Rumor has it that the lawsuits caused by the discrepancy between the Trump Biological Opinion and the State’s Incidental Take Permit have killed the Voluntary Agreements. If so, there are some lessons to be learned; let’s spell those out.
- The people who proposed and supported the Voluntary Agreements (Jerry Brown, Dianne Feinstein, PPIC) have bad judgment on water policy. Their approach set the Newsom administration up for failure. It wasted two years of the administration and squandered substantial political capital for Newsom. The best that could be said for them is that they are prolonging the unsustainable status quo.
- Because there are polarized sides, when enviros told you that water users would never make a scientifically acceptable offer, their accurate assessment based on experience looked like sour grapes. For example, it was accurate when we said that Westlands would be a shitty negotiating partner. That wasn’t “the old binary” coming to the fore, evidence of tired and uncool thinking. That was experience, because that is Westland’s institutional culture under Tom Birmingham.
- Man, Bernhardt/Trump really fucked the Newsom administration with that Biological Opinion. It is scientifically indefensible, so the State couldn’t go along with it. But the ag bargaining partners wanted Newsom/Crowfoot to pretend it is scientifically adequate and there was just no way out of that squeeze. I totally get how Bernhardt wants to lock in any advantage he can, but if the negotiations were ever going to succeed, Bernhardt wrecked them.
This has got to feel awful for Crowfoot and the Natural Resources. They’ve been making wretched compromises and betraying environmental principles for a couple years now, and it has gone down in flames. (I imagine Newsom is too occupied by COVID 19 to notice much.) Now they have to establish a water policy from scratch. Out of the goodness of my heart, I will offer some suggestions in my next post.