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Politics, short memories are choking Calif.’s water wars

Welcome to the latest battle over our water and a level of hypocrisy that borders a stand-up comedy act.

The latest, now days-old, scuffle was a preliminary injunction awarded to your state’s leaders to take more of your water between now and May 31 and send it to the ocean. 

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the California Environmental Protection Agency managed to score the victory by filing a motion for a preliminary injunction on the basis that “imminent and irreparable harm” to protected species would happen in the next couple of weeks due to pumping water south of the Delta to Southern California and the Central Valley.

In being awarded their two-week reprieve from scientifically-backed pumping rules issued by the Federal government, Becerra celebrated the return to the same scheme used for more than a decade to manage the Delta.

This is the same scheme that – in pursuit of protecting fish populations – wound up destroying them, deteriorating water quality, causing aquifers to deplete, driving land subsidence, and leading to a collapse in food production while fallowing thousands of acres of the best farmland in America.

All while pushing vulnerable migrant farmworker communities to the brink via massive job losses.

Only in California would such a feat be openly celebrated.

The Federal administration has demonstrated a willingness to fight to reverse those ills, beginning with these new rules for pumping.

They see, like many Valley natives see, the trickle down effect that comes when sound water policy is in effect.

This is merely the latest battle in a war of litigation led by Gov. Gavin Newsom and A.G. Becerra. It is they who have chosen to ration your water by sending an abundance of fresh water to the ocean.  

It is they who have chosen to destroy voluntary agreements and flip the negotiating table.

And it is they who have chosen to victimize their own people through their quest for power and takeover of private property rights.

It’s just a battle, but the war continues.

Enter the hypocrisy that knows no bounds.

Coming to your rescue is Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno), his sidekick, Rep. TJ Cox (D–Fresno), and a few of their friends!  

Yes, that’s right!

Monday, Mr. Costa wrote, “We must act quickly to secure our food supply during this pandemic. That means passing a clear and definitive relief package to support our farmers, farm workers and the partners that deliver high-quality food to the American people.”

In a press release, Mr. Costa claims of releasing a framework to provide critical support to the nation’s agriculture industry following weeks of collaboration with a bipartisan group of local and national stakeholders.

You can find the details of the framework on his website if you are so inclined.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? 

Everyone should absolutely agree that national security is greatly dependent on domestic food supply but farmers and farmworkers will gladly provide those things without a “relief package” if your fellow partymen would stop attacking our water.

Humor always helps during rough times, so I thank the Congressman for that!

As for that “bipartisan collaboration” mentioned? It includes Cox and Reps. Josh Harder (D–Turlock), Jimmy Panetta (D–Carmel Valley), John Garamendi (D–Walnut Grove), Mike Thompson (D–St. Helena), Salud Carbajal (D–Santa Barbara), and the United Farm Workers (UFW).  

Apparently, we’re working with a new definition of “bipartisan,” that encompasses a single political party and a union representing merely 1 percent of all farmworkers. 

Alas, back to the humor.

In a February, Costa, Cox, and backseat Natural Resources committee chairman Jared Huffman (D–San Rafael) granted Rep. Raul Grijalva (D–Ariz.) the power to investigate and potentially nullify the federal administration’s plan to boost the Valley’s water supply.

Here we are!

Costa has been in California politics since the late 1970s and he still has not produced meaningful water supplies for anyone in the Central Valley.

Other than harm the effort to supply more water to the Valley, defrauding investors, and juggling an ethics complaint filed because of unpaid tax bills, Cox is equally difficult to write about about because he has done absolutely nothing on water.

The “bipartisan” Dream Team backing up Costa and Cox have their own issues.

Harder has entrenched himself in a position that “…we will never solve our water problems by shipping (water) to Southern California.”  

Hey L.A., did you catch that?

Or Panetta, who runs on a platform of climate ‘crisis,’ attacks oil companies, and thinks green energy is the sole success to our future.

Or Garamendi, who exclaims, “I am strongly opposed to rolling back state and federal environmental laws in order to pump more water to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.”

He conveniently omitted the fact that these laws were “rolled back” to save our own people from devastation.

Meanwhile, three years ago, Thompson voted against H.R. 23 – otherwise known as the GROW Act – a bill, authored by then-Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) that would have restored deliveries to farms and communities.

But he didn’t stop there, he referred to the bill – looking to give farmers and farmworkers much needed resources – as a “shameful effort.”

Lastly on the list of “bipartisan” folks is the UFW.

There’s not much to say about the UFW except that our political leaders in Sacramento replace the voice of hundreds of thousands of farmworkers with the UFW often.  

As mentioned, the UFW represents 1 percent of farmworkers. 

Lest we forget, this is the same UFW penalized to the tune of $1.1 million in 2017 for failure to pay its own employees overtime or let them take lunch breaks.

Back to the humor again. And California Democrats used the very same UFW to sufficiently misrepresent farmworker support to push a bill requiring overtime pay that left many of the other 99 percent of farmworkers taking home less money.

And, for the finale, a quick return to Valadao’s GROW Act.

Let’s not forget that California’s two U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris opposed this key bill.

And for months, you’ve read about the efforts of California Democrats – in both Sacramento and Washington – to return to old, damaging, and outdated science by nullifying the newly-adopted rules for pumping water from the Delta.

Our Senators have short memories. 

In a statement in their opposition to the GROW Act in 2017, Feinstein and Harris explained the bill, “…prevent(s) California from using new scientific data to manage our water supply by reverting us back to outdated limits set more than two decades ago.”

Science does not matter to California Democrats.  Politics matter.  

Your water, your air, your land, your property, your house and your farm are being attacked whether you live in Mendota or Los Angeles.

The hypocrisy is disgraceful and embarrassing. The attacks are not coming from Washington D.C.  They are coming from Sacramento.

At the very least, instead of using the phrases “catastrophic,” “irreparable harm,” “imminent danger,” California Democrats should have the decency to simply state their goal of returning the entire Central Valley to what it was in 1850, and notify everyone south of the Grapevine the big hand of government will decide when their taps can run and for how long.

Wayne Western, Jr.
Wayne Western, Jr. the The Sun’s Agriculture Pulse contributor, writing on the San Joaquin Valley’s agricultural community and water issues.