Monthly Archives: July 2017

Watching a progressive water platform for the San Joaquin Valley take shape.

I am seeing more local newspaper  op-eds opposing the San Joaquin Valley water dogma than I ever have before.  Part of it is about replacing Nunes, but it also opens the door for new ways of thinking about water If this is the work of the local resistance, you guys are doing a great job. They are feeling the pressure.

The longstanding water dogma of the San Joaquin Valley has been narrow.  The premise is that farmers need more (extracted from the environment), and the only other lens for water policy is farmworker jobs. I don’t pay as much attention to the water quality news stories, but I don’t remember many of them from the Valley before 2011-2016 drought, even during the 2006-2009 drought.  Post drought, I’m seeing a few topics emerge:

These are all relatively undeveloped issues, from a statewide policy perspective.  I am sure locals have been aware and working on these for decades, but at my remove, I haven’t heard anything on water policy out of the San Joaquin Valley besides the standard clichés.  Further, these issues are tremendously susceptible to  the wonder powers of the progressive left: community organizing, developing policy based on science, and throwing money at problems.  Imagine if Nunes and Valdao had spent any effort on these or had brought home any money towards these objectives?  The few issues they have harped on for years are deadlocked; the discussion around them played to exhaustion.

I am inspired by the new themes emerge in the Fresno Bee, the Visalia Times-Delta, the Hanford Sentinel.  I greatly admire Lois Henry’s work at Bakersfield.com.  The local community organizing on drinking water done during the drought is bearing fruit now. There are concrete bills and proposals that California can implement (imagine if the State had constructive local Congressmembers to work with).  The Resistance to Trump is opening new arenas for progressive work on Valley water.  I love to see it. Please let me know if I can help.

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Long foreseeable.

Three weeks after the tunnels received a crucial green light from federal environmental regulators, the $17.1 billion project got a cool reception from nearly 100 growers who farm in the powerful Westlands Water District. Provided with detailed financial projections at a Westlands board meeting for the first time, the farmers suggested they aren’t ready to sign onto the plan.

Investment bankers from Goldman Sachs & Co. said debt repayment could balloon farmers’ water costs to as much as $495 an acre-foot under the most expensive scenario, or about triple what Westlands growers currently pay. …

“My initial thought, right off the bat, is no way this will work,” the tomato and almond farmer said in an interview. “Those numbers might work for a city, Metropolitan and them. For a farmer, none of the crops that I grow can support these numbers.”

I am sorry these farmers are only hearing about these estimates now.  The cost range for this water has been available knowledge for half a decade now.  We’ve known for years that tunnel water wouldn’t be agricultural water.

This is another illustration of how dedication to ideology over reality is penalizing the conservative farmers of the San Joaquin Valley.  The rough price range for water out of the Delta tunnels has been known for almost a decade.  Wise district managers should have relayed this reality to their farmers.  Messrs. Neve and Bourdeau should not be learning about this now.

Instead, the leadership at Westlands continued to pander to the fantasy of additional new low cost water.  Over the years they’ve paid millions into the BDCP planning effort.  (In the end, that may end up being a subsidy for the cities that can take water from a small tunnel alternative.)   I don’t know why Westlands management didn’t explain to their farmers years ago that it was time to cut their losses.  One unflattering possibility is that they were more willing to throw their growers’ money at a project that wasn’t going to deliver ag water than they were to challenge the conservative water management philosophy of the region.  Another unflattering possibility is that the district managers and lobbyists enjoy the lifestyle that their growers support, and aren’t going to tell them unpleasant truths until they absolutely must.  Either would explain bringing in outsiders from Goldman Sachs to explain the real costs of the Delta tunnels.  In either explanation, the management and leadership at Westlands aren’t working in their growers’ best interests.  Even if their growers demand it, perpetuating the fantasy of additional low cost water will not give them the knowledge they need to plan for their farms in the long term.

 

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How Devin Nunes shortchanges his constituents.

Representative Devin Nunes is a stalwart change denier, calling global warming “nonsense“.  He jokes about the dangers that climate change poses to Californians in a blog post today.

This poses two problems.  One is that he is asking his fellow ideologues to join him in a joke that denies their own lived experiences.  Perhaps Nunes has been in DC so long that he doesn’t know how the southern San Joaquin Valley is changing.  But the people who live there can see and feel the effects of climate change.  It isn’t a snide joke to them.

Things that people in CA22 have seen and experienced in the past few years:

What Devin Nunes’ post shows today is that he isn’t paying close attention to his district.  He has grouped “radical environmentalist” and “climate change” into one category and now uses any hint of one or the other to dismiss an entire field of conversation.  But people in his district are feeling real and varied effects of climate change, no matter who they vote for.  But rather than looking at the facts of his constituents’ lives, and listening to them, Nunes writes mocking posts.  This has three effects:

First, it gaslights the people who live in the district, denying their lived experience.  They know damn well the summer nights aren’t cooling off and they aren’t getting enough chilling hours in the winter.  They can see the dead trees in their beautiful mountains.  They aren’t blind, or stupid, but Nunes’ is saying that this collection of experiences is literally nonsense.  That it isn’t happening.

Second, Nunes is denying his constituents their intellectual understanding of what is happening to them.  Some of his constituents know this.  But the implicit trade-off that Nunes is offering his constituents is that they must not understand the things they experience, the change to the Valley that is happening before their eyes, if they want to be part of the conservative Valley identity.  He justifies and personifies an ignorance that means his constituents can’t predict and prepare themselves for a harsher future.  If climate change isn’t the coherent explanation for their cows falling over in the heat, and years of drought, and higher rates of asthma, if those things are unlinked random chance, there is no way to prepare for them and alleviate some future suffering.

Third, Nunes’ post mocks the concept of climate change and calls some of the environmentalist solutions “preposterous”.  But there is a whole suite of reasonable preparations and solutions that the southern San Joaquin Valley will need desperately.  Some of those are best done by government. When the governmental representative is denying the entire concept, I’m pretty sure that he’s not allocating more money to researching tree strains that require less chilling hours.  Governments were needed to manage the thousands of cow carcasses; this is foreseeable, and a good representative could have been working on getting plans in place.  Researching Valley Fever and asthma, planting urban trees, fighting fires, cutting down dead trees in the Sierras to protect communities.  An elected representative that is watching reality closely, with a scientific understanding of the phenomenon, would be bringing money and plans home to the district.  Nunes keeps proving that he will never be that elected representative.

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