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THE NOONER for May 28, 2016
BALLOT UPDATE from Paul Mitchell, Political Data Inc.:
HYDROLOGIST IN CHIEF: Trump tells California 'there is no drought' [AP] - "'They don't understand — nobody understands it,' he said, declaring at one point: 'There is no drought. They turn the water out into the ocean.'"
Politically influential rural water districts and well-off corporate farmers in and around California's Central Valley have been pushing back against longstanding federal laws protecting endangered fish and other species, saying federal efforts to make sure endangered native fish have enough water is short-changing farmers of the water they want and need for crops.
Water authorities say they can't do it because of the water rights of those upstream of the farmers, and because of the minimum-water allowances needed by endangered species in the bay and by wildlife in general.
Water is a politically potent issue in California, and will continue to be as the state grows and--possibly--precipitation is reduced temporarily or over a long period of time, regardless of your perspective on climate change. There is no scientific issue of whether there is a drought. Here is the current drought monitor of the nation, measured by University of Nebraska-Lincoln in partnership with several federal agencies.
Incidentally, Nebraska is the most irrigated state in the nation, and is building market-based solutions for its water challenges. When I asked a friend who is working in Nebraska on this about its applicability to California, her head exploded. The legacy water rights and contracts in California just make it very difficult. Remember the energy crisis in which out-of-state companies (no, I'm not related to Enron's Ken Lay) extorted the natural gas market by reducing supplies to push up prices?
When I grew up in OC, I just expected the tap to flow and our lawn to be green. My fish and turtles were in a fountain in the backyard. When I moved to Northern California for college, learned to drop the "The" article from my freeway names, adopted the word "hella," and caused horror to Dan Weitzman by rooting for both the Giants and the Dodgers, I learned about water politics.
In fact, in my break over the last month, I re-read "The King of California" about the Boswell family's grab of water rights near Corcoran to support its cotton empire. (King of California is on the Nooner's Sofa Degree list.) The J.G. Boswell Company is known as the world's largest privately owned farm. The company's farming operation in Kings County has largely drained Lake Tulare's naturally occurring ebbs and flows of water based on annual variations in snow melt and other precipation, and now relies on state water deliveries.
Trump claims that the Delta's water is being sent out to sea and could be delivered to Central Valley farmers and Southern California, and he will fix it as president. Farming is a big part of the state's economy, directly accounting for 2.1% of the state's economy and far more in collateral economic benefits. Restaurants wouldn't be charging $150 for prix fixe dishes with Iowa corn. No offense to Hawkeyes, but you can't beat summer Brentwood corn.
Micheael Finnegan and Kurtis Lee report: [Trump] mocked environmentalists for 'trying to protect a certain kind of 3-inch fish,' repeating an apparent reference to the delta smelt, a fish on the verge of extinction that is regarded by scientists as a barometer of California's environmental health."
Now, Delta smelt isn't found on the menu of The Kitchen, Nobu, or Chez Panisse, but is found on the Endangered Species List. That's a federal legal issue and not at the whim of state official, as Trump seemed to assert in his speech yesterday. Its biggest predators are striped and smallmouth bass, both of which are non-native species to the Delta. Incidentally, the bass also eat a large percentage of endangered salmon. However, Delta smelt are an indicator species of the environment, in the way bald eagles were an indicator of the harm of DDT. Yes, I just compared Delta smelt with the bald eagle for hyperbole sake. In all, there are six species of fish that are listed as endangered or threatened.
If you're in Sausalito, a great stop to make is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model to understand the complex hydrological system in Northern California.
It is a system largely unique in California, where a very large estuary is created that creates a brackish condition, blending salt water and freshwater as rivers flow to the ocean. If you change the freshwater flows too much, the ecosystem is disrupted and animal and plant species are adversely affected.
Additionally, environmentalists point to the hazard created by pumps, which alter water flows (sometimes even reversing them), confusing fish and drawing them into the south Delta, where they are more likely to be preyed upon.
Delta-area farmers express concern that their water rights and supplies will be harmed by increasing salinity of the farming islands of the Delta, which affects not only water availability but also the balance of peat in the soil that provides carbon in a unique farming environment. This concern is accelerated with warnings by most scientists that sea levels will rise. Additionally, two Southern California water agencies are in the process of buying four Delta islands for freshwater storage and habitat preservation, raising suspicions of Delta activists.
Meanwhile, the country's hunger for California produce continues to rise, as do the international demands. There aren't many states where entire salad bowls move from one region to another (notably east Monterey and San Benito counties to Imperial County) based on the season. Almonds have been heavily criticized as drivers along I-5 and 99 see large acreage converted to nut farming. Of course, I have almond milk and almond butter in my Nooner-supporting smoothie right now and have almonds as a snack nearly every day. (Disclosure: I have an upcoming ad by the Almond Board of California, although my consumption far proceeded the ad placement.)
Jerry Brown has proposed adding two large tunnels in a $15 billion project to increase the amount of water pumped from the Delta (which currently is around 20% of the Delta's freshwater inflow. Brown calls for paying for the project, which is currently under administrative review by using revenue bonds, which don't require voter approval. However, Stockton-area farmer Dean Cortopassi has qualified an initiative for the November ballot to require revenue bonds totalling over $2 billion for a specific project to be approved by voters (treated like general obligation bonds, which don't have an underlying revenue source such as water rates).
Brown's proposal satisfies neither the most passionate environmentalists nor the farmers erecting the signs along the highways running north-south. However, it is also the most comprehensive plan put forward, in addition to the water bond.
Yesterday, a bill by Susan Talementes Eggman (D-Stockton) to force approval of voters of Brown's plan was killed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee as part of the Suspense File clearing.
Trump didn't mention Brown's proposal to the crowd yesterday, and its likely it would have fallen flat with the red-meat seeking audience. But, there's a real discussion about how to preserve the Delta habitat and ensure adequate water for agriculture and urban users. There's no such thing as simply turning on a giant tap to the State Water Project and Central Valley Project.
Regardless of your candidate of choice for president, Californians should agree that overly simplific assertions won't fix a complex problem. Particularly from a guy who owns this golf course in a Mediterranean climate--the most expensive golf course ever constructed with lots of water features, although the three artifical waterfalls have been removed.
Ironically, the website for Trump National states that it "has established a strong reputation for its environmental practices. Trump National is dedicated to protecting the environmentally sensitive habitat that plays host to several protected plant species and the endangered Coastal California Gnatcatcher (a small migratory bird)." Save the gnatchatcher, but screw that 3-inch fish.
Is this really a statement from a presumptive nominee of President of the United States? It may be cute in rallies, but in real press statements? Reminds of Schwarzenegger calling legisiators "girlie men." Stay classy, folks. Respect the office you're running for or holding.
END THE SUSPENSE (KILL BILL VOL. 3): The LAT has lots of coverage on the winners and losers in yesterday's Suspense file hearings.
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Bill Cardoza and Chris Fadeff!
Days Before Primary, Many Voters Realize Their Ballots Don't Have Presidential Candidates
A lot of voters with no party preference who were hoping to cast ballots in California's June 7 Democratic presidential primary could be in for an unwelcome surprise if they don't act fast.
Gov. Brown To Decide Whether California Voters Will Sound Off In November On Money In Politics
John Myers @ latimes.com
California lawmakers gave final approval on Friday to a November ballot measure asking voters about the growing role of undisclosed donors in political campaigns.
California Tampon Tax Bill One Of Hundreds To Clear Key Appropriations Committee Votes
Announcements about the fate of hundreds of pieces of legislation -- 245 Senate bills and 449 Assembly bills -- came during hearings held by the Legislature's Appropriations Committees, which vet bills that will cost taxpayers more than $150,000, ahead of an early June deadline to hear bills on the floors of their respective houses.
Tax That Fellow Behind The Tree
Joel Fox @ foxandhoundsdaily.com
According to the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll likely voters in the state are for raising taxes â¦ or not. At first glance it might appear that divergent attitudes about potential tax measures gain support or opposition depending on the issue. The truth is much simpler and consists of a long held attitude with the voting public.
Lawmakers Kill Plan To Force Statewide Vote On Brown's Water Tunnels Plan
John Myers @ latimes.com
A closely watched effort to force a statewide vote on Gov. Jerry Brown's water tunnels project was blocked Friday in the Assembly -- a big victory for Brown in a year where the plan faces some key hurdles.
State Senate Misses Opportunity to Make California Affordable
The majority party in the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed out of committee measures that would increase government spending even higher, which is in addition to the already record spending budget proposed by Governor Brown earlier this year.
Senate Republican Priority Bills Shelved On Deadline Day
Christopher Cadelago @ sacbee.com
California Senate Republicans, a resilient lot that two years ago recovered from near obscurity, this year offered up a package of 11 priority proposals, pitching the legislation as a way to lift up the stateâs most vulnerable and downtrodden.
San Francisco Bay: $12 Parcel Tax For Wetlands Has Big Financial Backers
Paul Rogers @ mercurynews.com
When environmentalists wade into political contests, they're almost always outspent by big business. But that's not the case with Measure AA, a $12 annual parcel tax that will appear on the June 7 ballot in all nine Bay Area counties to fund wetlands restoration and flood control projects around San Francisco Bay's shoreline.
Republicans Believe Partisan Politics Killed Their Bills During 'suspense File' Hearing
Assembly Republicans were more than disappointed by some of the bills quietly killed on Friday during the final action taken by the low...
California Lawmakers Advance Brown's Affordable Housing Plan
Southern California Public Radio @ scpr.org
Construction is ongoing in an area with lots of shopping just off the 405 Freeway along Edinger Avenue in Huntington Beach. Nearby at Edinger Avenue and Beach Boulevard, a site was proposed for new affordable housing units. Ashley Bailey/KPCC
Senate Panel Shelves Bill Requiring Employers To Provide Employees Their Schedules A Week Early
A measure that would have required many bosses in California to give their employees a work schedule at least one week in advance was s...
California To Allow Transplants Between Hiv-infected People | The Sacramento Bee
Alexei Koseff @ sacbee.com
San Francisco doctor plans liver transplant between two HIV-positive people
Who's Backing Trump, Financially, In San Diego? | Sandiegouniontribune.com
New Feature FAQ'S | Support
How Good Is My Kid's School? California Tries To Answer Every Parent's Question
California is trying to figure out how to define what a good school looks like. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education released regulations on the Every Student Succeeds Act that might help.
Trump Speaks At San Diego Rally, Protests Mostly Peaceful | Sandiegouniontribune.com
People waiting in line cheered as San Diego police officers walked the line at the Donald Trump rally at the San Diego Convention Center. — John Gibbins
State backs away from drought crackdown on two water agencies
Two Central Valley irrigation agencies slapped with unprecedented penalties last year during the stateâÂÂs drought-related crackdown on illegal water users are likely to see their cases dropped. In a dispute that has been closely watched by CaliforniaâÂÂs farmers and water managers, the State Water Resources Control Board moved to dismiss its complaints that the Tracy-area irrigation districts were taking river water illegally. Last year, CaliforniaâÂÂs historic drought prompted state regulators to enact sweeping restrictions on pumping river water. The restrictions limited access even for those with water rights dating to 1914 and earlier âÂÂ known as senior water rights and long considered ironclad. In proposing Thursday to drop the cases, water board regulators acknowledged that they had used flawed methods to measure water draws and had failed to prove the districts did anything wrong. âÂÂWe conclude that the board has the authority to take enforcement action âÂ¦ against the unauthorized diversion of water under claim of a pre-1914 water right,âÂÂ state regulators wrote in a proposed decision to drop the case, which will be taken up by the five-member governing board June 7.
Trump Attacks Clinton, Sanders In Fresno Rally; Protesters Clash Outside | Fresno Bee
Trump talks about water, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Fresno stop
Sarah Palin Makes Unannounced Speech At Trump Rally | Sandiegouniontribune.com
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Hillary Clinton Talks Gentrification And Urban Policy At Oakland Diner
"That's why I'm here," she told her select group of breakfast-mates, who included Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland schools Superintendent Antwan Wilson. "I want to be a champion for Oakland and all the Oaklands of America ... places that have challenges but places that are coming together."
Kate Steinle's Family Files Federal Lawsuit Blaming Government For Bay Area Slaying
Joseph Serna @ latimes.com
The family of a woman allegedly killed by a Mexican immigrant deported five times from the U.S. has filed a federal lawsuit against San Francisco Countyâs former sheriff, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the federal Bureau of Land Management.