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Governor Jerry Brown backs deal to increase pumping Delta water to Big Ag
by Dan Bacher
Friday Nov 30th, 2018 5:26 PM
"Brown just capitulated to Trump and his crony, David Bernhardt," said John McManus, President of the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA). "Heck of a way to end eight years as governor."
In a move that drew harsh criticism from fishing and environmental groups, California Governor Jerry Brown today announced that he backs the controversial Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act) provisions proposed by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in a deal designed to increase water deliveries to agribusiness. 

“I support the 7-year extension of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, including important provisions that House Majority Leader McCarthy and Senator Feinstein have proposed that enable California water users to participate in voluntary agreements and help improve river flows to restore fish populations,” said Brown in a statement.

The Brown administration says the WINN Act’s provisions ensure that any changes to water operations must be consistent with the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The legislation would also make $670 million in federal funding available for water storage projects, including new dams and reservoirs, in California.

“To save his delta tunnels, Gov. Jerry Brown just cut a deal with the Trump administration to build more dams in California," Lois Kazanoff, Deputy Editorial Page Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, commented in a tweet after Brown issued his statement.

Brown has been urging water contractors to participate in voluntary agreements to pay for habitat restoration and other improvements so they don’t have to give up as much water as proposed by the State Water Resources Control Board in its plan to provide increased flows for salmon, steelhead and other fish species on the San Joaquin River.

The board is scheduled to vote on this plan at its meeting in Sacramento on December 12. The board had been originally scheduled to vote on the proposal in its November meeting, but Brown and Governor Elect Gavin Newson convinced the Board to delay the vote until December.

Fish and Delta advocates say Brown has traded state support for the WIIN Act for Trump administration support for his widely-opposed Delta Tunnels. The original WINN Act was intended to be a two-year emergency measure to address water deliveries during the recent California drought.

Kevin McCarthy is not only the House Majority Leader, but is one of the strongest Congressional supporters of President Donald Trump, while Feinstein is the senior California Democrat in the Senate. According to the Washington Post, Kevin McCarthy “relishes” his role as “Trump’s fixer, friend and candy man.” (

The legislation is opposed by fishing groups, Tribal leaders, conservation organizations, environmental justice groups and public trust advocates because it would renew and potentially expand increased pumping of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. 

Fishing organization leaders are particularly angry with the state-federal deal because both the Delta Tunnels and the WINN Act will further imperil populations of salmon and other fish species that have declined over the past decade, causing enormous economic losses to commercial, tribal and recreational fishermen and coastal and inland economies.

PCFFA: "A shady water move”

Calling Brown’s action today a “shady water move,” Noah Oppenheim, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), stated, "This irresponsible lame duck deal making will destroy West Coast commercial salmon jobs.”

“The WIIN Act was a loser of a bill two years ago, and extending it for seven more years is ludicrous. If a bad water rider is the price our Governor and state agencies are willing to pay to get the water users to sit down at the table, then shame on them. This move will be a stain on his greenwash legacy," said Oppenheim, whose organization is a coastwide federation of 15 different local and regional commercial fishermen’s organizations with fishermen members from most of the ports on the West Coast.

Likewise, John McManus, President of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, bluntly assessed the impact of Brown’s support of the WINN Act.

”There's no way to sugar coat this,” said McManus. “Today Governor Brown took a big step towards selling out California's biggest salmon runs in order to keep the Trump administration from killing the governor's Delta tunnels. Brown is now backing the WIIN Act which allows damaging additional diversion of northern California salmon rivers to almond growers in the western San Joaquin Valley.”

“Only the state's refusal to play along has held back catastrophe to date.  Brown just capitulated to Trump and his crony, David Bernhardt. Heck of a way to end eight years as governor. Governor Brown, are you planning to follow Governors Deukmejian and Wilson by stopping the State Water Board from doing its job when it meets December 12?” asked McManus.

McManus said the federal government had "significant leverage" to extract this statement of support from Governor Brown. The Bureau of Reclamation has the ability to withdraw the State Water Board permit application for his Delta Tunnels project. "It appears that Mr. Brown is eager to persuade the federal government not to do that,” concluded McManus. 

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, also slammed Brown’s support of the WINN Act in a statement, calling it a “betrayal” of the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary and its people and urging Feinstein to withdraw her support of the legislation:

“In the final days of his term, Governor Brown has once again betrayed the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary and its people. The WIIN Act was supposed to be a two-year emergency measure during extreme drought. That was what we were promised by Senator Feinstein.

“Governor Brown supports a renewal of the WIIN ACT that includes backroom deals for how water will be managed in California and continuing to make Delta communities and fisheries the losers.

“We call on Senator Feinstein to drop her support of WIIN ACT renewal and to abandon partnering with San Joaquin Valley House Republicans to deplete the San Francisco Bay-Delta watershed.

“To Governor Brown, we say enough. For eight years, your policies have been about wrecking our region and our home.”  

Water deal follows signing of two memorandums

Today’s deal comes in the wake of the recent signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to ensure that Donald Trump’s October 19 Presidential Memorandum on “promoting the reliable supply and delivery of water in the West” is “implemented as quickly and smoothly as possible.”

The Presidential memorandum directs Interior and Commerce to “do what it takes to ensure that western water users have what they need to irrigate millions of acres of farmland and provide water and power to millions of Americans.”

The Presidential memorandum further directs the Interior and Commerce Departments to take several specific actions, including:

Expediting regulatory actions essential to the operation of water infrastructure while ensuring compliance with the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act;
Improving the information and modeling capabilities related to water availability;
Expanding use of water desalination and water recycling;
Removing unnecessary burdens unique to the operation of the Columbia River Basin’s water infrastructure.
“This Memorandum moves us one step closer toward ensuring Western water infrastructure can meet the demands of water users today, and in the future,” commented Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in reference to the MOA.

Zinke travelled to the Central Valley on November 27 to discuss “improving water infrastructure” and “increasing storage capacity” — building new dams and raising Shasta Dam — with state, federal and water agency officials.

Water deal not surprising, in light of past Trump and Brown collaboration 

This report of a water deal between the Trump and Brown administrations before Brown leaves office in January shouldn’t be surprising, since Governor Brown, while often portrayed by many mainstream and "alternative" media sources as a “climate leader” and “the Resistance to Trump,” has collaborated with Trump on both the construction of the Delta Tunnels and the exemption of California oil fields from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

And while claiming to “oppose” Trump’s plan to open new federal leases to offshore drilling on the Pacific Coast, Brown controls 4 times the number of offshore wells that Trump controls — and has overseen the approval of 238 offshore wells in state waters between 2012 and 2016.

Offshore wells in state waters controlled by the Brown Administration total 5460, versus 1429 offshore wells in federal waters, those three nautical miles or more off California’s coast controlled by the Trump administration, according to Consumer Watchdog. For more information, go to: 

Unless Brown suddenly changes course before he leaves office, it appears that his “environmental legacy” will include increased water exports out of the Delta, the continued destruction of West Coast fisheries and imperiled salmon and steelhead populations and the approval of over 21,000 new oil and gas permits in California. That’s why it is so important that public trust and environmental justice advocates exert heavy political pressure on Governor Elect Gavin Newson to break with Brown’s environmental policies and halt the Delta Tunnels and new oil and gas drilling in California.

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