Corporate Farming to Trump Saving Salmon?

What’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) up to? Under pressure from Stewart Resnick, billionaire corporate farmer & major campaign donor, Feinstein is attempting to put a legislative limit on how much water from the California Bay-Delta system goes to rescuing the region’s endangered fisheries. It would quite literally erase biological science & replace it with political language.

Sen. Feinstein reportedly plans to attach a rider to the jobs bill that would divert water away from the struggling fisheries to help farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. Blocking protections required under the Endangered Species Act, one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, would have disastrous consequences for one of the nation’s most important ecosystems & the Pacific coast’s iconic salmon fisheries. Yesterday, House Democrats from California, Oregon & Washington wrote to Sen. Feinstein asking her to back off, including California Reps. George Miller, Mike Thompson & John Garamendi.

So why is Sen. Feinstein so determined to supersede science? If ever there was a case of the squeaky wheel getting the oil, this is it. Last September, Sen. Feinstein forwarded a letter she received from Resnick to the Obama administration, asking for a review of the science behind the Bay-Delta fish rescue plan. The Obama administration quickly complied, commissioning a National
Academy of Scientists expert review of the situation, with all
stakeholders participating. Results are due out next month, but
apparently Sen. Feinstein just couldn’t wait. California Rep. Grace
Napolitano says that Feinstein pressing ahead now makes it look like
“we don’t really care” about the academy’s review.

At the same time, fishermen along the Pacific coast have been struggling with real losses. The Sacramento River Chinook salmon population is lower today than it has ever been. Over the past two years, the salmon fishery has been shut down due to the collapse of Central Valley salmon populations, resulting in an estimated 23,000 jobs lost. Wonder if Sen. Feinstein has forwareded any letters from unemployed fishermen to President Obama’s desk?

If Senator Feinstein is serious about helping both farmers & fisherman, she’ll pull this job killer off the jobs bill. Instead, she should focus on encouraging collaboration between state & federal agencies to design environmentally & economically sound solutions to restore the Bay-Delta and help California meet its water needs.

Cross-posted from Grist

Published: February 21, 2010