Almost two years ago, the tenacious Lloyd Carter — a former reporter turned water law expert — wrote a public letter to Senate Dianne Feinstein, calling her out for her work on behalf of cotton and almond growers of the so-called Westlands water district of the Central Valley.
As he commented on his site, in April 2008:
California environmental groups have grown increasingly concerned that
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is secretly negotiating a "sweetheart"
deal with the Westlands Water District that will harm the Delta and
will allow continued irrigation of high selenium soils.
Environmentalists remain deeply suspicious of Westlands' claim that it
has a viable solution for the drainage crisis affecting the western San
Joaquin Valley. Westlands, which only has a few hundred growers, is
seeking enough water annual to meet the needs of a city of 10 million
Last September, Feinstein called for the spending of $750,000 on a National Academy of Sciences study of the exhaustive science on the Delta fisheries (but, interestingly, on her site claimed she was backing an Obama administration request…that in fact she spearheaded).
Now, long before the study has been completed, Feinstein has drafted legislation lifting pumping restrictions in the Delta, for the sake of Westlands. (Her office is continuing to avoid responsibility, but according to the excellent enviro reporter Bettina Boxall of the LA Times, who has seen the language of the bill, it "would effectively weaken new pumping restrictions designed to protect
the imperiled delta smelt and crashing stocks of migrating salmon.")
The move surprised other Democrats in the California legislature:
"This came as a bit of a shock that she did this," said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena).
He represents the North Coast, which has been hurt by two years of bans
on commercial salmon fishing stemming from collapsing salmon stocks.
"If this were to go through, it would have a devastating impact on
Northern California and other jobs and other economies in the state,"
This move raises huge questions — legal, political, scientific, legislative — but for now, one can only think back on Carter's prescient warning and recall the old line: Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.