California Water Bond Pulled from Ballot – 2 more years

Well, there was some question as to whether it would happen or not but apparently little Johnny got his way so the $11 billion water bond initiative will be pulled from November’s ballot.

Good riddance… or not.

Many (myself included) would argue that we desperately need this bond to pass so we can start to address the chronic water problems that plague this state. And when I say ‘desperately need’ to do this, I’m not just whistling Dixie. The construction of additional storage damns is critical, the implementation of an alternative conveyance method (i.e. peripheral canal) should have been done 14 years ago. The water issue will have greater long term consequences on this state than unemployment and Prop 32 combined.

But sensing, probably with more prescience than he has exhibited for a long time, that this proposition would go down to defeat at the hands of voters this fall, Gov. Arnold requested that the vote be delayed for 2 years and placed on the ballot again in 2012 when, apparently, all the state’s other ills will have been resolved and voters will be in a better mood to pass this bill.

That’s a stretch. Facing another $19 billion budget deficit this year and the very real prospect of higher taxes to cover it, it was probably an accurate assumption that we wouldn’t be in the proper frame of mind to pony up to another $11 billion bond. But since our budget deficit seems to have become an integral part of our state’s dysfunction, what’s the likelihood that in two short years we will have licked that problem?

Every year the budget impasse seems to get worse. We’ve resolved past years budgets by raising a few taxes, cutting a few costs and simply kicking the can further down the road. Those defrayed bills will be coming due soon, if they haven’t already. Unemployment shows no sign of letting up, housing and tech aren’t going to rebound fast enough to save us, our Democratic legislators continue to chase jobs away at prodigious rates while ramping up hiring in the public sector – why should 2012 be so much rosier than 2010?

Then there’s the bill itself. What should have been a $6 or $7 billion proposal got larded up to $11 billion by the time it hit the floor. Why? Because to insure the votes needed to pass both houses and qualify for the ballot, deals were made. Everybody with an interest in the outcome, from our legislators to the Sierra Club to the public unions and water commission insisted on plugging in their pet project to insure their acquiescence. A few million over here for Delta research, a few million over there for the Salton Sea, a few more for endangered species, pretty soon you’re talking real money – another $4 or $5 billion of real money. Don’t think for a minute that the bills opponents would have let you forget that during the run up to the election.

And aside from my concern that our water crisis is still not being resolved, as passage of this bill might have at least initiated, I’m concerned about what it will cost us to pull it off the table. The report I read stated, “After some intense late-night vote wrangling, AB1260 and AB1265, the two bills necessary to pull the water bond off the ballot, passed the Senate relatively easily but ran into heavy opposition in the Assembly”. I’m not sure if ‘heavy opposition’ is a shot at Assembly Leader John  Perez’ weight but Perez made sure everybody knew he was using this as a bargaining chip to solidify his none-too-subtle agenda. Perez, as you may be aware, is the newly anointed leader of the Assembly and thus far has exhibited all the tact and finesse of a bull at Pamplona. Be assured this marks a victory of some sort for him and if some new fee or tax emerges unopposed, you’ll know the price for Perez’ vote.

So another ‘teachable moment’ emerges from Sacramento. A badly needed solution to our state’s water crisis starts it’s humble journey only to have mountains of pork piled on it’s flanks by the greedheads charged with making it work. What may have been at least a beginning to resolving water issues has now become a victim of the same greedheads charged with making it work because they couldn’t get their acts together on the rest of their job (running our state). As one legislator put it – ‘Maybe we need to roll up our sleeves and work on a bond with more chance of success.’ I’m betting that if this bill does manage to be resuscitate in 2012, the cost will have bloated to $15 billion or more. And not one penny more will have anything to do with water. Welcome to California.

Property Rights – California’s Newest Endangered Species

‘Property rights are rapidly becoming the newest endangered species in Ventura County’, according to a recent article in the Pacific Coast Business Times. A new fight is brewing for builders at a time when our decimated building industry can scarcely afford the battle. This one is being waged in LA and Ventura County over new storm water regulations.  According to  another article in the PCBT, while ‘the new regulations were approved last May, officials are just now trying to figure out how to implement them.’

Well how California is that? Let’s pass this mother and then figure out what we did and how to enforce it. Ready, fire, aim.

According to representatives of the Building Industry as well as private and public sector agencies, the regulatins as written would add million of dollars to the cost of projects on everything from housing to roads, schools, hospitals – you name it.In many cases these costs would produce very little, if any, tangible public benefit.

The reg’s would require anywhere from 75% to 90% of rainwater run-off to be captured on-site either through catch-basins or cisterns, on-site treatment facilities or having enough green space to allow for full evaporation with no run-off. If property owners can’t meet those requirements they would either pay a fee (ala cap & trade) or have to do similar work off-site. Builders, including many operating in the public sector, say these reg’s are simply another ‘nail in the coffin’ for developers.

To make matters worse, although the ordinance has been passed in Ventura for nearly a year, regulators are just now putting together a ‘guidance manual’ for builders. This has left builders in limbo since last May trying to figure out what the reg says and how to comply. As one builder put it, “I’ve simply had to stop all my projects for 6 months or more until they figure this out so I don’t risk being out of compliance.” Another, a builder of public roadways puts it more simply. “The notion that I could be fined if so much as a single Dixie cup of water gets into the harbor from the miles of roadways and ditches I build is very scary.”

Yes it is. But unfortunately not out of character for the talking heads in Sacramento who authored the legislation that allows local authorities to implement their own rules and mandates without benefit of oversight. As a BIA rep put it, ‘there’s a lot of unknowns for factories or anything with a big footprint that might have impervious surfaces like roofs or parking lots. Auto dealers, schools, even public utilities run the risk of being unable to comply without some potentially cost prohibitive measures. In today’s world of development, there is no margin so it doesn’t take much for something to become infeasible – so projects, including some much needed and long planned projects, will simply die.’

Well isn’t that the agenda? They’ve succeeded in shutting off the water tap to Southern California to benefit the Delta Smelt. We have chased our once-thriving furniture manufacturing industry to neighboring states – there’s only one left here today. Our last automobile manufacturer is pulling up stakes. Our industrial employers are decamping for greener pastures – literally greener pastures with fewer onerous regulations. Our high tech industries are moving to neighboring states that don’t boast about being the highest tax states in the country. And now what’s left of our building industry and development community that hasn’t already been laid to waste by the economy or unemployment are being targeted by additional shortsighted environmental regulation.

Did I mention they’re also threatening to fine us or put us in jail for simply having under-inflated tires? Yeah, I just wrote about that.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum – or in this case, the liberals have taken over the state. Same difference.

Of course that’s just my opinon. I could be wrong.

RCWD Building Moratorium gets Squashed Thanks to Grassroots Effort.

Last evening the people of our community spoke and, for a change, somebody listened. That somebody, Rancho California Water District, had proposed a BUILDING MORATORIUM by eliminating eliminating the issuance of water availability letters and the installation of new water meters. That would have deleteriously impacted residential and commercial development in the City of Temecula, some in the City of Murrieta, the Wine Country and other unincorporated areas including the vineyards and avocado and citrus groves.

The effort brought out am avalanche of community response, hundreds of letters and emails generated by the business and Real Estate community, and a parade of speakers in opposition to the proposal – a true Grassroots effort. City and County leaders, developers, wineries, Realtors, attorneys business owners and ‘just plain folks’ spoke out against this poorly conceived and ill-timed matter.

The outpouring was so large that RCWD had to bring in workers to direct traffic in their lot and post security. As one Director noted, there were more people assembled last night than they’ve seen in total in the past ten years.

The dog-and-pony show that preceded public comments included presentations from RCWD General Manager Matt Stone as well as representatives from the Metropolitan Water District and the Eastern and Western Municipal Water Districts. I suspect RCWD brought these folks in thinking they would bolster RCWD‘s position in playing up the water crisis. Unfortunately these representatives did just the opposite. They spoke of being ‘under allocation’, the positive effects that conservation measures have provided and the variety of projects underway and planned to address the shortage at the local and state level. Kinda takes the wind out of your sails when the people you get the water from poo-poo your whole rationale. As Eastern’s GM told us – the problem is not No water but rather no CHEAP water.

There is no denying that California is experiencing a drought – a combination of natural drought caused by less rainfall and snowpack the past 3 years, and a regulatory drought caused by a federal judge responding to environmentalists concerned about the possible extinction of the Delta Smelt. This last aspect has actually contributed more to the problem than the lack of rainfall, leading to greatly restricted water flowing to 20 million Southern Californians and to the Central Valley.

The Central Valley of our state, often referred to as the foodbasket of the nation, has allowed over 200,000 acres to go fallow from lack of irrigation water, entire groves of fruit and nut trees are dying and unemployment is over 40%. New tiered water rate structures have boosted everybodies bills by 20% – 40% with more coming in spite of the fact that demand from our largest wholesaler – Metropolitan, has declined in each of the last four years.

Our water companies have borrowed a page from the oil company playbook – whenever there’s a shortage, whether real or perceived, don’t miss that opportunity to jack your rates. But as I told them last night, not even the oil companies are shortsighted enough to propose a moratorium on building automobiles. Our local economy is built around positive growth – shut that down, you shut down the whole revenue stream,the job market and critical city services.

The problem with the Director who proposed the moratorium, Jack Hoagland, is that he is being myopic to a fault. He is looking at the issue as if water is the only player in the game. He has consistently refused to acknowledge that he is surrounded by an entire forest as he focuses on a single tree, that water is but one tile in the mosaic that makes up our economic community.

The efforts of our cities, our EDC, our Chambers has been to support the businesses that are trying to hang on during these challenging times and attract new ones bringing much needed job growth to the area. Currently over 60% of our residents still commute to San Diego, Orange or LA counties to work. A moratorium is a job-killer for our community while chasing those jobs and tax revenue to nearby cities not subject to RCWD. It shuts off the spigot not just for water but for much needed jobs.

Last night five out of seven RCWD Directors got it. Thankfully.

But as they and other pointed out, we need an El Nino this winter, Colorado needs a lot of snow, and we as a state need to pass the recently enacted $11 Billion water bond measure next year to bring some long term relief to our over burdened water infrastructure. Otherwise this moratorium proposal may be revisited and next time we may not prevail.

If the meeting accomplished nothing else, it elevated the discussion to a whole new level and provided a good education to a lot of people who may not otherwise be engaged. RCWD is evaluating other alternatives now and a new dialogue has been opened between them and the community they serve. Let’s hope we can all make the most of this reprieve.


Update on State Water Policy Issues

Want an update on where the state is on water policy? Nowhere – as usual. And why we can’t get anywhere is pretty well summarized here.

Capitol Weekly recaps the week that was in water policy , and looks at the new bond proposals put forward Wednesday.

Water Resources director Lester Snowsaid Wednesday the state already has the authority to build the peripheral canal.

“We clearly have the authority to do that,” he said. “That’s not something that’s a mystery to us.”

Of course, some enviros don’t see it quite that way, but we can have that fight after a water bill is signed by the governor…

“In addition to the intricate policy details, politics has complicated the water talks throughout this months-long process. With the state’s budget facing what Assembly GOP leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, said could be a $20 billion deficit next year, taking on more debt to pay for water storage and upgrades may be a tough sell to voters.

“Republicans are aware of those political realities, and want to ensure that the changes to state water policy – which do not need to go before voter, and can be passed through the Legislature on a majority vote – are still good for the state, with or without a water bond.”

“It’s just real tough to find the right mix of water policy changes and financing that wins enough votes to pass the Senate and Assembly.

Lobbyists who have done the math say so. And water negotiations have progressed to the point where vote counting has begun.

“Here’s the problem in a nutshell: The top demand for liberal Democrats is a strong policy bill that wins the support of environmetnalists on changes such as new conservation laws and giving the State Water Resources Control Board new powers to enforce water rights laws. The GOP’s goal is a new bond to pay for dams and other water projects.

“But at the moment, Republicans aren’t totally satisfied with the policy changes. They, for instance, think the water board gains too much power and could levy expensive fees unfairly for alleged illegal diversions of water. Democrats counter that the powers are needed to capture more water savings.

Republican votes aren’t needed for the policy changes (it’s a majority vote bill). But the GOP says it won’t put up the votes for a bond — which requires a supermajority — until their policy demands are met. But if the policy bill changes much at all, environmentalits have threatened to walk away. And that will cost Democratic votes.”

There you have it, boys and girls. Water politics, 101.

To read the full Roundup, click here: http://www.capitolbasement.com/?1&_c=ydj48szq0n1dx8&_ce=1256836060.20e1c75f232e71b51c768aa6412bede1

Water & Power. California politics at its depressing best.

When you start your day attending two meetings where the speakers apologize for being depressing, the rest of your day can only improve.  That was my day today.

I started with an early morning meeting of the Southwest California Economic Development Corporation where we were treated to remarks by John Rossi, General Manager of Western Municipal Water District. Apologizing for depressing us, John presented a factual summary of where our state is waterwise and how the water districts are dealing with our current situation. Having toured the Northern end of our state water supply system last year from Oroville Dam to LA, and having written about the issue on numerous occasions, I believe that rather than being depressed we should see this as a call to action. As Rossi did when he encouraged us not only to use our resources wisely but to engage our legislators in recognizing the complexity of the issue and dealing with it comprehensively.

With over 70% of SoCal water deriving from the north, another 25% from the Colorado River and about 5% from ground water & desalinization,  it’s clear where the answer lies. Prayer. But in addition to prayer, the water department is also working legislatively through the current ‘special session’ to address both conservation and infrastructure issues. Until and if those solutions ever bear fruit, they will also continue to squeeze their customers. Oh, by the way, if those solutions do bear fruit, they will still continue to squeeze their customers. Why? Because they can. And any fix – even the inadequate Democrat proposals, will come with a big price tag that somebody has to pay for.

Here’s a fun factoid. During the past year our primary wholesale supplier of water, Metropolitan Water District, has instituted rate increases of nearly 40%. These increases were designed to encourage conservation – a very admirable goal and one that will certainly help us deal with the problem. There’s another 20% increase due in a month or two. Why? Because our conservation efforts have been so successful at reducing water consumption that Metropolitan has less revenue coming in to service their bond debt and fixed expenses. So they need to raise rates again because the first rate increases were so successful at changing our consumption habits. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Is there a win-win in here anywhere?

Think our bills will go down anytime soon? The you should have been to the EWDC luncheon featuring Senator John Benoit and Assemblymembers Brian Nestande and Kevin Jeffries. The operative words here were also ‘depressing’ and/or ‘frustrating’ by turns, for the state’s economic outlook, any chance for real reform and for the water picture.

Assemblymember Jeffries, who was appointed to the state special commission on water, remains hopeful that some compromise solution will be reached soon, possibly as early as this coming week. He bemoaned the fact that water has become so politicized that true progress remains elusive. While the party in power in Sacramento thinks the problem can be solved by merely conserving more and restoring the Delta, the minority view prefers conservation coupled with additional infrastructure to provide long-term solutions. Capturing and storing rainfall and snowpack for future use, channeling current water resources without adversely impacting the Delta Estuary, new dams, an alternative conveyance AND continued conservation are all part of a comprehensive solution.

Our current drought is caused in equal parts by nature and regulation. Our dams truly are down by 1/2 to 2/3rds as a result of rainfall & snowpack the past few years. It is regulatory by virtue of the fact that judicial decree has determined the rights of the Delta Smelt take precedence over 18 million water users, farmers and food producers throughout the central and southern parts of the state. There are also complex water rights issues with people at the watershed source and with environmental groups concerned about preservation of the Delta. It wouldn’t be an easy fix even on a level playing field – given the way our legislature operates it’s a wonder anything happens at all.

All panelists agreed that jobs are the answer for our state. “Not bigger government, not more taxes, more jobs”, according to Senator Benoit.  “Taxes up, jobs down, legislature ineffective”, according to Jeffries.’450,000 jobs lost this year at an average $68,000 per, 150,000 jobs created at an average of $52,000 per – not good’ according to Nestande.

Jeffries also pointed out that the party in power, regardless of which party, has shown they will do darn near anything to perpetuate that power. There was some disagreement as to whether term limits have been effective at making our state more governable but all agreed that term limits have resulted in shifting power from the people who should be accountable, (our legislators), to people who are not accountable, (staff and lobbyists). The people who make the decisions aren’t around long enough to have to deal with the consequences of their actions so what’s their motivation to work for the long-term good? (Please keep in mind that all legislators are not altruistic by nature. Some just love the power, some just love the perks, and some just want to have a lobbyist mistress who wears a thong).

Agreeing that reform must occur if California is to turn itself around in any meaningful and sustainable way, they admit that if the legislature is not prepared to reform itself then the public will have to do it for them. When asked about the prospect of that occurring through Constitutional Convention, Jeffries voiced some concern about what could result from opening that can of worms while Nestande opined that any result probably couldn’t be much worse than the status quo.

Depressed yet? You shouldn’t be. This is California politics at its best. The more you know, the better prepared you are to deal with it. If you’re not at the table, you’ll surely be on the menu. Sometimes you might be anyway. Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Another California Crisis – RivCo Water Symposium

symposium

Today marked the 6th Annual Riverside County Water Symposium. The event featured a series of panels and speakers discussing the water challenges facing our state today. The keynote was delivered by Michael Chrisman, California Secretary for Natural Resources.

Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley set the tone by stating that we are literally playing Russian Roulette with the Sacramento Delta. One little mis-hap, a flood, an earthquake, terrorist threat or an angry gopher could disrupt the water supply to 25 million Californians and dramatically impact the economy of this state for decades. As he noted, we’d be up a creek all right but it would be a dry creek. We can’t conserve our way out of this mess – we must address and resolve some of the fundamental problems with our systems starting with the Sacramento Delta. When the Delta fails – not if but when, it will make Katrina and Andrew look like childs play in terms of damage to the area, the ecosystem and the state’s economy.

I don’t think it comes as a big surprise that our water systems, much of it built 30 – 50 years ago, was never designed or intended to meet today’s demand. And while environmental concerns have acted to restrict the flow of existing water (see Delta Smelt), those same concerns have prevented us from developing new resources or re-working other solutions (peripheral canal). In the past 100 years we’ve relied on big projects, big technological developments and throwing big money at it. That’s not viable in the 21st Century where we face higher demand with fewer resources and less money.

One thing they all agreed on, we’ve witnessed the end of the era of cheap water. You are no longer assured of getting all the water you want – rather they’ll be working hard just to get you all the water you  need, and at a price you can still afford. After all, Western Municipal, which provides most of  Southern California’s water to our local providers, is implementing a 19.7% increase this September followed by another 21% jump in 2011.  Tiered pricing will become the norm with conservation being rewarded while profligate use will be penalized. After all, upwards of 80% of domestic water use is OUTSIDE the home with as much as 50% of that is wasted in run-off, over-spray, etc.  If homeowners worked their land like farmers, we could dramatically decrease water usage. But even reduced usage will eventually result in higher bills as infrastructure improvements are required.

Some positive notes – from John Rossi, GM of Western Municipal – ‘In every crisis is an opportunity’.  This may be the best time in 25 years to actually fund and implement some real solutions in the Delta in spite of California’s economy. But the timing is critical and they are forming coalitions to get active on this NOW. They are encouraged to be working with some of the groups that have been adversaries in the past but have a new view of what can and should happen to the Delta going forward. They are asking Sacramento to stop politicizing the issue. The resource is neither a Democratic nor a Republican resource and the resolution to the issue will be derived by working together. They also wish Sacramento would focus on getting it’s own act together and quit issuing new and/or redundant requirements and compliance reports about issues they have no clue. Well, good luck on that one.

They are further encouraged by the possibility of obtaining some bail-out funds for critical projects. However, as one noted, the structure of the bail-out rewards the inept. If you’ve managed your business right, you probably don’t qualify. (Hmmmm, where have we seen that before?) For example, one of the requirements to qualify for Federal funds is to have ‘shovel-ready’ projects – yet few associations or water departments can afford to plan and implement a project to a shovel-ready state without having had the funding mechanism for the project in place from the out-set. It’s one of those catch 22’s – you can’t develop a project unless you have money but you can’t have money until your project’s developed. Duhhhh.

Secretary Chrisman noted that we have recently had two prominent California water experts placed in high Federal office, which bodes well for some of our projects. The new Director of the Department of Water Resources has mandated that human costs be factored into consideration along with the customary environmental impact and structural costs. They’re also evaluating California Water Law, which currently ranks as the most complex water law in the country. Our combination of old British Water Law, adopted in the 1850’s, usufructuary, riparian and appropriative water rights creates quite a challenging environment to work in. He also noted that the Endangered Species Act has been used at times as a very blunt instrument to craft laws and they are petitioning for reconsideration of the Delta Smelt and other ‘endangered’ species.

As with so many issues facing California today, we are at a crossroads in our water supply. As Mark Twain opined, “Whiskey is for drinkin’, water is for fightin’ over.” It looks like we’re coming into the fightin’ season for California water right now and, as with all our endeavors, we as Realtors had better be at the table with them – or we’ll sure as hell be on the menu.


Putting fish first – Ken Calvert Warns HNRC

This morning Corona Congressman Ken Calvert testified about the water situation in California. Ken laid it on the line for them that they are putting a species of fish before the water needs of California.

This continued action by the federal Government will ensure that our water bills spike, that farms go under and that the state of California continues to suffer under a self-imposed drought. It ain’t real people. Look at the amount of water that spills from, the Sacramento River into the ocean on any given day.

No it’s not a supply problem, it’s a political problem. It would be easier to count on an act of nature than put our faith in whatever comes out of the House Natural Resources Committee. This was the same group that State Senator Hollingsworth was trying to get our Governor to contact regarding this very issue. Arnie hasn’t stepped up yet but Ken Calvert has. Thanks Ken.

Just tap the logo to get more info from Ken.

ken calvert

Dear Friends,

This morning I testified before the House Natural Resources Committee on the California Water Drought. I thought it was necessary to point out the federally-imposed pumping restrictions puts a species of fish – the delta smelt – before the water needs of Californians.

I stated to the Committee that the current drought is not like other droughts. In addition to suffering from a natural dry spell, California is also suffering from a federally-imposed dry spell. In December 2007, a federal judge ordered restrictions on water project operations in the Bay-Delta to help protect a threatened fish species, the delta smelt. Combined with the dry conditions, the impact of the federally-imposed pumping restrictions is extraordinary. In total, the federally imposed water restrictions have resulted in the loss of nearly a third of the water supply that 25 million Californians depend on from the Delta operations.

I told the Members of the Committee that if the federal government is going to continue to give federal agencies the authority to take actions that kill jobs and harm our economy for the benefit of species, then the American people deserve clear and undeniable evidence that those actions are in fact benefiting the species (I don’t believe that such evidence exists).

As the former the former Chairman of the House Water and Power Subcommittee, I understand that we must work to maintain and enhance a reliable water supply in California and our nation. In 2004 I was able to pass, H.R. 2828, the Water Supply, Reliability and Environmental Enhancement Act, and it was signed into law. This federal reauthorization of the California-Federal Bay Delta Program (CALFED) plays a critical role in developing new water yield and adequate storage.

Since I was first elected to Congress I have spent a considerable amount of my time and energy trying to address the water challenges in California. In my quest for long-term solutions, I have always been willing to reach across the aisle and I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to tackle California’s water challenges.

Sincerely,

Ken Calvert
MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Looking for Land Use Problems YOU Have.

There are times I’ve been critical of some NAR positions and pronouncements. But when they do it right it’s a thing of beauty. I’m proud to be a Member of the Land Use, Property Rights and Environment Committee. Between national meetings the group usually has a Webinar or 2, as we did today preparatory to our meetings in Washington DC in May.

This Committee deals with a fascinating range of problems related to federal land use legislation. I’ve posted info on some issues like the checkerboard land use issue, water rights, coastal and riparian issues. As you might imagine, in this great land – from sea to shining sea, there is a wide variety of issues. But some consistently emerge at the top of the list, things like water rights, land grants/transfers, the gamut of ‘green’ issues and zoning/domain issues, to name a few.

In DC the committee will hold a Forum on Tuesday, 5/12, in the Omni. It’s an open forum to bring your own state, regional or local concerns to the committee. If you have local concerns, make sure your state/NAR Directors are aware of them. I will also be happy to pass along any comments made to this post.

Water is a pre-eminent issue across the country. From California to Maine, from Texas to Minnesota – water is king. And where there are water issues there are often collateral issues like endangered species, anything green, land use & water rights.

This also morphs into a second major concern right now, that of the checkerboard land use problem. Over the years land trusts have built up to manage these ‘public’ lands. In the absence of strong federal policy, they have pushed their own agenda’s, often to the detriment of adjacent property owners and communities. Stories were shared of these landowners doing land swaps of 100 acres for 600 acres, or swapping land rights but keeping water rights – minor annoyances like that.

Anyway, if you’re going to be in DC in May, stop by the Omni on Tuesday morning at 9. Or, if you don’t want to be up that early, just leave a comment here and I’ll let them know it’s from the ActiveRain Land Use Group.

Gene, the biggest land use issue where I’m from is:


Senator Hollingsworth Calls Out the GOD Squad

I am often reminded just how fortunate we are to have the legislators we do working on our behalf in Sacramento. This is especially true when I see the yabos some of my counterparts are forced work with to attain reasoned discourse and successful programs.

Some time back I wrote about the sorry state of our water system as I had gleaned from visiting many of the facilities starting at the headwaters of the Oroville Dam and ending up at my own tap. (Water Tour Day 1, Water Tour Day 2, Water Tour Day 3) Recent statistics have indicated that our two main reservoirs in Northern California are at just over 30% capacity due to the prolonged drought conditions.

While that in itself has resulted in 30%+ reductions to the amount of water shipped south for our consumption, last year that amount was further reduced by almost 85% due to emergency rulings in favor of environmental concerns about the Delta Smelt, a tiny fish found in profusion in the Sacramento Delta system.

The theory is that these smelt occasionally congregate around water intakes, get sucked into the pumps and die. Water providers have had to install expensive nets and strainers to keep the fishies safe but even those extensive and expensive measures don’t please the enviro’s.

So water bound for Southern California and our millions of citizens is shut off so the smelt can copulate and frolic without fear of demise at the hands of us vicious water consumers.

While Senate Democrats wrestle valiantly with ways to enhance state revenues (i.e. raise your taxes), Republicans are attempting to deal with some of the real issues we face – like the very real possibility of severe water shortages this summer if this issue is not resolved. When you see the Senator, be sure and thank him for his efforts on our behalf in the face of overwhelming negativity from the enviro’s and the GREENS.

senator hollingsworth

Hollingsworth, Republicans Urge Governor to Call for Convention of “God Squad”

Federal Ruling on ESA Water Restrictions Devastating to State

Senator Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) and 27 Republicans have sent a letter (see below) to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, urging him to call upon the President and the Secretary of the Interior to convene the Endangered Species Committee, or “God Squad.” The- letter requests an appeal of water restrictions on California as mandated by federal court rulings to protect the Delta smelt.

“Every drop of water is a valuable commodity in California and it is crucial that we protect what little we have,” stated Senator Hollingsworth. “We are not only facing a natural drought, but one that is court-imposed, which will only worsen our current economic situation and impact many California communities and farmers who are already facing severe water restrictions.”

Under the provisions of a 1978 amendment of The Endangered Species Act (ESA), a committee comprised of seven Cabinet level members called the Endangered Species Committee (nicknamed “the God Squad”) can be convened to hear exemptions from the ESA’s stringent provisions. The plea to lift the water restrictions complies with the exemption requirements, in that there is no reasonable alternative to the agencies’ action and that the action is of extraordinary regional importance. The Governor is the only non-federal official who can request the Committee be convened to relax the regulations.

Following two years of drought and the current dismal snowpack, California’s water reserves have become dangerously low and the court-ordered water delivery restrictions have diminished supplies from the state’s two largest water systems by almost 30 percent.

“The Governor has wisely directed state agencies and departments to take immediate action to address the serious drought conditions that exist in California,” concluded Hollingsworth. “Republicans in the Legislature are hopeful he will take further action and request that the federal government intervene on our behalf as well.”

Dennis Hollingsworth represents the 36th Senate District. The district includes Southwest Riverside County, North and East San Diego County, and portions of the City of San Diego.


February 5, 2009

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

As you are keenly aware, California is in the midst of the most grave water crisis in its history. Following two years of drought and the current dismal snowpack, water reserves have become dangerously low. Further, the court-ordered restrictions on water deliveries from the Delta due to the listing of endangered species, have diminished supplies from the state’s two largest water systems by almost 30 percent.

While we are deeply concerned with the effects both the natural drought and the court- imposed drought will have on the many California communities who are already facing severe water restrictions, it is imperative that we address the economic devastation to our state as well.

Every drop of water is a valuable commodity in California and it is crucial that we protect what little we have. Approximately two-thirds of all Californians – an estimated 23 million people – obtain at least a portion of their water from the Delta, which firmly establishes that the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the single largest source of California’s water. Without question, we have been devastated by the federal ruling which ordered protective measures for the smelt and cut water exports by a third.

Thus, we are asking that you submit a formal petition to the United States Department of the Interior and request the Endangered Species Committee (or “God Squad”) be convened to address our appeal to lift the water restrictions on California as mandated by federal court rulings to protect the Delta smelt. As per the 1978 amendment to the Endangered Species Act, we believe this conforms to the exemption request requirements, in that there is no reasonable alternative to the agencies’ action and most importantly, the action is of extraordinary regional importance.

Governor, you have wisely directed state agencies and departments to take immediate action to address the serious drought conditions and water delivery reductions that exist in California. Although an uncommon request, we nonetheless urge you to take further action and request that the federal government intervene on our behalf as well.

Thank you for your consideration of this timely and urgent request.

Sincerely,

DENNIS HOLLINGSWORTH
Senator, 36th District