Did you get the same message from the President's visit as we did?
Not one elected official or representative of any city, county, or water agency in Merced or Madera Counties from the East side was invited.
Feb 19, 2014
Once you get past all the photo-ops, hoopla, and rhetoric, what was the bottom line? For us, it was who was invited to the meeting with the President, and who was not (see article on Obama’s Visit). We were struck by the fact that only a small number of people were understandably allowed in the meeting, but the powers that be found room for Ann Notthoff of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). For those familiar with the water wars here in the San Joaquin Valley, NRDC is the enemy. It has continually participated in lawsuits that have taken millions of acre-feet away from Valley cities, farms, and ordinary citizens while collecting millions of dollars in court awarded fees. If the water taken had resulted in some magnificent environmental good, then perhaps it would be worth it. But, it has not.
Their latest claim to fame is the much heralded San Joaquin River Settlement, which they signed but have routinely violated thus preventing farmers from being able to get their water back. The Settlement was supposed to be two co-equal goals: 1. Trying to restore a salmon fishery, and 2. Mitigate the East Side water losses.
Despite signing the ‘blood oath’ demanded of all parties by Senator Feinstein in September 2006, NRDC has been allowed to violate that as well. For example, the salmon/steelhead cases were initiated in 2005, but Judge Wanger did not rule until 2008. Most of the important arguments in that case occurred after 2006, but NRDC remained in the case taking positions that directly affected the ability of Friant Contractors to recirculate water. NRDC could have dropped out and left the environmental position to the other environmental groups. They did not.
NRDC also aggressively pursued restrictions on Delta operations well after September 2006 in other venues. An example is NRDC’s letter of May 8, 2009, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation objecting to any request to reinitiate consultation of the onerous December 15, 2008 delta smelt biological opinion.
In addition, NRDC intervened in numerous Delta-related lawsuits well after 2006. While intervention is not exactly (legally) the same as initiating legislation, it is a completely voluntary action. NRDC could have stayed out, but chose instead to inject itself into the Delta smelt cases and was a principal player in that litigation.
NRDC has continued to aggressively involve itself in critical litigation and regulatory matters after the 2006 with the goal of doing damage to Delta conveyance and thus to recirculation efforts to get water back to the East Side. Had the Friant farmers done something similar, both NRDC and some of the politicians would have screamed.
So, NRDC with the obvious blessing of Senators Feinstein and Boxer, and
Congressman Costa of the 16th Congressional District (C.D.) was permitted a seat at the table. There were some West Side constituents of the 16th C.D present. However, not one elected official or representative of any city, county, or water agency in Merced or Madera Counties from the East side was invited. These folks are the ones most harmed by the S.J. River Settlement and NRDC's failure to honor the agreement.
When the President’s trip was announced, it was reported that the enviros were worried about what he might do. They had nothing to worry about. They were in the room.
So the message the President, the two Senators, and the Congressman are apparently sending is: “We will send you welfare and provide food, but as far as any help with water, it must be approved by NRDC”.
Do not expect any help from Governor Brown either. The article on his Interagency Drought Task Force shows one of its members is Felecia Marcus who before her appointment by Brown to the State Water Board, was the Western Director for (you guessed it) NRDC.
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