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DFF's Focus on Conservation with Ron Forbes

"Rivers and their inhabitants of the watery elements are made for wise men to contemplate and for fools to pass by without consideration" – Isaac Walton

Politics and water don't mix

In early June, the Sacramento Bee wrote an editorial about comments made by former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. Babbitt served in the Clinton Administration for eight years and had a strong voice in protecting the environment. Recently, he has leveled strong, well deserved criticism of President Barack Obama and some Republicans in the House of Representatives.

His criticism of Obama is that the President has yet to stand up and oppose the radical anti-environmental agenda of the HR Republicans. Many of us were fed-up with George W. Bush's strong pro-business, anti-environmental policies. During the campaign, Obama took a firm position on protecting our environmental resources and environmental policies. Those of us particularly interested in the fisheries and water issues of California were very positive about what Obama promised. He said he would look at the issues, use the best science available, and then move in that direction. He has not. His broken promises seem to be just another pathetic example of campaign rhetoric.

Babbitt has asked the president "to lead us in standing up to the radical agenda of the House of Representatives. Something he has no yet done in a significant way." Obama should replace the Republican agenda with a bold conservation vision according to Babbitt. Obama has not, nor has he shown the leadership needed in conservation issues.

The Draconian Trio
In his criticism, Babbitt also blasted Republicans in the House of Representatives saying they have "declared war on our land, water and natural resources." And he is right. The Republican's from California are leading the most blatantly outrageous anti-environmental legislation ever seen in the House.
These three members from California are:
. Rep. Devin Nunes (R) Visalia
. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) Bakersfield
. Jeff Denham (R) Atwater
Nunes's bill is HR 1837 (the bill is called The San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act) and is supported by McCarthy and Denham. If passed, HR 1837 will radically alter water law in California overturning 120 years of legal standing. That means that those with junior water right standing will now have the senior water rights. In other words Westlands Water District, The Kern County Land Company, and the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles will be placed in front of Northern California farmers when water deliveries are made.

A group of salmon conservation organizations wrote to Washington a month ago and have called the Nunes bill “a radical attempt to place the water rights demands of some of California's most junior water rights holders ahead of all other California interest and is a blatant water grab." The salmon groups are calling the bill, “The Salmon Extinction Bill.” This bill will kill the 2006 agreement that is to restore and protect the Delta and San Joaquin River. State control over pumping would be placed under Federal control.

If passed, HR 1837 will also overturn the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement which took urban-users, farmers and those wanting to re-establish the fisheries of the San Joaquin River, 20 years to come to their historic agreement. Nunes would stop all restoration of the 120 miles of the San Joaquin River and stop all restoration of the fisheries and the once great salmon fishery on the river. If HR 1837 passes, once again the San Joaquin River will remain bone-dry.
When you listen to Nunes or see him on TV, you will see he is nothing more than a liar. In a recent comment he claimed, “Delta farmers have been able to hide from reality on their islands, fisherman have filled their pockets with tax dollars and radical environmentalist have assumed greater control over the State’s water." Nothing could be further from the truth. Another particularly stupid comment was, "We (the south valley) give up water and no one else givers up water, and that time has come to an end." The fact that it isn't their water in the first place does seem to cross his mind. Nunes operates under the assumption that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe you. And those in the south valley do seem to believe him.

Kevin McCarthy is presenting bill HR 1581. If passed, this bill will stop the federal government's ability to protect and set aside wilderness areas. It will also stop all future administrations from protecting and setting aside any new wilderness areas. He is in the same ball park as former HR member Richard Pombo who wanted to sell our national parks to corporations.

Also, Tom McClintock(R) Elk Grove is an interesting study. He’s the Chair of the Water and Power subcommittee. Most voters think that they elect people who will represent their District's interest so their concerns can be heard by the government. During his committee hearings on HR 1837 he didn't want to grant time for the anti-HR 1831groups to be heard, calling it a "waste of time." Mr. McClintock's district is made up of two water districts, who will lose their major water rights holdings if HR 1837 passes, and is populated by Northern California farmers and fishermen. One has to wonder what McClintock is getting out of turning his back on two of these water districts, his districts farmers and fisherman by turning over the senior water rights for the south valley agribusiness groups and water districts. It makes one rather skeptical of his motives.

When one looks at these people it’ s easy to become a skeptic. Nunes, McCarthy, Denham, and McClintock are great favorites of the ultra-right in the Republican Party. They are fond of saying they just want to cut government spending and balance the budget. If that is true, why aren't they cutting government subsidized water and government subsidized crops in one of the most arid parts of the state? Without these government hand-outs most of the south valley would not be sustainable for farming. Yet Nunes, Denham, McCarthy and McClintock continue in their attempts for a blatant water grab. One has to wonder why.

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