Your recent article on the 2nd Congressional District campaign contained very serious factual errors relating to water issues (in addition to a strong bias for one candidate throughout the article). I am informed that a prominent California water expert has written to you with a response piece that sets the record straight. As of today, it has not been published and the highly inaccurate piece by Franklin Graham remains on your website. (I see that Jerry Cadagan, also an authority on these issues, has taken you to task in the online comment section — thank you for at least allowing that comment to be seen by your readers.) What is your intention regarding the need to address and correct the serious factual errors in Mr. Graham’s article?
In the future, please feel free to contact me if you would like to check facts before publishing baseless accusations that come to you from one of my opponents. I’m quite accessible, and if you actually got to know me you might understand that the narratives and caricatures of me that one of my opponents is spinning are not true.
Candidate, 2nd Congressional District
FG Replies: Jared Huffman would naturally take umbrage with the article. But his general claim that there are factual errors leaves one wondering. What factual errors does he allude to? I took my positions not based on anything any other candidate said or did. I have met Mr. Solomon twice, at open meetings. I was motivated to write the piece based on my own perceptions on a reading of the 2009 legislation and Huffman's own statements at the signing of this legislation.
In short, I would prefer not to respond to Jared Huffman because he does not clarify his positions. He simply claims there are factual errors. Once he sees the Bobker op-ed and my response, perhaps then he can be more specific as to errors, or to correcting his own position on water issues. What I did not do in the article, ‘North Coast Up For Grabs,’ was to highlight the connection between Mr. Huffman and the outside money that has fed his past campaigns. Nor did I press the point of contributions from E&J Gallo, the failure of the state assembly or his committee to put into law restrictions on water use by wineries in the name of frost protection (topics Will Parrish does a fine job with). Nor did I suggest that he would be biased in favor of the wine industry.
Should I have? Perhaps, but, that was not my focus. He is a lawyer. He must know full well the “open to interpretation” language that the 2009 legislation is replete with. That was my main point, as I believe the legislation tried to have it both ways — supporting Delta protection and at the same time speaking to the “co-equal” interests of 23 million Californians. That is what the legislation says, along with language about “assurances” and “mitigations.”
My opinion is that Mr. Huffman can only lose by pursuing this. Let's see if he does. And if he does, I will check my facts again, confirm them, and respond to any specific question he raises. I suppose that I exposed a nerve here. So be it.
Franklin Graham’s recent article (“North Coast up for Grabs”) “comparing” Congressional candidates Jared Huffman and Norman Solomon is about as “fair and balanced” as the highly partisan news channel that uses that particular slogan. As someone who has worked closely with Assemblymember Huffman over the years to protect and restore our rivers, wetlands and the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary, I feel compelled to correct Mr. Graham’s serious misrepresentations of fact concerning Huffman’s in fact stellar role on water issues in California.
At the heart of Mr. Graham’s article is his false assertion that Huffman supports the infamous Peripheral Canal, and he goes so far as to relabel the 2009 water reform legislation that Huffman worked on as “the Peripheral Canal Project.” If Mr. Graham had actually bothered to read the legislation he’s talking about — which by the way is properly known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Restoration Act — he would never have written something so off the mark.
As Chair of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, Assemblymember Huffman was the point person for those of us in the environmental community who were working to protect the Delta through this important legislation. Rather than saying, writing or voting for anything that supports the infamous peripheral canal, Huffman actually is the legislator most responsible for inserting new requirements that will make it much harder for Delta water exporters to implement any new proposal to change how water is conveyed from Northern California — whether a large canal or tunnel — if it would result in more diversions from the already over-allocated Delta ecosystem.
In contrast to Graham’s assertions, Huffman played a key role in crafting provisions of the legislation that explicitly preclude the use of public funds for new Delta conveyance; require the state to establish new flow criteria to fully protect the Delta ecosystem; mandate that alternatives to a large peripheral canal — including through-Delta alternatives — must be considered in the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan process; and perhaps most important of all, establish that the new policy of the state of California is to reduce reliance on Delta water exports and promote local water supply self-reliance in areas that currently rely on Delta exports through conservation and other measures. There is absolutely no question that these provisions are making it much harder, not easier, for those who seek to increase exports of Northern California water through new forms of Delta conveyance. Crafting and winning support for bipartisan legislation that included these provisions took a combination of skill, knowledge, dedication and leadership that few other public officials have shown in the contentious world of California water politics.
At the signing ceremony for the Delta Restoration Act, Huffman was clear about what the legislation did and did not do:
“As an environmental attorney who reads the fine print — and in this case, helped write a fair amount of it — I can assure you there is nothing in this legislative water package that authorizes or funds a peripheral canal.
“Instead, it establishes a rigorous and protective framework for any delta conveyance proposal. It includes major new protections for the Delta and the environment — starting with a critically important requirement that before you decide how to export water from the Delta for the next 50 years, experts at the Department of Fish and Game and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) must first identify how much water the Delta needs to be a healthy estuary. Only water that is surplus to those needs can be considered for export.
“The protections for the Delta ecosystem go further, by requiring that any Delta conveyance proposal must not only meet the highest environmental standard of the NCCP Act, but must also include a comprehensive analysis of alternatives — including alternative sizes, alignments, different operational scenarios including reduced Delta exports, and also including through-Delta alternatives. And it prohibits construction of any new conveyance facility until the SWRCB issues a permit with binding protections for the Delta and its fisheries.”
I’ve been working on Delta protection issues for 24 years. There’s a reason why dyed-in-the-wool water wonks like me value Assemblymember Huffman’s engagement on our issues. He’s knowledgeable, consistent, and effective on a broad range of environmental issues, and in my opinion should be considered the leading legislator on water and fisheries issues in California. North Coast residents who take the time to learn the facts — and actually read the legislation that Mr. Graham refers to — will agree.
Gary Bobker, program director of the Bay Institute, a non-profit research and advocacy organization
FG Replies: I appreciate the passion and thoughtfulness of Mr. Bobker’s response to my article, North Bay Up For Grabs. Since he is both a supporter of Mr. Huffman and someone who has worked closely with him on water issues, I can understand his reaction to the observation that Mr. Huffman’s position on a peripheral canal is “equivocal” and to be questioned. To date, Mr. Huffman has not ruled out support for a peripheral canal or the possibility of its funding, either as a California Assembly member or candidate for the 2nd Congressional District. The record speaks clearly on this matter.
Let me address the key points Mr. Bobker raises in his opposing opinion. First, he asserts that Mr. Huffman does not support what has come to be known as The Peripheral Canal project. There is no legislation currently on the table. There are plans, however, to put on the 2012 general state ballot Proposition 18, a bond proposition (the cost of which is estimated to balloon from the initial $11.3 billion to $23 billion or more, once interest and potential overruns are added in over the life of the bond obligation. Dan Bacher has reported “As recently as June, 28, 2011 Metropolitan Water District Special Committee on the Bay Delta confirms that water contractors, including Metropolitan Water District’s General Manager Roger Patterson, are already working with Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation officials to create the finance plan for new conveyance, said Barbara Barrigan-Parilla,” Executive Director of Restore the Delta. Dan Bacher goes on to quote Bill Wells, California Delta Chambers Executive Director as observing, “How much are urban users in San Diego and Los Angeles willing to pay for water in order to finance this project?”
Throughout this ever-present saga, what has been described as southern California’s Great Thirst (Norris Hundley, 1965) where is Mr. Huffman to be found? He has not come out forcefully to oppose the closed-door tactics and machinations of peripheral canal proponents to push forward on this plan, with Federal involvement, to take yet more water from Northern California.
The farthest that Mr. Huffman has been willing to go is to admit that water legislation is “one of the most complex and politically thankless issues…” facing Californians. In the same speech, which he gave at the signing ceremony for the 2009 Delta Protection and Water Supply Legislation, Mr. Huffman makes clear the purpose of the new law, which is to “manage the Delta,” as “…the source of water for 23 million Californians.” Which 23 Californians he is talking about should be perfectly clear to anyone. Earlier in the year, when Assemblywoman Huber sought to introduce AB 1594 in committee, of which Jared Huffman is chair, that sought to prohibit construction without a legislative vote, her motion died for lack of a second. The implication could be that elected members of the legislature, including Huffman, do not want an open and transparent vote on funding of a peripheral canal. Further on in his speech, while thanking Governor Schwarzenegger and the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Steinberg, Mr. Huffman states the new goal of the legislation is “premised on the goal of improving statewide water supply while reducing dependence on Delta exports.” He did not imply that there would be an end to the ever increasing demand for the export (transfer) of water to the south, only that the legislation is intended to balance the competing interests at stake. These are fine words from Mr. Huffman for the goals of sustainability, conservation, and alternatives. But, the strongest statement he will avow regarding a future peripheral canal is “…I and many others remain skeptical that such a huge canal is feasible, let along desirable.” It would be much more reassuring to those who support real environmental initiatives to see him translate skepticism into opposition, open and transparent opposition. California voters deserve leadership that makes clear where a lawmaker or candidate really stands on key issues. Rhetoric is not sufficient. He could have drawn the line at any time in his tenure as assemblyman and chairman of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and said this far and no farther regarding the prospect of a peripheral canal. To date, he has not done so.
To emphasize the point that Mr. Huffman has been equivocal on the future of any such canal, consider Mr. Bobker’s statement that Mr. Huffman is the legislator “most responsible for inserting new requirements that will make it much harder for Delta exporters to implement…” any new conveyance of water from Northern California. In fairness to Mr. Huffman, there are a number of well sounding declarations in the legislation (which, by the way, I have read). But, for someone who, to quote Mr. Huffman, “helped write a fair amount of it.” His statement that, “I can assure you there is nothing in this legislative water package that authorizes or funds a peripheral canal” does not tell the real story.
Of course there is no funding in the legislation. That is to come later, via Proposition 18. One sentence earlier, Mr. Huffman admits “that some stakeholders hope to build a large peripheral canal….” Is it not enough that those stakeholders nearly drained Mono Lake, turned Owens Valley into a wasteland, and grabbed the lion’s share of water from the Colorado River? The only opportunity left for capturing, diverting, and exploiting yet another water resource is to take more water out of Northern California by way of a peripheral canal and ship it south. That is why leadership is needed to say and commit to no more schemes to drain Northern California dry. Find other means to supply the endless thirst of southern California. Allow the Sacramento-Delta to determine how its water supply is used and applied to restoring decades of exploitation. There is no “excess” water for the taking.
Mr. Bobker states that the legislation makes it harder, not easier, to increase exports of water from the Sacramento-Delta region. Fair enough, it may achieve that much. But, in the end, given the population disparity between north and south, does anyone seriously believe that proponents of the peripheral canal will stop? With population projections showing California passing the 50 million mark in the coming decades, with most of that growth centered in the south, the lust of that “Great Thirst” looms ever larger. What is needed is legislation that clearly, and in perpetuity, prohibits water exploitation from one region to another. That is the challenge to leadership: the protection of California’s fragile and limited resources, not the repeated satiation of insatiable demands of a majority (i.e., Southern California) that cannot, or will not, reign in its own wasteful habits.
Yes, Mr. Bobker, Assemblyman Huffman is proud of stating that, “As an environmental attorney who reads the fine print” he and his committee are looking out for the interests of all constituencies. Unfortunately, in the legislation which drew the support of both Democrat and Republican lawmakers, there is enough ambiguity and blurring of the lines to drive a truck through. Any legislation that includes language that provides “assurances” in the event of possible severe damage that requires “mitigation” is certain to disappoint those who want clear, transparent governance. Mr. Huffman, perhaps, wants it both ways — to speak loudly on environmental concerns, but leave the door open to those who would exploit others, with, of course, assurances and some form of “mitigation.”
If elected, will Mr. Huffman be a true progressive? So far, the picture is mixed. No list of powerful endorsements can give any candidate cover. Skepticism remains because of the unresolved issues regarding water policy that Mr. Huffman has played a key part in over a number of years. Many voters are tired of the “politics as usual” approach that leads to further erosion of public trust and real, long term solutions. It is past time for Mr. Huffman to state unequivocally that he opposes any peripheral canal project. It is past time for Mr. Huffman, as chairman of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, to take concrete steps to reverse Governor Brown’s decision to close state parks, including Hendy Woods. It is past time for Mr. Huffman to take a clear stand on water diversions by wineries, in the name of frost protection, that are stressing our rivers to the point of no return. These are but some of the issues the voters of Northern California face in the coming year. And, too, they should be the issues candidates face with clarity and commitment.