Direct from Gov. Newsom

Governor Newsom was asked about his water policy at the PPIC lunch yesterday. At minute 52, he said (slight editing for clarity):

Q: You appear to have endorsed Gov. Brown’s to water, relying on tunnels rather than reducing dependence on the Delta. Is there a better way. Let’s talk about your vision on water.

Put out portfolio plan, very prescriptive a counternarrative to that question. Beyond conveyance, in addition…

Not going to do, frustrate two-thirds of you. Not interested in reinforcing the arguments of the past. I love reading all that, hey he’s naïve, he’s being misled, you know, good. You know. Because it means we’re doing something a little different. (Roger Bannister- 4-minute mile.) He likes the beginner’s mind. Been at it 20 years, (references SF/Hetchy), You want to get into lawsuits, you want to screw this person screw that person, spend seven years getting nothing done, I’m the wrong person in this job. Care deeply about the folks in San Joaquin. It isn’t just Big Ag, there are real human beings whose lives are being torn asunder because of the scarcity of water. Its not a zero sum game. Not us versus them. You think I don’t love the environment (riffs on salmon – I want to bring that back) But you aren’t bringing that back by getting in seven years of lawsuits where nothing gets done. That’s why I’m pursuing Voluntary Agreements FORGIVE ME but I’m going to be stubborn. That’s why I think we can do more with flexibility working together.

I’m an urban guy that cares about the state of California. And I care about every part of the state of California. And when we talk about fallowing land, that is real people, real lives and I have to look them in the eyes. It may be an intellectual thing for some that are sitting on the coast, with all due respect, reading the newspaper, saying the economy’s doing fine. But what about that poor damn mother that literally cannot take care of that kid because they can’t get that work anymore. You don’t do that to someone. You don’t destroy a community that was built over hundreds of years. You’ve got to be accountable.

So why I’m a little more intense about this is I want everyone to calm down. Give us a chance. I’m going to have your back. I don’t need to be told ‘you need to be tough against the Trump administration’. Give me a break. I know that. But give us a chance. And if you’re right, you can sit there and jump up and down and say ‘I told you so’. Enjoy that. It might make you feel good. But give my team a chance. I’ve one of the best EPA directors we’ve ever had. He’s one of the great champions on the environment. I have one of the best … water… folk, Wade Crowfoot and the team he’s assembled? These are real great human beings that care deeply about the environment and they think it is right to reach out to ag and work with these guys. So it is just like energy. The world is changing, we have to change with it. Flexibility. Putting the old binaries aside. Getting off our high horse. Recognizing that we need each other. There’s no leak on your side of OUR boat. We rise and fall together.

My take-aways:

  • Duuuuuude. He is pissed about the pressure and pushback he’s getting on the Voluntary Agreements, and for not signing SB1.
  • I speculated that Newsom et al think that they are the environmentalists in the room, so they don’t need to consult environmentalists in the Voluntary Agreements. Newsom himself makes that same argument. This is not true. They need the water environmentalists for their technical and legal expertise and to push for rigorous agreements. Having the water environmentalists in the room will prevent the Newsom administration from being surprised when the VA’s don’t fulfill the requirements of the Bay-Delta Plan.
  • Newsom cites Crowfoot’s (and agency directors’) opinion that the VA’s are a good idea. This is entirely circular. Crowfoot will dedicate his whole being to whatever Newsom tells him to. If Newsom hated the VA’s tomorrow, so would Crowfoot. Nemeth and Bonham are quintessential company men. They don’t have independent opinions either.
  • Sadly, Newsom appears to have fallen for the “if ag isn’t there, the poors won’t have ag jobs” error. This is error for two three reasons.
    • First, ag varies quite a bit in how much labor it employs. If the goal is to keep the greatest number of farmworkers employed, they could selectively fallow the lands that support the fewest workers and have no local communities.
    • Second, plantation ag requires forced labor, because people don’t work in landscapes like these by choice. The force that drives people to work for plantation ag is poverty. Plantation ag will always maintain a stock of impoverished people in the valley so that they have a labor pool. When that stock of impoverished people gets too low, they import more. When Newsom throws in with ag, he is ensuring that SJV poverty will never end.
    • Indirectly helping farmworkers by making sure ag has water is an indirect and ineffective way to help farmworker communities. It would be cheaper to give farmworkers agency and choice, by offering them the equivalent amount of money as the SJV Water Blueprint would cost, for example.

Now I have to argue with one of Newsom’s statements. C’mon dude. The people giving you shit from my side of the spectrum aren’t evidence that you’re doing something a little different. My entire objection to the Voluntary Agreements is that every new administration comes in and tries to do this shit, like no one ever thought about negotiating before. The Garamendi Process. The 2000’s Water Plan. CalFED. These things eat years and don’t accomplish anything. Salmon and smelt decline every year that goes by. What would be truly new would be enforcing environmental laws and instream flow standards.

Which brings me to my second point. Newsom says litigation would take seven years. How long are you going to pursue the Voluntary Agreements before you give up? Because we could already be two years into the Bay-Delta instream flows. What parallel plan are you developing for when VA’s fail? How can you prevent operating out of sunk costs in two more years? You need to get moving on those now if you don’t want to look back on the waste of Newsom’s first term.

Lastly, HAH. I heard a rumor that Newsom totally loves Blumenfeld and berates Crowfoot for not delivering on the VA’s and the audio confirms that. Big praise for Blumenfeld, can’t recall Crowfoot’s name at first. Heh.


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14 responses to “Direct from Gov. Newsom

  1. Noel Park

    BS, spin and PR. Eyewash.

    I said it before, I’m done voting for Newsom for anything, from dog catcher on up.

    You are 100% dead right

  2. Jan McCleery

    Great blog. I’d add two more reasons to your “three reasons” about Newsom’s ag jobs argument>
    (4) The Central Valley has had 30 percent plus unemployment for years – ever since they automated cotton harvesting and converted acres to almonds that don’t need to be planted yearly and are harvested by shaking.
    (5) This doesn’t consider ag outside of the Central Valley. Ag in the Delta will end up with salt water to irrigate with if a tunnel is built. That includes not only the Delta islands, but way more. For example, all of Contra Costa County’s farms rely on Delta water including the famous Brentwood white corn, tomatoes, cherries, …

    I agree totally – Voluntary Agreements are total BS. You can’t “buy” mitigation to replace water flowing through the estuary. Habitat alone won’t work. Fish need fresh water.

  3. Noel Park

    As to fallowing, as my Dad used to say, “It’s self regulating”. It will happen whether Newsom likes it or not. Although he may be able to facilitate stalling it off until the end of his term.

    It may come about sooner if the groundwater law is actually enforced. If not, maybe the cost of energy to pump it ever higher lifts may make unprofitable. In the end, maybe there just won’t be any left.

    How many crops are unprofitable right now with water entitlements reportedly trading at $800/af?

  4. Lois Wolk

    Dear on the record

    Do you receive email at this address. I want to send you a personal comment.

    Lois Wolk

    Sent from my iPad


  5. You’d best review the modeling information that the State Water Board released in late November. Even though it had major pieces missing (such as a CalSIM analysis of the unimpaired flows alternative, and no temperature modeling as of yet), the results clearly showed the voluntary agreements to be superior both to the baseline conditions and to the unimpaired flows approach. Once the temperature modeling is conducted, it is likely that the unimpaired flows approach will be shown to be even worse (as common sense dictates – if you release all of your stored water in the spring, you won’t have any left to make sure that salmon and steelhead can survive the summer heat of the Valley floor). This is undoubtedly why Newsom is advocating strongly for the VAs. Not to mention that he sees the futility of trying to argue in Court that the unimpaired flows approach makes any sense at all.

  6. Have you reviewed the State Water Board modeling data, Noel Park? Besides the results I mentioned, they have problems getting their SacWAM model to accurately reflect historical conditions, let alone predict conditions for any of the alternative future scenarios.

    • Noel Park

      Same answer.

    • Jon Hoge

      Yeah seriously Paul stop confusing us all with your facts. Who cares if the water is released all in one day or is 100 degrees, as long as you call it unimpaired flows it will automatically bring back all the fish that existed in 1850. It’s like a magic time machine. Just look at every other time more flows have been released through the delta, the fish just keep coming back it’s amazing. One question for Noel is if we just change the name of the voluntary agreements to unimpaired flow agreements will the time machine still work? Best of both worlds maybe?

    • Noel Park


      Well I think it was you who said that any “Voluntary Agreement” that Westlands, et al, would accept would be so one sided as to be more destructive than what we have now.

      Doug Obegi speaks for me. Anything he will sign off on is acceptable to me.

  7. Pablo Garza

    I better steer clear of all that…But, I was wondering if OTPR noticed that the Governor now has an “On the Record” column? Any chance of a collaboration with OTPR? Pure coincidence? Either way, you should be flattered!