Masquerading as a response to
Californians overwhelmingly reject loosening environmental regulations to increase water deliveries to farms and cities, as demonstrated by the results of a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released Friday. So you might think that Feinstein's alternative bill would propose a more palatable way to deal with the state's water crisis. But there's a catch — three of them, actually.
The first is that most of what the Senate bill offers — flexibility to reduce river flows to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta during emergencies in order to direct more water to Central Valley farmers — already exists. Water managers have authorized the maximum amount of river diversions consistent with laws in place to protect crippled salmon fisheries and prevent the collapse of not just the delta but the state's entire water delivery infrastructure. So Feinstein's bill either undermines those protections (the senator insists it does not) or merely engrafts into law what has already been accomplished administratively.
That takes us to the second catch. Any progress California hopes to make in attaining sustainable solutions to its long-term water crisis requires a great deal of trust on the part of all factions that science and expertise, and not politics, will govern day-to-day decisions about how much water is needed to protect a salmon run, for example, and how much can be diverted to farms. Changing rules that by all appearances are working sends a signal that
The third catch is that the Senate bill is a poor starting point for conference discussions with House Republicans, whose bill is geared more toward permanently weakening the Endangered Species Act than any drought relief or sustainable water solution. A compromise between the two bills would be bad for California.