"Chinatown" all over again

Submitted: Aug 20, 2009
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

On June 6, 2008, Badlands Journal editors wrote an article comparing the 1974 movie classic, "Chinatown," with the  campaign against the ecology of the Delta and for a peripheral canal and more dams fomented by Westlands Water District, finance, insurance and real estate interests and the Hun, our governor. At the time we were taking a measure of the rhetoric being used to frighten residents of the state already made anxious by the collapse of the speculative real estate bubble. This week, the California Sportsfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) has discovered an internal Westlands memo showing that all the time last year that Westlands was crying DROUGHT!, it was storing hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water, just as LA was – as was observed by the San Francisco Chronicle's veteran outdoors reporter, Tom Stienstra, on October 26, 2008. The Westlands memo is only the most recent evidence that begs the lie behind the high-priced propaganda campaign for a peripheral canal and new reservoirs on the San Joaquin River and in Colusa County.

 

Gov. Schwarzenegger is calling the year's lack of rain and snowfall a drought of epic proportions and points to the low lake levels to prove it. The answer, he says, is passing a $9.3 billion water bond next year to build a peripheral canal and several new reservoirs in a program designed to send more water to points south.

The facts are that the past two years are only the ninth driest two-year period in the past 88 years, and that California routinely experiences such periods once every 10 years, according to the Department of Water Resources.

What happened last year is that water managers were betting on a wet spring. When it didn't happen, many lakes were drained down to nothing in order to send water to L.A. and farmers.

Shastina, tucked on the north slopes of Mount Shasta, is a testament to this bad bet. In the past two summers, water was drained from the lake to irrigate hay fields in the Shasta Valley as if there was no end in sight to the water available. The lake hit bottom last month. So when you drive up to the boat ramp, all you can see is exposed lakebed. This isn't a drought. This is a created shortage.
True droughts are measured by soil moisture, and in some cases, water levels at wilderness lakes. In a true drought, soil moisture is so low that plants go into artificial hibernation to protect themselves, as in 1992, and that has not happened. Up in the high country, most wilderness lakes - outside the reach of water-grabbers - are full. Even more telling is that along Interstate 5 near L.A., Pyramid Lake, which gets water from Northern California, is 97 percent full right now. --
San Francisco Chronicle, "Drought, or water heist?", October 26, 2008 

 

The campaign for more dams and a peripheral canal built up steam going into the Senate approval of the San Joaquin River Settlement, which, after three years of obstruction by Valley congressmen, was finally approved on January 15, 2009. This year we have been plagued by an aggressive astroturfing operation, the Latino Water Coalition, guided by the international PR firm, Burston-Marsteller (see details at the indispensable Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood/lloydgcarter.com, "The PR Firm from Hell," and "Thirsty Down in Nobama County").

 

All the while, Westlands Water District has been hording water in private while screaming drought and destruction in public.

 

Although there is a drought, it is relatively mild compared to others we've had in the last 30 years. But there has been a campaign going on for several years to get another $10-15 billion bond to build the canal and the dams. In "Chinatown," the private investigator discovers that LA Department of Water and Power has been hording water and releasing it around the county in the middle of the night while claiming there was a"drought," in fact manufactured for a real estate scam.

 

The contemporary "Chinatown" campaign stumbles blindly forward every day:

 

Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, vice chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, expressed frustration over missed chances at approving a water bond in recent years.

"All we continue to do is talk, and meet, and submit bills, and argue over them and get absolutely nowhere," Cogdill said. "And the problem isn't going away, it's not on hold. And today, as we speak, there are people in this state who are suffering because of our inefficient and inadequate water system." -- Capital Press, August 20,2009

 

 

 

8-19-08

Indybay.com

 

Westlands Hoards Surplus Water While Farmworkers Suffer...Dan Bacher

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) today called for an investigation into the hoarding of surplus water by the Westlands Water District while farm workers on the west side of the San JoaquinValley are struggling to pay their bills and put food on their table.

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/08/19/18616644.php

Over the past several months, the mainstream media and right wing demagogues such as Sean Hannity have reported "heart rendering" stories about the Westlands Water District having to fallow fields, putting farmworkers out of work and placing farms in jeopardy because of a lack of water.

Today the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance District (CSPA) countered the lies behind Westlands' cynical astroturfing campaign by revealing that the district has been "squirreling away" surplus water it can't use.

CSPA has discovered a Westlands' information bulletin dated 23 July 2009 revealing that the giant irrigation district, considered the "Darth Vader" of California water politics by fishing groups, Indian Tribes and environmental organizations, has been hiding considerable carryover storage from last year and is adding even more this year. The group is calling for an investigation into Westlands' surplus water and possible surplus water hidden away by other water districts.

“The idea that Westlands Water District has been hoarding surplus water it can't use while farm workers have been paid to hold vocal protests around the Central Valley accusing Congressman George Miller and federal agencies of starving farmers in order to protect Delta smelt is outrageous," said Bill Jennings, CSPA executive director. “Perhaps Congressmen Devin Nunes and Dennis Cardoza can use their influence to persuade Westlands to share some of their stored water wealth to benefit those less fortunate. Clearly an investigation is needed to see who else might be hoarding surplus water.”

At the end of 2008, Westlands had some 233,998 acre-feet (AF) of water stored in other facilities that it didn't need, according to Jennings. Some 93,700 AF of that stored water was used through June 2009. However, the export pumping restrictions caused by the Delta Smelt Biological Opinion ended 30 June and the State and Federal Projects have ramped up pumping.

Westlands has made firm commitments to acquire 141,522 AF of supplemental water and is requesting additional supplies. Consequently, Westlands staff projects that the District will end the water year with approximately 275,000 AF of water it is unable to use.

The disclosure of the hoarding of water by Westlands occurs as the water district and its front group, the Latino Water Coalition, has been campaigning to give a "human face" to corporate agribusiness by busing hundreds of farmworkers to "rallies" and "marches" in Fresno, Sacramento and Concord demanding increased pumping of water from the Delta. However, no farmworker organizations, including the United Farmworkers are supporting these efforts, organized by the public relations firm Burston-Marsteller, notorious for campaigns to cast a "democratic" image to dictatorships around the world for decades, and numerous corporate greenwashing campaigns.

Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, the 27,000-member union founded by Cesar Chavez, blasted the Latino Water Coalition's so-called "March for Water" this April for being an event organized by corporate agribusiness.

"In reality, this is not a farm worker march, '' Rodriguez told the New Work Times on April 17. ''This is a farmer march orchestrated and financed by growers.''

The bulletin also points out that the Banks pumping plant of the State Water Project has been pumping about 1,000 AF of Central Valley Project daily. "Of course use of the 'Joint Point of Diversion' (JPOD) is illegal and violates D-1641, the State Water Resource Control Board's (State Board) order implementing the Bay-Delta Plan. D-1641 explicitly prohibits use of JPOD when south Delta salinity standards are being violated," noted Jennings.

Presently the running 30-day average for electrical conductivity, the measure of salinity, at Old River near Tracy is 1.02 umhos/cm. The water quality standard for this period is 0.7 umhos/cm to protect Delta agriculture. South Delta salinity standards have been continually violated the last seven months, imperiling Delta fish populations and Delta farms.

Jennings said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and California Department of Water Resources (DWR) have been ignoring the Cease & Desist Order issued by the State Board in 2006 for violation of south Delta salinity standards. Recently, they requested an extension of the compliance schedule for that Cease & Desist Order beyond the 1 July 2009 deadline.

CSPA was a party in the June 2009 State Board evidentiary hearing regarding the DWR/USBR request. Even though the State Board declared in 2006 they would not again extend the compliance schedule, they are expected to shortly issue a decision extending the schedule and excusing past violations. CSPA is prepared to sue over the Board's continued refusal to enforce the Cease & Desist Order. However, the prohibition against using JPOD while standards are violated was neither raised nor discussed in that hearing.

"Earlier this year, the State Board held hearings to consider a relaxation of Delta outflow standards because they were being violated," Jennings state. "While April rains eliminated the need for relaxed standards, the Board refused to penalize the USBR and DWR for violating existing standards. In June, the USBR acknowledged that Vernalis flows were only about 59% of required flow. Again, the State Board took no action. Water quality standards in the southern Delta have been consistently exceeded since last December."

Jennings observed that, “the State Board continues to look the other way as virtually all of the standards protecting the Delta and its collapsing fisheries are ignored and DWR and USBR violate the law in order to supply Westlands with water they can't use.”

"CSPA remains concerned about the plight of unemployed farm workers, even as we note that data from the California Economic Development Department and annual reports from County Agricultural Commissioners reveal that both farm labor employment and the value of agricultural production has increased in the seven south-of-Delta counties over the course of the drought," emphasized Jennings.

 

WESTLANDS WATER DISTRICT

3130 N. Fresno Street, P.O. Box 6056, Fresno, California, 93703-6056

(559) 224-1523 FAX (559) 241-6277

 

July 23, 2009

This notice contains important information about the following:

· July 21 Board Report

· Biweekly Conference Call Regarding Water Supply and Operations

· Water Supply Update

· Supplemental Water Supply Update

· Surplus Vehicles and Equipment for Sale

July 21 Board Report

Biweekly Conference Call Regarding Water Supply and Operations

General Manager Tom Birmingham has begun holding a biweekly conference call on

Thursday at 8:00 a.m. to inform landowners and water users of developments regarding water supply and operations. To have your name placed on the participant list to receive call-in instructions, please contact Sarah Woolf at (559) 341-0174.

For those unable to call-in, the operations report provided during the call will be posted

on the District’s website,

www.westlandswater.org org, at the Water & Power – Water Supply –

Project Operations tab, no later than the following day.

Water Supply Update

, Water users’ demand for surface water have been at historic lows this year; 93,700 acre-feet of the 233,998 acre-feet rescheduled from 2008 have been used through June. Staff projects that the District will end the water year with approximately 275,000 acre-feet unused. This unused water will consist of the 2009 CVP allocation and 2009 District Supplemental Water purchases.

Approximately 60,000 acre-feet of non-Project Supplemental Water will be stored under Warren Act Contracts, while the balance will be stored under the Bureau of Reclamation’s CVP rescheduling guidelines. The District expects Reclamation to issue these guidelines around August 1, and water users will be notified when they are available for review.

The restricted pumping period under the Delta Smelt Biological Opinion ended June 30, and Jones Pumping Plant increased exports, which totaled 108,000 acre-feet as of July 15. Further, on July 9 the State received authorization to increase pumping capacity at Banks Pumping Plant by 500 cfs, up to 7,180 cfs. Since then, Banks has been pumping CVP water at a rate of about 1,000 acre-feet per day. Federal storage at San Luis Reservoir briefly went negative earlier this month, but has recovered to 2,000 acre-feet as of July 21. Total storage in San Luis is currently about 380,000 acre-feet.

 

 

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