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Wiggle Room

Significant policy discretion? How much? 5%? 10%? 50%? We'd like to know.

Dec 05, 2013

Forgive us for being a little cynical, but we feel like we've been here before, a feeling of deja vu. We live in a state almost 100% run by Democrats. They are responsible for passing the laws that make it difficult, if not impossible, to get the water we need for agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. After passing the laws, they hire bureaucrats to implement the laws and do what is necessary to make sure the intent of the laws are carried out.

Two of the politicians who have been around the longest, Dianne Feinstein and Jim Costa, have written a letter to the bureaucrats to ask them to please not interpret the laws in the way that both of them voted, which is in a way that limits the amount of water sent to Central Valley farms. Why write a letter to bureaucrats? Their letter says, "
As you know, there is significant policy discretion in how these biological opinions are implemented and it is imperative that every opportunity is taken to reduce the socioeconomic and environmental damage that is occurring." Significant policy discretion? How much? 5%? 10%? 50%? We'd like to know. Is it in the law? Is it the 'wiggle room' clause? If a congressman or senator writes a letter, does the 'wiggle room' clause go into effect?

But, why ask the bureaucrats to do anything? Why not just change the laws? Every time a change in the law is proposed, what are we told? "It'll never pass the Senate." Why won't it pass the Senate? Because of Dianne Feinstein. So, Senator Feinstein will invoke the 'wiggle room' clause, but won't consider changing the law in the Senate? Could we at least write a better 'wiggle room' clause? We would suggest that bureaucrats be given 20% wiggle room (policy discretion). That way they could make 5% into 25% and be within the law without needing a letter from anyone. Or, are the letters necessary for fundraising purposes?



Letter: Feinstein and Costa Send Letter to Secretary Jewell and Secretary Pritzker

Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Jim Costa have teamed up to write a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to ask for their continued efforts in securing additional water supplies to supplement the potentially low surface water allocations that are feared if conditions remain dry.


The letter blames pumping restrictions due to the biological opinions as well as the State Water Board’s water quality control requirements in part for the low supplies:

” … These restrictions have resulted in levels of reservoir storage being well below their historic averages and have eliminated much of the flexibility of water managers to respond to additional supply constraints. Ongoing efforts of water managers across the state to enhance their available water supplies through innovative conservation techniques and new projects have delayed many of the most egregious impacts of the continued drought. Despite these efforts, a third dry year will have dramatic and catastrophic impacts to the population of California and the nation and will result in the loss of thousands of jobs, the fallowing of thousands of acres of prime agricultural farmland, rising local and national food costs, increased chances of major wildfires similar to the Rim Fire, and increased land subsidence as a result of continued depletion of groundwater basins. … “


The letter notes that the Bureau of Reclamation, US FWS and NOAA engaged in a collaborative effort that resulted in some additional near-term water supplies, but the effort has failed to provide enough alternate supplies to offset the impacts of the ongoing drought, the water quality control requirements, and the ‘restrictive implementation’ of the biological opinions.


They ask the Secretaries to review the Central Valley Project Operations Plan and identify all additional measures their departments could be taking:

” … Significant precipitation and the maximum discretion allowed under the biological opinions are vital to prevent severe adverse impacts to the people of the Central Valley and to California’s economy. As you know, there is signifi.cant policy discretion in how these biological opinions are implemented and it is imperative that every opportunity is taken to reduce the socioeconomic and environmental damage that is occurring. Maximum engagement at the highest levels will be required in order to improve the situation for water users in the Central Valley and Southern California and prevent impacts to California’s population not seen since the 2009 and 2010 water years. … “


Read the full text of the letter here: DF and Costa to Jewell and Pritzker re Water Supply 112713

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