After years of exclusive behind-the-scenes negotiations on Bay-Delta voluntary agreements, earlier this week the state made a reckless attempt at the green pen of these proposed voluntary agreements, sending this email inviting a handful of people who participated in VA talks many years ago to participate in “two workshops to finalize the management and decision-making process for the implementation of the VA program. ” (DWR subsequently sent a revised e-mail to the NRDC and several other organizations, excluding a number of tribes, conservation groups, and other stakeholders.)
Inviting previously excluded groups to join the meeting to “finalize” the voluntary agreements is not a legitimate process of cooperation. Indeed, the conservation groups that participated in the VA negotiations between 2012 and 2019 have repeatedly raised major concerns – concerns that have been constantly ignored and never addressed because these conservation groups have never been equal partners in this process. The NRDC will not participate in this bogus collaboration to “finalize” a plan that is likely to destroy salmon and other endangered species in the Gulf of Delta. Restore the Delta also declined this invitation, eloquently explaining that it was not a real collaboration.
But the problems are deeper, as the governance and decision-making scheme proposed in the voluntary agreement process is inherently biased. It is designed to empower participating waters to have even more say in decision-making and what constitutes “science”.
Giving contractors more words about science is problematic because the water areas involved – and the California Department of Water Resources – have a vested interest in trying to show that fish don’t need water to be able to divert even more water from this endangered watershed. DWR and these river basins have spent decades using junk science and “fighting science” to try to produce scientific doubt about the importance of flow, using that “science” in environmental protection for salmon and other endangered species. For example:
- In the mid-2000s, the Department of Water Resources, Westlands Water District, Southern California Metropolitan Water District, State Water Contractors, and other water areas argued that Delta Smelt was not in danger of extinction due to Central Valley and State Water Project operations. as shown by numerous scientific studies and a 2007 district court ruling annulling the Bush administration’s biological opinion).
- In 2008 and 2009, the California Department of Water Resources and many of those same water districts sued the Obama administration to try to overturn scientifically justified protection for Delta Smelt and endangered salmon (they lost both lawsuits, with the Appeals Court fully supporting biological opinions. to be in accordance with the Law on Endangered Species).
- Many of these water districts have paid scientists to develop papers claiming that the real problem is something other than water. For example, contractors paid for a study claiming that ammonium from a water treatment plant was the cause of the decay of Delta Smelt and other species in Delta, but that study was uncovered in a peer-reviewed study, showing basic statistical shortcomings in initial work. . Water contractors also funded a study that claimed that the introduction and killing of Delta Smelt at pumps did not cause population decline, but that study was also refuted by subsequent peer-reviewed studies, including one (Rose et al 2013a) that showed the original work used a statistical hand to ignore the effects of ecstasy.
- Many of these water districts continue to defend the 2019 Trump administration’s biological opinions in court, arguing that the Trump administration has repealed environmental protection to increase water diversion for these contractors based on the best available science and will not harm salmon or Delta Smelt (this biological opinions are an extinction plan, which we watch in real time as Delta Smelt revolves towards extinction and these biological opinions approve of deadly water temperatures that killed 75% of endangered Chinook winter salmon last year and are likely to kill more than 50% this year). Indeed, Sacramento River Settlement Contractors argued in court earlier this year that decades of peer-reviewed scientific studies were wrong, and that water temperatures would have to exceed 56 degrees Fahrenheit to kill endangered salmon eggs.
If you don’t trust oil or tobacco companies to tell you what’s safe for the planet or your health, why trust these water agencies — which make a living by selling water from the Delta Bay and have spent the last two decades undermining environmental protection for salmon and other endangered species – say what is good for fish and wildlife in the Gulf and Delta basins? However, this is what voluntary agreements would do: further strengthen these water areas to decide what is good science and how much water the environment needs, in a spirit of “cooperation”. It is the kind of collaboration that results in the fox guarding the chicken coop.
Real cooperation is difficult. It requires transparency, trust, agreed facts and common interests. Voluntary agreements are the opposite – they are an exercise that is undertaken bad faith by government agencies, conducted in secret through behind-the-scenes negotiations, using deceptive “facts” and garbage science, to put their thumbs up in favor of increased water diversion by state and federal water project contractors at the expense of the salmon community in the Delta. fisheries, the environment and senior water rights holders in the Bay-Delta basin.