Posted on | October 1, 2009 | 8 Comments
The Chronicle also reports today that Feinstein has plans for her own package of sweeping Delta legislation in the US Congress, effectively overriding the Obama administration’s previous stance that the California State legislature should produce its own package of water bills, including Bay-Delta management reforms.
This proved impossible when the legislature’s season closed in deadlock on September 11th.
Looming over last-ditch efforts to pass a package of water bills was Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pledged to veto all state bills that did not contain provisions for more than $5bn worth of dam projects.
Left with a Schwarzenegger-enhanced impasse in the California legislature, the Obama administration yesterday announced formation of a Federal Bay-Delta Leadership Committee to be led by the Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.
This marks a sharp turn-around in Obama administration policy, which had been to defend the biological opinions of scientists from within the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration that indicated protection was in order for fish such as the Delta smelt, Chinook salmon and green sturgeon.
“What is at stake here is not just the survival of species but the health of entire ecosystems and the economies that depend on them,“ said Rod Mcinnis, southwest regional director for NOAA’s Fisheries Service when the opinion concerning the green sturgeon was published last June.
An Interior statement that followed as recently as two weeks ago underscored that reductions in water deliveries to Central Valley farmers were not primarily caused by fish protections but by drought, the reason for 75% of the cuts.
However, appearing on a broadcast by Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, Schwarzenegger continued to blame the federal government for protecting fish before farmers. For one of the better analyses of Hannity’s recent rally in the Central Valley, see Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.
Feinstein’s announcement that she intends to author her own package of sweeping Delta legislation in the US Congress effectively overrides Interior’s pressure on Schwarzenegger to work with the California legislature on its own package of water bills. However, in reversing its position, Interior still “urged” Schwarzenegger call a special session of the California state legislature to resume negotiation on the water bills.
Feinstein is chair of the Interior appropriations committee.
For a full round-up of press reports of today’s events, go to Aquafornia.
For an earlier story on California’s assault on the Endangered Species Act, click here.
This post has been lightly edited since the original posting and links have been added.