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Feinstein Shuts Out Delta Communities From Water Export Talks


Senator Offers Fierce Competition to Governor in Quest for Cold, Dead Fish Award


by Dan Bacher

February 25, 2010 -- Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who continually does the bidding of corporate agribusiness, has refused to meet with Restore the Delta staff and has spurned requests by the fishing community for a copy of her amendment language for increased water exports from the California Delta.
Her proposed amendment language, designed to strip protections for collapsing populations of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales, has been kept "mostly secret," according to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta.
"Those who would be most affected by implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) waiver - Delta farmers and commercial salmon fishermen - have been once again left out of the discussion process, as they were during the 2009 California legislative water package discussions," said Barrigan-Parrilla.
Although Senator Feinstein's amendment was not included in the present jobs bill, as reported in today's San Francisco Chronicle, Restore the Delta has learned that Senator Feinstein is seeking other ways to move her legislation forward.
"In stark contrast, Restore the Delta understands that the Westlands Water District, some additional water contractors, and some members of Congress have seen the language included in Senator Feinstein's proposed amendment," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "Once again those who want Delta water are working to control any and all legislative discussions by funding media spin and political contributions.
Barrigan-Parrilla adds, "Westlands leaders and Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms clearly have access to the Senator that everyday Delta people do not."
Therefore, Restore the Delta is urging Senator Feinstein to recognize that Delta residents are dependent on protection of public resources.
Barrigan-Parrilla notes that Delta residents "have an equal right to participate in representative governance as do corporate irrigators. The people of the Delta and related fishing communites must be given the opportunity to create a sustainable economic-ecological future for Delta communities and fisheries."
Barrigan-Parrilla said people of California, especially Delta residents, have been kept in the dark along enough regarding the Senator's proposal to guarantee Westlands' water contracts. She is calling on Senator Feinstein to "end the secrecy on behalf of large corporate irrigators receiving subsidized water. The public has a right to know how their water and money will be spent."
Fishing groups agreed with Barrigan-Parrilla's assessment of Feinstein's penchant for secrecy."It is unfortunate that Feinstein is elected to champion Westlands, the most junior of water rights holders, at the cost of the collapse of one of the great estuaries in the world and the jobs of those whose livelihoods depend on it," said Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).
Feinstein has recently gone out of her way to compete with Arnold Schwarzenegger for the upcoming 22nd annual "Cold, Dead Fish Awards." Among her many administrative and legislative attacks against the environment, the following stand out:
She has continually campaigned for a peripheral canal around the California Delta, a $23 billion to $53.8 billion project that is likely to seal the doom of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations.
At the urging of agribusiness giant Stewart Resnick, she pressured the Obama administration to review the court-order biological opinions for Delta smelt and Central Valley salmon at a special meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in January. Since this opinion was initiated under the Bush administration, this objectively puts Feinstein to the environmental right of the Bush regime!
Feinstein, at the behest of the corporate growers in Westlands Water District, recently sponsored an amendment to the jobs bill that would strip protections for Delta fish and Central Valley salmon and increase the pumping of water from the Delta. Although this amendment has been apparently left out of the jobs bill, there is no doubt that Dianne will try to seek other ways to push her legislation through the Senate and House.
Finally, in a poorly-written op-ed in the Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/2010/02/20/2550803/delta-water-compromise-will-save.html) Feinstein, imitating talk show host Sean Hannity and Governor Schwarzenegger, tried to falsely portray the campaign to restore the Delta and Central Valley salmon fishing jobs and a conflict between "fish and jobs."
"More than 2,700 growers, who farm 800,000 acres of land south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, rely on water from the Central Valley Project to stay in business," said Feinstein. "Three consecutive years of drought have caused more than 400,000 acres of farmland to be fallowed. Rows of almond trees have been uprooted, and thousands of farmworkers are unemployed ."
She completely failed to mention the loss of 23,000 jobs spurred by the collapse of Central Valley salmon populations resulting from increased water exports - and the dramatic impact of this loss upon coastal and inland communities.
Although these are Feinstein's latest attacks on fish and the environment, she has historically been no friend of either. Feinstein convened the discussions and meetings that produced the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord between the state and federal governments. This accord resulted in the creation of the CalFed program, a failed project based on the coequal goals of "ecosystem restoration" and "water supply."
What were the concrete results of the Bay-Delta Accord and the implementation of the Cal-Fed program?
Salmon populations have declined to the lowest levels in history, due to record pumping of water to corporate agribusiness and Southern California that was authorized under the accord. The Central Valley fall Chinook salmon run collapsed to 39,500 in 2009, a new record low.
Salmon fishing has been closed on the ocean for two years and the season is almost certain to be closed this year. The Central Valley rivers were also closed, with the exception of a brief six week season on a small stretch of the Sacramento River. The result is 23,000 jobs lost to the California and Oregon economy.
Delta smelt, longfin smelt, American shad, striped bass, threadfin shad and other species have declined to record low levels, due to the record Delta water pumping that was authorized by the accord.
Feinstein, the Department of Interior and then Governor Pete Wilson, by engineering this accord that enshrined the co-equal goals of ecosystem "restoration" and water supply, set in motion the policies that have resulted in the current ecosystem crash.
In addition, the accord's organizers invited a few select environmental NGO's to participate in the water deal and completely excluded California Indian Tribes, commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, Delta farmers and environmental justice communities from the process. This was environmentally injust and racist, in my opinion. You can't reach any just solution to California's water problems when you exclude the folks most directly impacted by water policies.
Feinstein has played an instrumental role in the creation of the current salmon collapse and ecosystem crash on the Delta. Rather than continuing to shamelessly collaborate with corporate agribusiness and southern California water districts to drive salmon and Delta fish over the abyss of extinction, she should own up to her role in the ecosystem collapse and work with Delta communities, California Indian Tribes, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, environmental justice communities and Delta family farmers to restore Delta fish and Central Valley salmon populations. She owes it to her constituents to reverse the environmental injustice that she has helped to create.
Please call Senator Feinstein's DC office before 2 pm Pacific time at (202) 224-3841 and urge her to withdraw her salmon and job killer legislation. If you get a busy signal or would prefer to call one of her California offices, you can reach her in San Francisco at (415) 393-0707 or Los Angeles at (310) 914-7300.
For more information about Restore the Delta, call Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla at 209-479-2053 or go to http://www.restorethedelta.org.