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Hilbert Morales  EO Publisher

Hilbert Morales
EO Publisher

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First know that ‘oligarchy’ means governance by a faction or small group having wealth and influence. Many are simply not aware of the impact of oligarchies in California. Today, we are all aware of the current drought crisis. However, too many are not aware of the influence of a small group on the distribution of potable water from the Sacramento-San Juaquin River Delta. Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a periferal twin tunnel project to divert Sacramento River water down to Southern California.

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What many potentially impacted Californians in the San Francisco Bay Area do not know, is that the billionaire owners of Paramount Farms, (Stewart and Lynda Resnick), have been buying the influence necessary, to ensure that their Westlands almond orchards, are ensured enough irrigation water to continue production of almonds for export and domestic consumption.

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This came to my attention when I read ‘Billionaires Influence Felt in California’s Water Policy” by Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, Executive Director, Restore the Delta, published (SF Chronicle, Insight Section, page E8, Sunday, April 27, 2014). The Resnick’s have used their money to influence officials, beginning with campaign contributions to former Governor Gray Davis ($350,000; 1999-2003), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ($270,000; 2003-2011) and Governor Jerry Brown ($102,000; 2011 to date). The Resnick’s also own Westlands Mutual Water Company which is a subsidiary of Roll Global, which exports almonds. Over the years the Resnick’s have gotten an excellent return on investments especially from their influence-buying.

Their investments, during the Governor Gray Davis administration resulted in moving the Kern Water Bank to the private sector. During the Schwarzenegger Administration the purpose of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan was turned into a water export plan “with a shadow group directing the project under the auspices of the Department of Water Resources.” Jason Peltier, Chief General Manager, Westlands served in the Interior Department during the George W. Bush administration (2001-2008). Employees of Westlands and the State Water Contractors have been ‘loaned’ to the Department of  Water Resources allegedly to oversee water projects, which impact their employers directly, before becoming department employees.
According to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla’s article, “In July 2012, Governor Brown and U.S. Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar announced their support for the 9,000 cubic-foot-per-second delta water tunnels before any environmental impact report was completed, or a record of decision issued.”

This should be of great interest to all Silicon Valley/South Bay residents because the Santa Clara Valley Water District obtains 50% of its potable water from the Delta. Also, the “Current State Water Project” contract negotiators include representatives with ties to Paramount Farms, who have a privileged seat at the table along with other water contractors. Yet the public and (California) Legislature won only observation seats at these negotiations through a legal challenge.

So the people (i.e., “We the People”) have no vote, just the right to watch, while the Department of Water Resources and the water contractors negotiate a 50 year contract extension, reducing bond reserve safeguards by 50 percent, and leaving the taxpayers on the hook for “fish and wildlife” mitigations required under federal permits, in addition to operations and mainteance costs for those facilities. These negotiators have yet to work out financing for the (Delta) periferal tunnels. The outsized influence of mega-growers yields significant indirect control of our state and federal agencies that regulate them. That’s a problem, as their private interests trump the public interests.”

This is an example of an oligarchy positioning itself over many years to have excessive influence upon the fair distribution of potable water, which is an essential requirement for life of humans, all wild life, and agriculture. Agri-business uses the majority volume of potable water which is distributed at subsidized costs. It is time for CA taxpayers to demand that their State Legislators ensure a fair allocation of potable water to all stakeholders.

The CA voters, expecially Latinos, must vote in numbers exceeding 70% to ensure that the CA State Legislature knows who elected them to represent ‘We, The People’. The State must require all existing water districts to recycle as much ‘waste/sewage water as is possible’ and also establish the production of potable water using solar and wind generated electricity to power desalinization plants along the Pacific coast. Desalinization will provide additional water reliably while adding to that produced by nature. Let’s hold accountable and responsible those public stewards dealing with this life sustaining resource. We must ensure that a fair share of Delta water gets to Silicon Valley and SF South Bay.


© 2011 news el observador ·A weekly newspaper serving Latinos in the San Francisco Bay Area
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