Return to the BATNA, Gov. Newsom

Governor Newsom. I understand that this will be hard for you to read. But the situation is clear. It is time for you to perform the Tasks of Grief for the Voluntary Agreements. I know that you wanted them very badly. I presume that you dreamed of a future in which they were a success. You sacrificed greatly for them, but do not let the sunk cost fallacy deceive you. The Voluntary Agreements cannot happen while the Bi-Ops and the ITP diverge, and you cannot ethically follow the Bi-Ops and the Trump admin will not follow the ITP. We are where we are, and you cannot will the VAs into being. You drove Wade Crowfoot like a rented mule, but being even harder on him will not give him good-faith negotiation partners. There is nothing left to do but what you should have done from the very beginning.

It is time for you to return to the BATNA. You will not have a negotiated agreement until the Bi-Ops are struck down for being arbitrary and capricious (or until the next administration abandons them). So let’s return to the best alternative. You are in luck! The best alternative is very good! You still have the Bay-Delta Phase 1 instream flow requirements. California has long had all the legal authority needed to force water districts to maintain fish populations below dams; you need not choose between instream flows and habitat restoration. You could get both.

Perhaps you are not yet ready to give up on the Voluntary Agreements. Thing is, developing the BATNA will also motivate water agencies to come to the table. It was Bay-Delta Plan Phase 1 flow requirements that brought them to the table in the first place and then you immediately stopped working on them! In parenting-speak, they lost all fear of consequences.

If you must still dream of real VA’s, give up on them for now. Reclamation will not be an adult negotiating partner; just today Brenda Burman wrote a letter tattling on you to Dianne Feinstein, who will do what? Scold you? The water agencies will not reevaluate their bargaining power until there is a new Secretary of the Interior. Set the process aside for nine months and release whatever hold you placed on the SWRCB. Tell them full steam ahead on the Bay-Delta instream flows. You cannot break the VA’s any more than they currently are. You’ll either put yourself in a strong bargaining position for next year or you’ll be the most environmental governor since Jerry Bown 1. Either would be better than remaining in limbo.

 

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Return to the BATNA, Gov. Newsom

  1. Pablo Garza

    Not to be confused with the “bat cave,” though you wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting to go there right now.

  2. Jon Hoge

    I think you may have forgot to mention the third possible result of this policy for the governor. Maybe the other Delta stressors overwhelm the benefits of the flows (like the fact that like 97% of Delta habitat has been altered) and the native fish don’t come back in substantial numbers? So instead of being the most environmental governor for sending water to the ocean, he is just the governor who destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people (disproportionately people of color), increased unemployment (disproportionately people of color) and further decimated already decimated local government budgets (which disproportionately serve people of color) in the states most impoverished areas, during what is already the most horrendous economic crises in a century. That seems not for nothing to consider.

    Even if a huge environmental victory is achieved like there has been on the San Joaquin River and tens of millions of dollars are spent and the endangered salmon numbers increase by a few hundred, do you think anyone but the most committed old farmer haters and sue-ers will appreciate this in the midst of a public health crisis and economic crisis that has been magnified in already poor regions by state water policy?

    • J.J. Gittes

      Jon, you say this as if the piles of money in Modesto would ever do anything to show that they cared about the poorest in their midst? Water Wealth Contentment Health (for the few, not the many) — got it.

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