I have fought aggressively to bring our water crisis to the attention of Congress and the American people. In the past year, we have achieved an important milestone – we are part of the national debate.
There should be no confusion as to what the goal is. The legislation I have been offering to my colleagues is virtually identical to legislation passed in 2003 for the people of New Mexico. That bill passed the Senate unanimously and passed the House with an overwhelming bipartisan vote.
Recently, Senator Dianne Feinstein said of my efforts, “I've been very disappointed in his approach, to hit and hit." And that, “We have a problem and it won't be solved by saying, turn the pumps on, turn the pumps off.” (see the article here)
My response is two-fold. First, Senator if you don’t turn on the pumps in the short-term, you will preside over the mass conversion of our nation’s most fertile and valuable farmland into desert. Second, since the Senator and her allies in the House were willing to vote for an ESA waiver for New Mexico in 2003, I would like to know what exactly has changed. Why was an ESA waiver good enough for the citizens of New Mexico but not California?
In the meantime, I will continue to force Feinstein and others to vote with or against the people of California. To date, every time we’ve brought the issue up the vast majority of Democrats chose fish. That’s not partisan. That’s the way it is (see my remarks at Interior).
If Senator Feinstein wants to know how many times I am going to keep hitting, she should know that I will keep doing it – finding every creative way to make use of the House and Senate Rules - until Democrats do what’s right. That means passage of the same type of relief they unanimously accepted in 2003 for New Mexico. In that instance, the three inch bait fish causing all the trouble was called the silvery minnow.
Why are Democrats blocking any effort to bring swift relief to our region? Just listen to their statements on the House Floor and it becomes clear that they are proxies for the radical environmental movement:
Congressmen Sam Farr, Earl Blumenauer, and Mike Thompson have all decried the San Joaquin Valley’s illegal use of water. The very water that keeps our communities alive and transformed the San Joaquin Valley into the most productive farmland in the nation has been taken because we have benefited from “illegal water deliveries.”
Congressman Farr believes we live in a desert. He blames the massive public projects, built by Democrats like President Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, for the destruction of fisheries throughout the West. Keep in mind that these are the same fisherman that the government paid more than $100 million not to fish.
During his diatribe against my efforts to gain support for common sense water policy, Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall suggested we all do a rain dance.
These statements, as well as others made during the water debate, represent damning evidence of a lack of compassion for the people of the San Joaquin Valley. Worse, they have proven that Democrats are held hostage by radical interests in the environmental movement - people who believe balanced environmental policy means returning our region to a desert.
Not only have House Democrats blocked progress, but so too have California’s U.S. Senators. Senator Jim DeMint, representing the interests of the people in our state, tried to gain approval of a watered down New Mexico amendment – a one year ESA waiver. Our Senators led the charge against it. Feinstein cried ambush, likening the move to Pearl Harbor, and claimed not to understand the goal. In truth, she understood it. She was given nearly six hours to read the one page amendment and was approached prior to the debate with both a copy of the amendment and the rational.
The contrast in leadership could not be more striking. Jeff Bingaman, a liberal U.S. Senator from New Mexico, worked with Republicans in 2003 to get an ESA waiver to restore the flow of water to his constituents. Senator Feinstein supported Bingaman’s effort, acknowledging the urgency of the situation. However, when it comes to her own state, she claims not to understand the provision and opposes it.
Let me be clear for those who continue to plead ignorance – both in Congress and in various agricultural organizations in our state. My goal, the only goal, is for the water supply to be restored to our region – water that has been flowing to San Joaquin Valley communities for 50 years. My temporary measure, the New Mexico language, is the only way to grant the San Joaquin Valley relief while larger and more ambitious plans are debated.
As a side effect of my work, I have exposed the relationship between Democrat politicians and the radical environmental movement. During a public forum, Congressman George Miller went so far as to take credit for lawsuits that have devastated our region (see his admission during a speech at Interior here).
In addition, I have exposed a weakness in our own community – rural California. I have discovered a prevailing mentality among some agriculture industry leaders that favor appeasement in all matters. In defense of inaction, these political appeasers and defenders of the status quo have signaled their true loyalties. They would rather farming communities be transformed into desert than any of their friends in government be held accountable. They are providing permanent political cover to Democrats whose loyalty has long since left rural California.
Some of our state’s agriculture community ‘leaders’ have even become an extension of Senator’s Feinstein’s public relations staff. Apparently concerned about the Senator’s reputation, one career ag leader responded to my efforts with Senator DeMint by saying “it was wrong on his part.” (read the story) Several others have issued press releases praising the Senator for her work on behalf of farmers.
These organizations, through their actions, have undermined my work to restore the flow of water in our state. At the same time they have clung to a host of symbolic acts and misled their members. For example, some agriculture groups have decided studies are an adequate response to the man-made drought. Meanwhile, little or no leadership is being shown when it comes to delivering real relief to the people.
Californians know the status quo isn’t working. What they want to know is how many times their representatives will compromise in order to gain political favor? Is being part of the discussion worth selling out rural communities?
Aggressive representation is how the radical environmental movement has been able to take control of California’s water supply. At the same time, pacifists and apologists in our own community have hastened our losses. Every time we turn around, courts, legislators and radical environmentalists are demanding more water from increasingly dry California communities. Yet they give us nothing in return. No additional water sources; No way to transfer water around the Delta; No plan to deal with shrinking ground water aquifers.
Worse than nothing, they give us failed policies. More fish species are endangered today than in 1992, when Congressman George Miller and his allies diverted more than a million acre feet of our water to protect the Delta ecosystem. That water giveaway, known as CVPIA, was the first major blow to our way of life in the San Joaquin. Since then, we have endured more water give-aways – including the San Joaquin River Settlement Act.
Dry farmland and high unemployment is where “compromises” have gotten us. We can thank passivism for CVPIA, the San Joaquin River Settlement, various biological decisions and lawsuits. Further compromise is certain death – something Senator Feinstein understood in 1994 when she said, “I oppose any efforts to take water from Friant Dam for the purpose of restoring a long gone fishery on the San Joaquin River.” Unfortunately, representatives of rural communities weren’t done compromising and thanks to Senator Feinstein’s legislation earlier this year, the San Joaquin River Settlement Act is law and the Eastside of the valley is poised to suffer the same fate as the Westside.
Now is the time for strong representation, not political expediency. We have clear legislative language that passed Congress in 2003 that is capable of delivering us the short-term relief we need to survive.
Now is not the time for agriculture industry representatives to make excuses for politicians. You should insist that the people who represent you are more concerned about our region’s future than their continued access to choice political discussions. You must insist that your association unequivocally endorses the New Mexico amendment and a temporary waiver to the ESA for California.
Finally, we should thank the Fresno Bee and Mike Doyle for helping to uncover some of the serious issues we face. The paper helped expose leaders in our own community who are obstructing a resolution to the water crisis, while claiming to represent rural communities and farmers. Now it is time for the Bee to tackle another tough question. Why did Senators Feinstein and Boxer support the New Mexico language in 2003 but continue to block similar language for their own constituents in 2009?