How Bad Policy Will Make California’s Drought Worse

by Greg Pollowitz

Ben Boychuk writes in the Sacramento Bee:

Drought is a fact of life in California, which explains why so many politicians have been happy to blame nature and duck questions about what role their choices may have played in exacerbating the catastrophe now unfolding across the state.

We’ve had bad droughts before, but never quite like this.

For the first time in 54 years, the California Water Project forecasts “zero allocation” for agencies serving 25 million residents. That means scarcity and rationing are real prospects this summer. Barring a miracle, the effects – economic and political – would be felt well beyond our borders.

Let’s stipulate “government can’t make it rain.” While we’re at it, let’s enter that phrase into the Great Book of Clichés and banish it from public discourse forevermore.

Let’s also stipulate that government cannot make the trains run on time, or make you happy and wise – although, with the right connections, it can make you wealthy.

Might we further stipulate that if government can clean up after a natural disaster, it can also make a natural disaster worse? Judging from much of the indignant demagoguery emanating from Sacramento and Washington, D.C., this week, the answer appears to be a resounding “Yes.”

Republicans in Congress on Wednesday advanced House Bill 3964, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, which passed largely along party lines. Only 10 House Democrats, including Fresno’s Jim Costa, voted for it.

The brainchild of California’s GOP delegation, the bill will almost certainly meet its demise in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where both Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have denounced the legislation as “divisive.” Feinstein even went so far as to call the bill “ugly” and “partisan.” A partisan piece of legislation debated in a political body. Imagine that.

What exactly would HB 3964 do? Simply stated, it would reallocate water controlled by the federal government from conservation and species protection to agriculture. In other words, it would put the needs of farmers above the needs of the Delta smelt.

Now, the idea that public policy might favor people over a baitfish in the face of an honest-to-goodness emergency may strike some as an odd notion. Coincidentally, Gov. Jerry Brown also used the “d”-word in a sternly worded letter to Congress ahead of this week’s vote. Among his complaints: HB 3964 “would override state laws and protections, and mandate that certain water interests come out ahead of others. It falsely suggests the promise of water relief when that is simply not possible given the scarcity of water supplies.

The rest here.