut trees that have gone into the ground in the past year since the new groundwater laws were announced last year. It’s a pretty blatant attempt to grandfather them in under the new aegis. In the area adjacent to the Visalia dump, i’d guess 5,000 or so new trees are in the ground, and that’s just one little scintilla of the action going on, take a drive around Joadville and see for yourself how many they’re are.

  7. Robert B

    “Death” to you for this truly thoughtful, insightful and laugh/pain inducing blog. Who knew water policy could be all those things. And “death” to the Times for directing me here. As if I didn’t already have enough things to occupy my mind.

    Thank you.

    • Yeah, just read the LAX article about OtPR, too, so here I am looking forward to digging into the archives and confirming the stench CA water politics encompasses. Ventura County is my stomping ground and I have been driven crazy by our groundwater “management” agency.

  8. jaylund

    For the Public Record, this CaliforniaWaterBlog post does not favor paying for subsidence damages with water bond funds. This would be an additional pernicious use of bond funding. Our fear is that this will be the funding of last resort, and invite still more use of water bonds, so we need to come up with something better.

    • onthepublicrecord

      Sorry about that. I understood that you were listing possible options, not recommending them. I think we are agreed that water bond funding would be a terrible way to address damages from subsidence.

  9. Curt Sanders

    Wow, OtPR you are my hero! Just found you through Peter King..I have become semi obsessed with the continued mismanagement of CA water as well as water mismanagement in the West in general for the last couple of years…
    CA almond growers are the most egregious example of exploiting a state treasure(CA water, especially ground water). Example, CA’s 2.1 Billion pound almond crop of 2014 took in excess of 500 Billion gallons of water to produce. 2/3rds of which was shipped to the Orient..essentially we shipped 500+ billion gallons of water to China…no worries a handful of CA corporate farms made major money…
    Subsidence costs? No problem, their attorneys are working right now to socialize those cost/losses and of course they will keep virtually all their profits privatized for the elite 5 or so almond corporations..Yahoo! Business as usual…
    Jerry Brown knows how I feel..
    What are some concrete steps we can take toward Better exposing this travisty?

    • onthepublicrecord

      Well, I like the “have a blog” method. It hasn’t delivered the hookers and blow I was hoping for, but I cling to the belief that Gov. Brown knows my feelings about growing permanent crops in basins with declining groundwater levels.