April 18, 2009

on Schwarzenegger and the delta pumps

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Appearing at a rally for farmworkers today, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told a large crowd that he cares about the workers and the shortage of water. But it's what he didn't say that is getting all the attention. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A California congressman on Friday called on fellow Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to resign over his handling of a water crisis in the San Joaquin Valley.

Rep. Devin Nunes represents several communities that he said are withering away because they can't get enough water pumped to their farms. Federal regulations are restricting water flow to protect a tiny fish called the delta smelt.

The governor told farmworkers and farmers on Friday that he'll do everything he can to bring more water to the valley this season.

Nunes said the solution is an emergency reprieve from the Endangered Species Act that would allow more water to be pumped through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

"What's offensive is when he came into the valley today and said absolutely nothing about turning on those pumps," said Nunes, R-Visalia.

The governor doesn't have the authority to exempt the state from federal environmental regulations.

Calling for resignation may be a bit strong, and there's no question that Schwarzenegger lacks the authority exempt the pumps from Endangered Species Act restrictions.  But it does not appear that Rep. Nunes wanted to have Schwarzenegger himself to turn on the pumps.  Rather, Nunes was simply asking for Schwarzenegger to make his voice heard — it is naïve to think that Schwarzenegger can't make things happen with officials in Washington D.C.

On this point, and from our visit to the rally, Nunes appears to be right in his concern that "[t]he governor's remarks today were little more than lip service."  (hat tip: Capital Press)  It is odd that he appeared at the rally today and yet said nothing about the pumps. 

If there were a political solution to be had, however, we think it already would have occurred.

More coverage is available at the Saramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Visalia Times-Delta.

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