With the Voluntary Agreements no longer at stake and the entire ascientific worldview discredited, this is the perfect time for the Newsom administration to pivot to a strongly environmental water policy. It will fit more harmoniously with a progressive administration. Next year is likely to bring willing federal partners. The Newsom administration could be remembered for restoring rivers, for giving people access to clean cold rushing water, for reorienting to climate mitigation and adaptation. If the Newsom administration decides to do this, here are some things they could do:
- Jettison Bonham and Nemeth. They are the embodiment of ‘please just keep everything going ’til my watch is over’. At this point, they are also the embodiment of the failed Voluntary Agreements. DWR and DFW could have actual visionary leaders working toward actual environmental improvement. The agencies could be reinvigorated and inspired the way the SWRCB was under Felicia Marcus. Newsom could have his own Ron Robie!
- It isn’t too late! The Final Water Resilience Portfolio isn’t released. They can still scrub references to the Voluntary Agreements.
- Take a look at different problems. Stop re-working the same ground. Modernize the courts system/adjudication process. Bring water districts into this century; create watershed-scale districts with half state-appointed board members.
- Prepare for an environmentalist federal government. Use the economic recovery plans from COVID 19 to transform California.
- Immediately back the instream flow standards in the Bay-Delta Plan. Do every single restoration project that was offered in the Voluntary Agreements. They are owed; the districts indicated their willingness.
- Focus on re-building the connection between people and their rivers. Give the people of the SJV more and more beautiful river access.
- Rigorously enforce SGMA; rigorously evaluate SGMA plans.
Should the administration choose to do this, they should aggressively partner with the enviros they excluded from the Voluntary Agreement process. I mean, I personally am extremely petty and I would dance around the room exactly like this, continuing to the little-known second verse, “You Were So Wrong”. But the other enviros are professional and strategic and they would graciously pretend the first two years never happened.
The Newsom administration could still be a water policy triumph. They showed an admirable amount of not-giving-a-fuck about public opinion when they were working toward the Voluntary Agreements. If they applied that to working on better problems toward an enviro vision, they could still be proud of their remaining time.