Lloyd writes letter to Water and Power Subcommittee Chairwoman registering his dismay towards the biased Fresno hearing.
On July 21, I attended a field hearing of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power at Fresno City Hall and was so appalled by the obvious slanted nature of the proceedings that I decided to write Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace Napolitano to register my dismay. I asked that my letter be placed into the field hearing record. Here is my letter:
Rep. Grace Napolitano
Chair, House Subcommittee on Water and Power
1610 Longworth Bldg
Washington, DC 20515
July 24, 2008
Dear Rep. Napolitano,
On July 21, 2008, at the suggestion of subcommittee members from the San Joaquin Valley, you held a field hearing of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power at Fresno City Hall which focused on impacts of the drought. You told audience members they could submit written remarks that would be made part of the hearing record. Please consider this letter for inclusion in the hearing record.
My name is Lloyd G. Carter. On June 11, 2005, you visited the California State University, Fresno campus where the subcommittee held a hearing on proposals for a multi-billion dollar dam six miles upstream from Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River. I was a witness before the committee at that time, at the invitation of Rep. George Radanovich, who was then the chair. I was the only environmentalist testifying but appreciated the opportunity to expose the subcommittee to different views. And I was pleased and impressed when I met you.
I am sorry to inform you I believe the panels that testified at your July 21, 2008, hearing showed no balance and that the broad general public was not served by that event. Virtually all of the speakers were officials of the Westlands Water District, representatives of local communities in the Westlands, or representatives of water districts in the Friant Unit of the Central Valley Project. They clearly had their own axes to grind.
Missing from the panels were: (1) any representative of environmental interests; (2) any representative of Delta farming; (3) any representative of the commercial salmon industry, which was put out of business this year because of the collapse of the fishery; (4) any representative of the Trinity River Native Americans, who have seen their river destroyed in the interests of Westlands; (5) not a single representative from the Bay Area; (6) no one at all from Northern California.
As a result, many of the panelists who did testify were able to freely misrepresent, distort, and exaggerate facts, and spread outright lies, half truths and fabrications, without any countervailing voices to set the record straight or offer an alternative view. The hearing that was supposed to be about impacts of the drought on rural communities turned into a cheerleading session for the Temperance Flat Dam, intemperate attacks on federal judges and "radical" environmentalists, and a call for more Northern California water for Westlands even as the Delta continues to decline. The hearing turned out to be little more than a publicity stunt.
I know you had no involvement in the selection of the panel speakers but as the chair of the committee I hope that when you personally convene future field hearings on California water issues that you take special care to see that ALL voices are represented, not just those of local agribusiness.
I also recommended you take the following actions:
1. The drainage crisis in the Westlands remains unsolved after half a century. Nobody at the July 21 hearing pointed out that speakers were calling for more water deliveries to Westlands to continue irrigation of high selenium soils totaling 379,000 acres, which U.S. government scientists say should be taken out of production. I suggest you hold a hearing on this issue.
2. Westlands claims to have 600 "growers" but has never provided Congress with a list of growers to show which entities are contracting for water from the District and whether those various business entities have the same ownership. You should request from the district such a list, showing which entities contracting for water have interlocking directorates or the same ownership. For example, Stewart Woolf, who did testify at the July 21 hearing, pointed out that his father, Jack Woolf, six children and 24 grandchildren all run the family enterprise. That is 31 people, or five percent of the district, controlling one major farming operation. If you investigated this matter you would find that 30 or 40 family dynasties in Westlands control a large percentage of land in the district. There is precedent for this. In 1985, the California Legislature commissioned a study of 42,000 acres in Westlands threatened by the cutoff of drainage due to the poisoning of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge by the tainted drainage from those 42,000 acres. It turned out the 42,000 acres was dominated by a few multi-millionaire growers. And Im sure you already know the Westlands is the most heavily subsidized federal irrigation district in America with the most pollution problems
3. If you are really concerned about the longterm welfare of farmworker families I urge you to hold hearings on the lack of clean, adequate drinking water in many farmworker communities in the San Joaquin Valley, a problem which existed before the current drought and will continue afterwards. Concern for the health of farmworkers should be as great as concern for their jobs.
4. You should be aware that the State Water Resources Control Board has issued permits for five times as much water as actually exists in the system. You should be aware that distribution of water in the Central Valley Project is based on a priority system and Westlands is at the end of the bucket line. When whatever water available in a given year is distributed to the senior water rights holders then Westlands gets what is left. Westlands has known this since it signed a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1963. Growers who in recent years have planted permanent crops in Westlands did so at their own economic risk.
5. If you are interested in protecting the integrity of Delta water drinking supplies and protecting the Delta's fishery, you need to broaden the discussion at subcommittee field hearings in order to provide the public with a larger perspective than that pushed by the local congressmen who are simply playing to their local constituencies. A field hearing is needed immediately.
Rep. Napolitano, I retain faith that when you personally decide to hold field hearings that you will provide all California interests an opportunity to share their views about what is necessary to protect the Delta, farming, and drinking water supplies.
My best regards,