Families Protecting the Valley's Executive Director John Broeske will speak at the Madera County Farm Bureau's Regional Conference this Friday at Noon. John will be joined by Jim Verboon, a friend of FPV. They will discuss 'The Delta and Our Water', a look at the marketing campaign that helped lead to the decision by the Central Valley Water Control Board to force the Sacramento regional wastewater treatment plant to upgrade their system to filter out ammonia. Ammonia is one of the Delta stressors that has been talked about for years, but never dealt with by officials. After the decision by the Water Quality Control Board, the Sacramento Bee editorialized that Families Protecting the Valley was a 'cuddly sounding front group' deflecting attention from their own actions harming the Delta. We responded and the Sacramento Bee published our response. The editorial and response are both below for you to review. We hope to see you at the conference this Friday at Madera State Center Community College (30277 Avenue 12, just off 99). The complete agenda of speakers is available here.
If you enjoy our newsletter, please help us grow by sending it to a friend. If someone sent this to you, and you would like your own free subscription, please sign up here.
Editorial: Shared Sacrifice In The Delta Takes A Holiday
For the last two years, water exporters in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley have mounted a sophisticated public relations campaign to deflect attention from their own actions in harming the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Creating and encouraging cuddly sounding front groups such as "Families Protecting the Valley" and "Coalition for a Sustainable Delta," these water exporters have attempted to portray ammonia from Sacramento's regional wastewater treatment plant as a leading cause of the Delta's decline. Earlier this year, they touted the questionable research of a Maryland scientist (hired by the water contractors) who concluded that "the primary changes in the ecology" of the Delta were attributable to nutrients, mainly ammonia from Sacramento's plant.
On Thursday, that investment in hired-gun research and public relations paid off for the exporters. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board slapped a new permit on the Sacramento plant that could force the region, during tough economic times, to invest $1.3 billion to $2 billion in removing ammonia and other pollutants over the next 10 years.
It's only fair that Sacramento pay its fair share to help the Delta. Yet it is far from certain that full ammonia removal would result in measurable benefits for imperiled smelt and salmon. Those fish face a range of threats – from unscreened water diversions to farm runoff to the massive state and federal pumps that move water to the south.
If Sacramento's new permit were part of broader set of sacrifices and regulatory actions – such as a crackdown on selenium runoff or reduced water exports in the future – it would be easier to swallow. Instead of agreeing to sacrifices, water interests such the Westlands Water District are attempting to secure guarantees that they will get more water from the Delta, not less.
Earlier this week, The Bee editorial board urged regulators to take an incremental approach, requiring a 50 percent reduction in ammonia from the Sacramento plant, with additional reductions if subsequent science showed they were necessary. Yet it was clear Thursday that, despite listening to 14 hours of testimony, the water board wasn't budging from its staff recommendation. The vote was unanimous, including votes from two board members that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had appointed just two days prior to the meeting.
Until now, The Bee has been open to far-reaching changes in management of the Delta, including a new canal or tunnel to convey water and limit damage caused by the existing Delta pumps. Yet the power play unleashed by water exporters against Sacramento, coupled with their own refusal to make sacrifices, has greatly damaged trust in the ongoing process.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson called it "a war between North and South." It is looking more and more like that is the case.
The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District should appeal Thursday's decision to the State Water Resources Control Board, but not hold its breath hoping for relief.
The power and votes are in Southern California. The cards are stacked against the North.
Another View: Other Regions Have Sacrificed For Decades
One hardly knows how to respond to The Bee's Dec. 11 editorial "Shared sacrifice in the Delta takes a holiday." Taking the benign view that the opinion is born of ignorance rather than bias, allow me to present the issue from the perspective of folks who have sacrificed since 1992.
The Central Valley Project Improvement Act was passed in 1992. It exponentially increased costs to all federal water users and drastically reduced deliveries to many as well. In retrospect, these same users had opportunities to address this situation in earlier years but opted to play "hard ball" and resist any changes.
Once the political dynamics changed, environmental zealots like Rep. George Miller used their newly acquired power to exact draconian measures primarily upon agricultural users in the Central Valley. The situation seems analogous to the one the editorial complains about. This sewage problem has been known for decades, but the powers that be have resisted any change. Now that change can no longer be avoided, you complain about the lack of "shared sacrifice." Sorry, but everyone else has already been sacrificing.
Families Protecting the Valley and its directors have been called many things, but never before "cuddly." We were not created by exporters. We are a successor to the organization formed to fight an attempt to take groundwater in Madera County. It is indeed made up of family farmers, and we are sometimes at odds with our local politicians and other water and agricultural organizations. For instance, Families Protecting the Valley was active in pointing out the many flaws in the recent water bond, and many of our directors actively opposed it.
Bottom line, all of us, including The Bee, and particularly some in the environmental community should get off of this holier than thou attitude and start working together with the rest of us to address the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and California's water problems.
Bay Area cities and Sacramento can start doing their part by cleaning up their sewage before they dump it into the Bay-Delta. It's the right thing to do. This would improve the water quality for fish and prevent sewage from contaminating the drinking water source for 25 million people downstream.
John Broeske is the executive director for Families Protecting the Valley.