Update: Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Agency, says water deliveries did, indeed, ramp down last year as it become evident that California was headed for a dry winter.
Sometimes water interest groups can be so far apart on the issues that they actually have something in common.
In recent weeks I’ve spoken with environmentalists and Delta advocates who argue the state and feds exported too much water during the two dry years preceding 2013-14. They say the state should have anticipated the possibility of a third dry year and played the game more conservatively. They say this is, at least in part, a man-made drought.
But wait — we heard the same thing from angry farmers in Fresno today. They, too, argue it’s a man-made drought, one exacerbated by decades of increasingly frequent environmental restrictions on water pumping.
Yes, all sides are finding fault with the water managers and the regulators, who deliver either too much water or too little, who allow either precious fish to be slaughtered at the pumps or precious water to rush out to the ocean, who sacrifice either the Delta to Big Ag or multi-generational farms to the “stupid” Delta smelt.
Indeed, they may have very different reasons, but these polar-opposite interests are pointing with equal anger toward the government.
We saw it from one side at this morning’s House Natural Resources Committee hearing in Fresno. U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, asked California Natural Resources Undersecretary Janelle Beland why water was released from reservoirs last year, “knowing full well we were heading into potentially catastrophic drought?”
Her answer: “We weren’t anticipating the drought to continue.”
Farmers in the room laughed bitterly.
Somewhere, their sworn enemies, the enviros, might have been laughing too.