California water issues making headlines again

by: Marilyn Bechtel

Posted to July 27 2012








The long-simmering struggle over how California’s water resources are allocated took center stage again this week as Governor Jerry Brown and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveiled the latest plan to shift more water from the northern part of the state to the more arid south.

The controversial plan, announced at a July 25 press conference in Sacramento, calls for two parallel 37-mile underground tunnels, each 33 feet in diameter, to carry water from the Sacramento River – the state’s largest – to pumping facilities in central California. Water would then flow through canals to areas stretching from the San Francisco Bay Area south all the way to San Diego, bringing more water to southern California cities and irrigating millions of acres of agribusiness farmland in the Central Valley.

The project is slated to start in 2017 and be completed by 2026.

The plan also includes restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the state’s greatest wetland, which has deteriorated in recent decades under pressure from increasing water needs.

While water users would pay the $14 billion tab for the tunnels, taxpayers would pay for restoration of the Delta, through funds from the federal government and part of an $11 billion water bond slated for the 2014 ballot.

The new project is similar to a “peripheral canal” Brown proposed in 1982, during an earlier term as governor, which was rejected by voters. In 2009 the state legislature passed Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Comprehensive Water Package, which observers say lays the basis for a massive water diversion project that doesn’t require voters’ approval.

Residents of the Delta, area Native American tribes, environmentalists, family farmers, fishers, and a number of elected officials strongly oppose its construction.

Earlier this month, 11 northern California members of Congress – all Democrats – wrote to Salazar, raising significant questions about costs and environmental issues, and urging that announcement of the project be delayed for further analysis.

On the other hand, the state’s two senators – both Democrats – have written in support of the project.

In a July 25 statement, Kate Poole, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Delta and people and wildlife depending on it “should not be held hostage by outdated ‘tunnel vision.'” She called for use of “21st century technology” including recycling, conservation and more efficient water usage.

Poole said “no credible science” backs diverting more water from the Delta “without continuing to sacrifice an ecosystem in peril.”

Last month the California Water Impact Network of 30 environmental, Native American and fishers’ organizations, called the proposed tunnels “a huge mistake,” “poorly conceived” and “destructive.” They cited environmental concerns and foresaw potential costs well beyond those projected by Brown and Salazar.

“Please do not put the interests of South-of-Delta water contractors before the public and San Francisco Bay-Delta dependent farmers, fishermen and local communities,” their letter said. Among signers were leaders of the Sierra Club, Environmental Water Caucus, Winemem Wintu Tribe and Friends of the Earth.

Writing last month in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bill Jennings of Restore the Delta pointed out that two-thirds of delta water exports now serve corporate agriculture and only a third goes to urban areas inhabited by half the state’s population.

“There is water for both people and fish if it is efficiently and equitably used,” Jennings said. “But the estuary cannot survive the waste of subsidized water to grow subsidized crops in the desert.”

Photo: Edith Maracle (Berghout) // CC 2.0

Romney abroad: What’s next?

Romney caught in “Anglo-Saxon” hot water

by: Susan Webb

Posted to July 26 2012

Mitt Romney ran into hot water this week over Anglo-Saxons.

Romney foreign policy advisers told the British Daily Telegraph that Romney was better able to relate to Britain than President Obama because: “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special.” One adviser added: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”

The remarks were widely seen as a xenophobic, racist allusion to the fact that Obama’s father was from Kenya. Top Obama adviser David Axelrod called the comments “stunningly offensive.”

In fact, the Anglo-Saxons were not native to England, but rather Germanic invaders (undocumented immigrants?) in the 5th century. They were pagan tribal people for whom “fighting was a way of life,” and “endlessly intricate blood-feuds generated perpetual excuses for going to war.” Their idea of law enforcement was chopping off hands and noses for punishment. Is that the heritage the Romney team has in mind?

In the 19th century, according to Wikipedia, some British and American writers used the term “Anglo-Saxon” to “justify racism and imperialism, claiming that the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ ancestry of the English made them racially superior to the colonised peoples.” Is this the covert Romney message?

Romney’s team is a little out of touch with today’s England. As of 2009, about 18 percent of British residents described their ethnicity as something other than “white: British.” That includes about 6 percent – more than 3 million people – who identify themselves as Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or othe South Asians. Hundreds of millions of others are African, Caribbean, Chinese or “mixed.”

Likewise, Americans’ heritage can hardly be described as “Anglo-Saxon.” As of 2010, about 28 percent of Americans identified themselves as something other than “white or European American.”

CBS News reports that Romney’s press secretary, Andrea Saul, disputed the report of the controversial comments. “It’s not true. If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign,” she told in an email. But, says CBS, “Saul did not comment on what specifically was not true.” Romney later claimed he did not know who the advisers were.

The Telegraph reports that “the advisers could not give detailed examples of how policy towards Britain would differ under Mr Romney. One conceded that on the European crisis: ‘I’m not sure what our policy response is.'”

Romney is visiting England, Poland and Israel in an effort to beef up his foreign policy credentials. He is doing two “lucrative” fund-raising events in London.

Photo: Reproduction of an Anglo-Saxon helmet. Chris Eccles // CC 2.0