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University of California Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office University of California
The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California
California Water Resources Oral History Series
THE PASSAGE OF THE CENTRAL VALLEY PROJECT IMPROVEMENT ACT, 1991-1992:
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SAVE SAN FRANCISCO BAY ASSOCIATION
Interviews Conducted by
Copyright 1994 by The Regents of the University of California
Barry M. Nelson, 1994.
Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading
participants in or veil-placed witnesses to major events in the development of
Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is a modern research
technique involving an interviewee and an informed interviewer in spontaneous
conversation. The taped record is transcribed, lightly edited for continuity and
clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The resulting manuscript is typed in
final font, indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material,
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved,
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement
between The Regents of the University of California and Barry Nelson
dated March 8, 1994. The manuscript is thereby made available for
research purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, including
the right to publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the
University of California, Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may
be quoted for publication without the written permission of the
Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of California,
Requests for permission to quote for publication should be
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library,
University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated
use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal
agreement with Barry Nelson requires that he be notified of the
request and allowed thirty days in which to respond.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Barry Nelson, "The Passage of the Central
Valley Project Improvement Act, 1991-1992:
Executive Director, San Francisco Bay
Association," an oral history conducted in
1993 by Malca Chall, Regional Oral History
Office, The Bancroft Library, University
of California, Berkeley, 1994.
NELSON, Barry M. Executive Director, Save San Francisco Bay Association
The Passage of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. 1991-1992:
Executive Director. Save San Francisco Bay Association. 1994, iv, 97 pp.
Miller-Bradley and Seymour bills in Congress; lobbying efforts of
environmental and agricultural communities in the formation of the Central
Valley Project Improvement Act; Metropolitan Water District and water
marketing transfers; the Endangered Species Act, Share the Water, and fish
and game protection; discusses Somach-Graff negotiations, Bill Bradley,
George Miller, J. Bennett Johnston, John Seymour, and Pete Wilson.
Interviewed in 1993 by Malca Chall for the California Water Resources Oral
History Series. The Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library,
University of California, Berkeley.
TABLE OF CONTENTS --Barry Nelson
INTERVIEW HISTORY 11
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION iv
I THE PROGRESS OF THE BILL BRADLEY, GEORGE MILLER, AND JOHN SEYMOUR
BILLS IN CONGRESS, AND THE LOBBYING AND GRASSROOTS EFFORTS OF THE
ENVIRONMENTAL AND AGRICULTURE COMMUNITIES, 1990-1991 1
Barry Nelson: Background with Save San Francisco Bay Association 1
Early Uncoordinated Efforts at Water Policy Reform 2
Water Policy Reform: the Miller and Bradley Bills, 1989-1990 4
Senator Bradley 's Interest in the Central Valley Project 5
The Agriculture and Environmental Communities and the Evolution
of the Miller/Bradley and Seymour Bills 6
Senator Bradley Introduces S. 484: Concerned with Water Transfers
(February 1991) 8
Senator Bradley. Holds Hearings in California (September 1991) 9
The Metropolitan Water District, the Transfer Issues, and
H.R. 429 10
Writing and Revising the Seymour Bill, S. 2016 (Autumn 1991) 13
Share the Water is Organized: Its Members and Associates
(May 1991) 14
The Involvement of the Business Community 16
The Interests of the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco 17
The Effect of Impending Legislation on the Three -Way Water
Agreement Process 19
The Opposition of the Agriculture Community 19
The Stuart Somach-Tom Graff Negotiations 21
The Editorial Position of the Sacramento Bee 22
Share the Water Lobbyist David Weiman Assists the Campaign in
Senator Seymour Refuses to Meet with Share the Water 25
The Genesis of H.R. 429: The Omnibus Water Bill 26
Senator Bradley Tries to Reach Agreement with Competing Water
Interests in Washington, D.C. (November 1991) 29
Share the Water's Firm Goals and Differing Approaches 30
The Opinions of Governor Pete Wilson and his Administration 31
The Opinions of Congressmen from the Central Valley 33
II THE PASSAGE OF THE CENTRAL VALLEY PROJECT IMPROVEMENT ACT AND THE
POTENTIAL IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND AGRICULTURE COMMUNITIES,
Senator Bennett Johnston Moves Into the Miller/Bradley
Negotiations; Johnston's and Bradley' s Staffs in California
(February 1992) 35
The Proposal to Transfer the Central Valley Project to
the State 37
The Johnston Version of the Bradley Bill: The Chairman's Markup
(February 20, 1992) 39
Share the Water's Media and Grassroots Efforts 41
The Seymour Bill Passes the Senate Energy Committee (March 1992) 42
Analyzing the Johnston Markup 44
Source of the 800,000 Acre -Feet Figure 46
The Need for State Cooperation to Provide Additional Water
and Money 48
Governor Wilson Voids State Water Resources Control Board
Interim Draft Decision 1630 (April 1, 1993) 49
George Miller Introduces H.R. 5099; Negotiations with Central
Valley Congressmen Weaken the Bill (May 1992) 51
Differing Perspectives on the Water Issues in the Sacramento
and San Joaquin Valleys 53
H.R. 5099 Passes the House (June 19, 1992) 54
Stuart Somach and Tom Graff Negotiate an Alternative Version
to the Competing Water Bills 55
The Conference Committee Develops the Final Bill: Title 34,
Central Valley Project Improvement Act, a Section of the
Omnibus Water Bill H.R. 429 (September 1992) 59
Congressional Members and Their Staffs on the Inside 59
Urban and Business Interests on the Outside 61
H.R. 429 Passes the House on a Voice Vote at 1:00 A.M.
(October 6, 1992) 62
Senator Seymour Attempts a Filibuster 64
Senator Bradley Responds 65
H.R. 429 Passes the Senate (October 8, 1992) 65
Analyzing the Final Bill 66
Senator Malcolm Wallop's Participation 67
The Bill is Fair to Farmers and the Environment 67
President George Bush Signs the Omnibus Water Bill (October
30, 1992) 68
Pressures For and Against Signing 69
The Sources for Additional Water for Southern California
Through Water Transfers, Conservation, and Other Strategies 71
The Case Against a Peripheral Canal 75
The Argument for the Environmental Impact Statement 76
The Drainage Problem 77
The Case for Ground Water Management 78
The Sunset Provision of the Act 80
The Need to Operate the Central Valley Project and the State
Water Project as a Single Project 80
The Tasks Ahead for Share the Water: To Ensure Implementation
of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act 81
The Concern of Agriculture 83
The Taste of Victory for the Environmental Movement 85
TAPE GUIDE 86
APPENDIX- -Information on Share the Water and the Central Valley
Project Improvement Act 87
The Water Resources Center of the University of California, in 1965,
established a History of California Water Resources Development Oral
History Series, to be carried out by the oral history offices at the Los
Angeles and Berkeley campuses. The basic purpose of the program was "to
document historical developments in California's water resources by means
of tape recorded interviews with men who have played a prominent role in
this field." The concern of those who drafted the program was that while
the published material on California water resources described
engineering and economic aspects of specific water projects, little dealt
with concepts, evolution of plans, and relationships between and among
the various interested federal, state, and local agencies.
To bridge this information gap, the Water Resources Center, during
the past quarter century under the successive direction of Professors
Arthur F. Pillsbury, J\ Herbert Snyder, and Henry Vaux, Jr., has provided
funding in full or in part for interviews with men who have been
observers and participants in significant aspects of water resources
development. Early advisors to the project on the Berkeley campus were
Professors J. W. Johnson and David K. Todd. Gerald Giefer, librarian of
the Water Resources Center Archives, Berkeley, has maintained an
important advisory role in the project.
Interviewees in the Berkeley series have been pioneers in western
water irrigation, in the planning and development of the Central Valley
and California State Water Projects, in the administration of the
Department of Water Resources, and in the pioneering work of the field of
sanitary engineering. Some have been active in the formation of the San
Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission; others have
developed seminal theories on soil erosion and soil science. But in all
cases, these men have been deeply concerned with water resources in
Their oral histories provide unique background into the history of
water resources development and are valuable assets to students
interested in understanding the past and in developing theories for
future use of this essential, controversial, and threatened commodity- -
Henry J. Vaux, Jr., Director
Water Resources Center
University of California, Riverside
The following Regional Oral History Office interviews of have been funded in
whole or in part by The Water Resources Center, University of California.
Banks, Harvey (b. 1910)
California Water Project. 1955-1961. 1967 82 pp.
Gianelli, William R. (b. 1919)
The California State Department of Water Resources. 1967-1973.
1985, 86 pp.
Gillespie, Chester G. (1884-1971)
Origins and Early Years of the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering.
1971, 39 pp.
Harding, Sidney T. (1883-1969)
A Life in Western Water Development. 1967, 524 pp.
Jenny, Hans (1899-1992)
Soil Scientist. Teacher, and Scholar. 1989, 364 pp.
Langelier, Wilfred F. (1886-1981)
Teaching. Research, and Consultation in Water Purification and Sewage
Treatment. University of California at Berkeley. 1916-1955.
1982, 81 pp.
Leedom, Sam R. (1896-1971)
California Water Development. 1930-1955. 1967, 83 pp.
Leopold, Luna B. (b. 1915)
Hydrology. Geomorphology. and Environmental Policy: U.S. Geological Survey.
1950-1072. and UC Berkeley. 1972-1987. 1993, 309 pp.
Lowdermilk, Walter Clay (1888-1974)
Soil. Forest, and Water Conservation and Reclamation in China. Israel.
Africa, and The United States. 1969, 704 pp. (Two volumes)
McGaughey, Percy H. (1904-1975)
The Sanitary Engineering Research Laboratory: Administration. Research,
and Consultation. 1950-1972. 1974, 259 pp.
Nelson, Barry (b. 1959)
The Passage of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. 1991-1992:
Executive Director. Save San Francisco Bay Assocation. 1994, 88 pp.
Peltier, Jason (b. 1955)
The Passage of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. 1991-1992:
Manager. Central Valley Project Water Association. 1994, 84 pp.
Robie, Ronald B. (b. 1937)
The California State Department of Water Resources. 1975-1983.
1989, 97 pp.
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development- Commission. 1964-1973.
Interviews with Joseph E. Bodovitz, Melvin Lane, and E. Clement Shute.
1986, 98 pp.
For other California water-related interviews see California Water Resources
INTERVIEW HISTORY- -by Malca Chall
Barry Nelson and other environmentalists won a major battle to
reform the Central Valley Project when on October 30, 1992, President
George Bush signed the Omnibus Water Bill, H.R. 429, which included the
Central Valley Project Improvement Act [CVPIA] . Nelson is executive
director of Save San Francisco Bay Association and coordinated Share the
Water, a coalition of some thirty environmental, fishing, and waterfowl
interests. He was, therefore, ideally placed to observe the key players
in that congressional water rights drama.
He also participated in the lobbying and grassroots effort to pass
legislation reflecting Share the Water's vision of a reformed Central
Valley Project. Yet on looking back on those two years (1990-1992), he
says, "If you had shown me the final bill three years ago I would have
said it didn't stand a chance of getting through."
It was not an easy ride. There were behind-the-scenes strategies
and deals cut that occasionally caused Share the Water's adherents to
feel that all was lost.
Despite the odds the improvement act did get through. The power
struggle between the environmentalists and their allies coordinated by
Barry Nelson who successfully backed bills by Congressman George Miller
and Senators Bill Bradley and Bennett Johnston, and the Central Valley
Project Water Association and their allies who backed Senator John
Seymour's bill, is the focus of this four-hour oral history.
Mr. Nelson's oral history offers an opportunity to watch the
legislation develop by stages into what ultimately was the CVPIA. It
started as a simple effort to reform contract renewals, reclamation
rules, and conservation principles in George Miller's 1989-1990 bills and
ended as one involving epochal changes, such as the dedication of nearly
one million acre- feet of water to reestablish decimated fish populations,
provisions for water transfers, and conservation and financing policies
in the Miller-Bradley bills of 1992- -ultimately the Central Valley
Project Improvement Act.
Needless to say there were many key players and observers on each
side of this story: congressmen and their staffs, business and urban
water interests, environmentalists and their allies, lobbyists, members
of California water and agriculture communities, Governor Pete Wilson and
members of his administration, and newspaper columnists. In time, in
diverse ways, they will supplement this oral history by setting forth
their own interpretations of this landmark legislation.
This oral history was recorded in two two-hour sessions on August 3
and 20, 1993, in Barry Nelson's Save San Francisco Bay Association office
in Oakland. He responded to questions enthusiastically, still feeling
the elation of the winning side, even though he recognized the
difficulties ahead in implementing the act. He reviewed his lightly
edited transcript, clarified some passages and supplied missing facts
Although research sources for this first dip into the history of the
Central Valley Project Improvement Act were limited, there was obvious
need to record important details while they were still fresh in the
memories of significant observers and participants. The information
gained will guide later researchers of water policy history. Copies of
the bills and related materials collected for the interviews will be
deposited with the oral history volumes in the Water Resources Center
Archives located on the UC Berkeley campus.
The Regional Oral History Office and students of California water
history thank the University's Water Resources Center and its then-
director Rex Woods for recognizing the value of the CVPIA oral history
project and for funding this interview with Barry Nelson and another with
Jason Peltier. The Water Resources Center, now the Center for Water and
Wildland Resources, has for nearly forty years helped finance interviews
related to water policy produced by this office. A list of oral
histories in California water resources in included in this volume.
The Regional Oral History Office was established in 1954 to augment
through tape-recorded memoirs the Library's materials on the history of
California and the West. Copies of all interviews are available for
research use in The Bancroft Library and in the UCLA Department of
Special Collections. The office is under the direction of Willa K. Baum,
and is an administrative division of The Bancroft Library of the
University of California, Berkeley.
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office University of California
Room 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 94720
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I THE PROGRESS OF THE BILL BRADLEY, GEORGE MILLER, AND JOHN
SEYMOUR BILLS IN CONGRESS, AND THE LOBBYING AND GRASSROOTS EFFORTS
OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND AGRICULTURE COMMUNITIES, 1990-1991
[Interview 1: August 3, 1993
Barry Nelson: Background vith Save San Francisco Bay Association
Chall: Could you first tell me how it is that you happen to be sitting at
this desk as the executive director of Save the Bay?
Nelson: Well, I started with Save the Bay back in 1984, this is my ninth
year here. When I started we had some board members who were
involved in water policy, Will Siri and a couple of others, but,
they were involved in water policy largely as volunteers and
largely outside of the activities of the association. We didn't
have a very visible role on water policy issues when I started. I
began as an intern and there was no executive director position
with the association.
I expected, when I started, that I would be here for a couple
of years and move on as many interns had. I just happened to be
here as the board of directors was starting to think that the
association needed a move in a new direction. It would have been
about seven years ago that the board really started to look at
where the association was going and restructured the association,
set up committees, got board members more involved. Then two
years after that they decided to create an executive director
position and I became the first executive director so that the
association has become more professional and has long-term
professional staff now instead of short term interns.
1 This symbol (##) indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page 86.
The budget has grown dramatically and the board decided about
eight years ago that we needed to expand our programs to make sure
that we were looking at all the threats that were facing the Bay.
It was at that point that we started getting more involved in
water policy and wetlands and water quality issues.
Chall: And the Delta?
Chall: What had been your background up to the point of becoming an
Nelson: I was an academic. I got a bachelors in rhetoric and economics
and a masters in rhetoric from Berkeley. I studied the evolution
of American attitudes toward nature from a, primarily, academic
perspective looking at law and history and literature, and looking
at how we talk about natural resource issues , and what those
debates hinge oVer, and what the underlying assumptions are that
really drive those debates: how change happens and how change has
happened in terms of our attitude towards nature as a country. I
decided- -after I taught in China for a while--! decided that after
I finished my masters I didn't want to be an academic. But that I
would rather get out and do some work as an activist. I did a lot
of searching and found a position here at Save the Bay.
Early Uncoordinated Efforts at Water Policy Reform
Chall: Since you took over as director, you expanded the role, as you
said. Now, at what point did you begin to work either on the
Delta itself or on the Delta in terms of the [George] Miller bill?
I guess those were the early bills weren't they?
Nelson: Right. Well, our first major introduction to Bay-Delta issues was
through the Bay-Delta hearings. We did, in the state litigation
that produced the Racanelli decision, we worked along with EDF
[Environmental Defense Fund] to prepare a brief that was very
important in leading to the Racanelli decision. 2 Clem Shute
represented us and worked with John Krautkraemer pulling together
the public trust section. That was our involvement in the
Racanelli decision. Then in the Bay-Delta hearings that followed
was the vehicle that we used to get ourselves much more involved
v State Water Resources Control Board. 182 Cal . app. 3d82
in water policy issues. And for me personally to get more
involved in water policy issues.
As the Miller-Bradley bill took shape it was something we
followed but followed largely at a distance. I talked with
Miller's office pretty regularly then and stayed in touch with the
issue as the bill came together and as the bill was introduced.
We asked members to write letters; we wrote letters as an
organization. We did what I think most of the members of Share
the Water did and that was to do what we thought our part was
which was to write letters to the right people and to get our
members to write letters to the right people. But they were very
uncoordinated activities. All of us were working independently,
staying in touch with Miller's office independently and doing what
we felt we could to help push the bill.
Chall: Did you have any idea that you, this disparate group of people all
over the area, would have any effect on any of this?
Nelson: At that time? At that time, not really. I'll put it this way: I
don't think, as a community, we had any idea that we could be as
influential working together as Share the Water ultimately was.
Had we all known that, we would have done it long ago. So, no I
don't think so. The groups who were closest to the action early
on were groups like EOF. EOF does a lot of first rate legal and
technical work, but they're not grassroots organizers, they're not
coalition builders, they don't run campaigns.
Chall: Is that [Tom] Graff?
Nelson: Tom Graff and David Yardas and a number of other folks. Tom is
their chief policy guru and David is terrific on technical issues.
David is really wonderful and has been tremendously important in
putting the bill together. He really was very important in
translating a lot of different concepts into concrete proposals
for bill language. So there was, until the bill [Miller: H.R.
1306] died at the end of 1990, it was a very disparate
uncoordinated effort among a lot of groups who were involved at a
great distance writing letters and so forth.
A few groups, like EOF, were more closely involved primarily
on the technical issues, what the bill should look like, but there
was no campaign, there was no coordinated effort to try to make
the bill happen. That had never been done. There are very few
examples of- -I think this is the first example- -of a real
statewide campaign on federal water policy issues that has ever
been pulled together in California. There aren't that many cases
where the California environmental community has come together to
launch a campaign on a federal bill that solely deals with
I think to a certain extent it was- -That type of legislation
is legislation that often fell through the cracks. It was
regional legislation so it wasn't on the radar screens of the
national organizations, and California is such a big state that
there is no single dominant environmental organization that runs
the statewide agenda. The folks like PCL [Planning and
Conservation League] work in Sacramento on state legislation, but
California is such a huge state that there isn't any single
dominant statewide environmental organization that would normally,
naturally, look at a piece of legislation like this and say, "This
is our turf, we're going to run the campaign to make it happen."
Water Policy Reform: the Miller and Bradley Bills. 1989-1990
Chall: But in the meantime, and prior to this, Miller had been putting in
bills from time to time and I guess failing.
Nelson: Miller had been introducing bills and pushing legislation like
this for a long time and had had some success. The Reclamation
Reform Act he was actively involved in, but most of the contract
renewals and reclamation rules and conservation stuff that Miller
was pushing were designed to pressure ag[riculture] from the other
end. They were designed to reform contracts, designed to try to
get at pricing issues, designed to put mechanisms in place that
would, we hoped, down the road produce water for the environment.
They weren't designed to go directly after getting the water and
the money that was necessary to restore natural resources that the
CVP [Central Valley Project] had degraded. And that was the real
difference between his older bills and the CVPIA [Central Valley
Project Improvement Act] . This bill went directly after the
Chall: How did that come about?
Nelson: Well, it came about in a staff meeting where George [Miller]
walked in and said, "I'm tired of fighting battles over
conservation and reclamation reform and so forth; let's go after
the water. Let's get some of the water and money we need to fix
the Bay and Delta." They started talking with folks, and drafting
a bill that was the origin of the bill. George said he was tired
of fighting rear guard actions and wanted to come up with
something that was more visionary that really went at the heart of
the problem. That was introduced in '89 and from then through the
end of 1990, there was an uncoordinated effort from the
environmental community to support that effort. It was after the
bill died, largely due to then Senator Pete Wilson- -certainly on
the Senate side it was Wilson who killed the bill --that we got
together and started thinking about what we could do in the next
session to support Miller and [Bill] Bradley more in an effort to
get the bill through. Miller and Bradley clearly wanted more
support, felt that we could give them more support than we were
giving and they were absolutely right.
Chall: Yes that's right, in 1990 Bradley had a bill in too. Now, could
you give me the number of that bill? I have the number of
Miller's bill, it's H.R. 1306 but I don't have Bradley's.
Nelson: I've forgotten, I'd have to check.
Chall: By the way do you have a copy of [John] Seymour's bill? I've
never seen it. [S. 2016]
Nelson: Sure, I can find one somewhere in my boxes.
Chall: In January then, you decided something had to be done.
Nelson: Right, it was in the spring of 1991.
Chall: Then you organized Share the Water. I have that [in notes] as
May. In the meantime of course, John Seymour, appointed by
Governor Wilson, got on the Senate Subcommittee on Water and
Power. I have also that Miller re-introduced H.R. 1306 in 1991
with a few additions.
Senator Bradley's Interest in the Central Valley Project
Chall: Could you give me some clue now, before we go ahead, as to
Bradley's interest in this subject as far back as 1990- -perhaps
Nelson: Well, as the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power,
issues like the CVP go through his committee. It's no great
secret that the CVP is the biggest water project in the American
West and very much has had the reputation of being the worst water
project in the American West in the sense that it's one where the
amount of waste of water was well known, the abuses of the
Reclamation Reform Act were well known, it has had terrible
drainage problems, the pricing practices in the CVP are some of
the most economically irrational in the nation. It stuck out from
the pack as something that Bradley would pay attention to.
And just about the time that this bill started Bradley hired Tom
Jensen to be his staffer, to be the lead staffer for the
subcommittee working on this issue. Tom has had a lot of
experience working on water issues and it didn't take long to
figure out that the CVP was the rottenest of the rotten apples.
Chall: George Miller's staff person was--
Nelson: Dan Beard primarily, although John Lawrence was very involved,
Steve Lanich was very involved. Dan was the lead staffer, but
George has had such a long running interest in water issues that
he had a whole lot of staff resources to draw on.
Chall: Those are staff people with some knowledge about the water issues.
Water as well as the environmental issues. So you found them easy
to work with I presume?
Nelson: Oh absolutely. I think that what I'd say is that we were not easy
to work with. There are a lot of organizations that have an
interest in California water issues. It's a prominent issue that
a lot of different groups have been following for years. National
groups, regional groups, local groups, groups with very different
perspectives. Fishing organizations, waterfowl, and environmental
groups. We had never spoken with one voice and there was no
unified message from the environmental community to Miller saying,
"This is the kind of bill we want to see and these are the sorts
of trade-offs that we find acceptable, and these are the high
priority issues." There was no unified message. So George's
folks were easy to work with. We weren't.
The Agriculture and Environmental Communities and the Evolution of
the Miller/Bradley and Seymour Bills
Chall: The water people at that time were, you thought, speaking with one
Nelson: Invincible? [laughter]
Chall: And invincible?
Nelson: Yes, I think, there were signs in 1990/1991 of splits within the
ag community. But that community had always been very, very good
at rallying together during a crisis and speaking with one voice.
They were one of the most powerful lobbies in the state and the ag
lobby in D.C. is tremendously powerful and I think most of us felt
that it was going to be a very, very tough run to try to get a
bill through the Congress and signed by the president. If you had
shown me the final bill three years ago, I would have said it
didn't stand a chance of getting through.
Chall: But that bill was revised by both sides over these several years.
Nelson: Right. It went through a tremendous amount of evolution. As
Miller's understanding and Bradley 's understanding of the issue
changed, the issues themselves changed. We tried, one of the
things we tried to do, Share the Water tried to do, was to provide
Miller and Bradley with as many different workable strategies as
we could to make sure that we would come up with one that would
work. So that we were as flexible as possible. So that as the
political process played out and as the technical issues played
out, they would .have a lot of tools in the tool chest for them to
That's why the bill went through such dramatic changes. It's
a big, ambitious piece of legislation that went though dramatic
changes from the bill as introduced to the compromise as it was
passed out of the House committee. Seymour's bill was sent out of
the Senate committee. The bill went through a pretty dramatic
evolution and the final product was produced in conference
committee with a lot of ideas that had been floating around in
various forms. But it came out with a lot of different ideas put
together in a way that they hadn't been before.
Chall: Can we trace some of those changes? Are you able to do that?
That's what I'd like to see happen. I'm sure that students can
take all the bills from time to time and see what they were. What
I'd like to be able to do with you is to find out how those
changes could come about. I mean, with whom did you play, trade,
discuss, argue? Maybe if we go through some of this chronology
it'll come to you. So we're now in, let's say 1991, and Miller
has re-introduced H.R. 1306 [March 1991]. I noticed that it had a
few additions to it.
Nelson: Right, they were not dramatic changes.
Senator Bradley Introduces S. 484: Concerned vlth Water Transfers
Chall: Then Bradley introduced his S. 484. Now was that a re-
introduction of the bill from 1990, do you know?
Nelson: It was, and I'd have to go back and check to make sure that it was
exactly the same bill; it may not have been exactly the same bill.
I can find out .
Chall: Bradley now has S. 484 at least we know that. And it's parallel
to Miller's. The main thrust as I understand that early Bradley
bill had to do with transfers. Is that primarily what that was?
Was that his interest in getting water out of CVP?
Nelson: That was; it's one of the differences between some of the early
versions of the bill. As originally conceived, Miller's bill was
very much a fish and wildlife restoration act. And Bradley 's
bill, I think, earlier on saw the potential to reform the whole
project, not just fish and wildlife issues but water allocation
primarily through the water marketing provision that Bradley was
Chall: Who was working with him on that?
Nelson: Tom Jensen was the lead staffer on that and there were a lot of
folks who were talking with Tom Jensen early on. There were folks
like EOF and NRDC [National Resources Defense Council] and a
number of other people who talked with Tom early on before I knew
him. And Bradley held his first hearing out in California. I
don't know whether that date is in the--
Chall: I have it as September of '91, culled from various sources. It
may not be accurate .
Nelson: Is that his first hearing in California?
Chall: Well, I don't know for sure whether that was the first one.
Nelson: I'd have to go back and check that, because he held a hearing in
San Francisco- -
Chall: I thought it might be San Francisco but I've just put California
down here in my chronology.
Senator Bradley Holds Hearings in California (September 1991)
Nelson: Yes, the first hearing was in Sacramento. There were hearings in
Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, I think those were the
three. Sacramento was the first one. At that meeting Bradley had
very much figured out that water marketing was a key to reforming
the project. To making the economic case that reforming the
project could protect urban areas, provide water supply needed by
urban areas, and most importantly, from a political perspective,
could protect the integrity of the farmer, could protect the
individual farmer- -even provide economic opportunities for farmers
who were interested in conservation, crop changes and so forth,
and dry year fallowing. As a matter of fact, I happened to be
sitting behind a couple of agricultural lobbyists at that first
Chall: And who were they?
Nelson: Oh, you know I didn't know who these folks were, but it was clear
where their sympathies lay. I think I know who they were but I'm
not going to name any names because I didn't know who they were
[at the time] but what they were talking about was water
marketing. I think this was while Tom Graff was testifying and
talking about water marketing as a concept, and talking about the
carrot and the stick approach. That the stick approach is the one
that we've traditionally used in water issues in terms of
regulating water use through, now the Endangered Species Act, and
through the state water board, and the courts primarily in those
days. He was talking about EDF's interest in the carrot, which
was water conservation and water marketing to encourage increased
One of these folks in front of me said to the other one, "Of
course you can always adopt Bradley' s technique of beating the
farmer with the carrot." These were folks who worked for water
districts and they weren't terribly excited about the idea of
their farmers having the right to transfer water. They realized
that water transfers, that the limitations on water transfers were
politically for them a real liability. And they were beaten with
the fact, beaten over the head with the fact that districts could
veto transfers, and the fact that during the drought cotton
acreage expanded while cities were rationing water. If a city
wanted to go out and pay a cotton farmer not to grow a surplus
crop during the drought, it was illegal to do that in big chunks
of the state because it was illegal to take Central Valley Project
water to southern California.
The Metropolitan Water District, the Transfer Issues, and
Chall: You were talking about Bradley 's recognition of the need for
transfers because of the need of urban areas for water. Where was
he thinking about urban areas? With whom might he have been in
Nelson: Certainly he would have been talking with Graff. I don't know how
early on his contacts with folks like Tim Quinn and Carl Boronkay
at Metropolitan Water District started. I don't know how early
his contacts began with them. I was at a meeting of the Committee
for Water Policy Consensus ,- -this was years ago, it probably would
have been '88, '89, something like that- -and Carl Boronkay was
there speaking and talking about water transfers and talking in a
very indirect way about water re-allocation.
What he sai'd was something that really caught my attention.
He said that there comes a point in a state's history where it
might make sense to step back and re -visit the water allocation
picture to see if it still makes sense. What really struck me
about that was that it seemed to me that he was sort of winking at
the environmental community saying, "You folks go after
agriculture and if you succeed in getting some of their water,
that's fine with us. We'll be a silent partner in that."
It was nothing spoken explicitly but it was the first time I
started to see cracks in the urban-ag alliance. And it was
something, it was a very subtle statement. Boronkay is a master
politician. I sat there and sort of found myself thinking what he
is saying was, "If you successfully go after agriculture it's
going to mean a re -shifting of the fundamental water allocation
priorities of this state, and that's okay with us."
But I don't know at what point they started talking with
Miller and Bradley and showing any signs of being actively
involved. MET [Metropolitan Water District] was the giant, silent
participant through the majority of this process. They were not
highly visible, they didn't throw their weight solidly behind
Miller's bill until it was on the president's desk. Perhaps once
it was on the Senate floor, but it was at the tail end of the
process that MET pulled out all the stops and said, "We need a
bill." They had all along said, "We need a bill" but they
endorsed the Seymour bill early on and then they endorsed the
Miller bill in principle- -endorsed the principles of the Miller-
Bradley approach- -but they hadn't withdrawn their support for the
Seymour bill. What does supporting in principle mean? It was a
very fuzzy position,
the fence , too .
MET was clearly trying to play both sides of
Chall: When you say MET, are you talking about Boronkay as their
spokesman or did they have the president of their board or their
Nelson: It was Boronkay as their spokesman primarily. MET has a very big,
diverse board. Very clearly, Carl was pushing his board hard to
try to get them to recognize that they should not simply stand
shoulder to shoulder with ag and block a bill which is what ag was
doing. And it's very clear to me that Boronkay dragged a
reluctant board into the twentieth century during this process
with the help of his chair, Mike Gage.
Chall: I had heard that early on, maybe February when things began to
move in 1992, that Wilson was very upset with a position that
Boronkay had taken and began to work the board, or at least the
Nelson: At various points in the process, basically the point at which
Boronkay was starting to get his board to support Miller-Bradley
in principle, Wilson's people worked some of the MET board very
hard. And later on when we were trying to get a presidential
signature and trying to get the bill out of the Senate, Wilson's
folks were very active in southern California trying to pull MET
and some of MET's member groups off the bill.
Chall: And he probably succeeded to some degree, but not enough?
Nelson: Not really. I think the final message from the urban water
districts and businesses was that the bill was essential to the
wealth of the state's economy, that it was--
Nelson: --fair to the farmers and that they couldn't simply stop change.
I also think that southern California very much realized that they
had to do something to deal with the environmental problems. That
with the Endangered Species Act looming and the state water board
not making any progress, this was the best game in town in terms
of trying to find constructive solutions to the problems that are
very real problems in the Bay and Delta. They realized that they
had to deal with them, that the California urban population
strongly supports environmental protection, that this was a
reasonable way of doing it and if they didn't do it, what they
would see is disaster.
Chall: Had they come to the conclusion perhaps that they weren't going to
get facilities in the Delta?
Nelson: Oh, I think that they realized long ago that- -MET still wants a
peripheral canal- -but they know that the political reality is that
under the most optimistic of scenarios it's years, decades down
And I think Carl Boronkay started to look at water marketing
seriously with the first deal with Imperial Irrigation District.
I think they were realizing that if they want affordable
water for their customers that water transfers are by far the
cheapest way of getting it. It's cheaper than building new dams,
it's cheaper than water reclamation and de-salination. That water
transfers are the most reliable, cheapest form of water available,
that if you build new dams you are at the end of the pipe in terms
of water rights and subject to the greatest uncertainty in
droughts. Through water marketing you can get water with the
greatest certainty because some of the farmers in California have
the oldest water rights in the state. Very, very stable, very
I think MET realized that economically without any doubt that
was the best source of supply to the extent that they wanted new
supply. So with the Imperial Irrigation District I think they
really saw the opportunity and they looked up to the Central
Valley where there were tremendous opportunities and it was
completely off limits. The largest water project in the U.S. was
off limits to the largest urban area in the U.S. that was just one
mountain range away. The pipes were in place to take the water
there. It didn't make a lot of sense.
Chall: I understand that Carl Boronkay is no longer the executive of the
Metropolitan Water District, is that true?
Nelson: That's right.
Chall: Was this a result that it was his time to retire, or was this the
result of what happened?
Nelson: I honestly don't know. I suspect and I haven't talked with Carl--
I've seen him since but I haven't talked with him about this- -I
suspect that he saw this as a crowning accomplishment for his
career at MET. I have no doubts that this took a tremendous
amount out of him. Supporting this bill was an easy decision for
the environmental people, this was a terrific bill.
This was not an easy decision for MET or for Boronkay I'm
sure. Because MET has had long ties with Central Valley
agriculture, it's how the State Water Project got built. It was
not easy to get his board to come off their support of ag, their
knee-jerk support of the ag community and work cooperatively- -
although seldom in the same room at the same time- -with the
This bill really represents an alliance between urban
interests and the environmental community, nevertheless there were
very few face-to-face meetings. There were no backdoor deals cut
in terms of what this bill would look like. We were working for a
bill that we thought would look good and we recognized that water
marketing was a part of the picture. MET was working for a bill
that would allow water marketing and they knew that environmental
protection was part of the picture. There were no secret cabals
where MET and the environmental community sat down and plotted
strategy. We both worked independently and largely didn't see
each other. MET was, as I said, largely a silent player here. My
impression of their role was that they would stay in touch with
Miller and Bradley and they would keep saying to them, "We need a
bill and we need a bill that will have workable water marketing
provisions." Where the real deal making was where MET sat down
with the attorney for the Central Valley Project, Central Valley
Water Association and--
Chall: Stuart Somach?
Nelson: --right, right, Stuart Somach, they sat down with Stuart and wrote
the Seymour bill. [S. 2016]
Writing and Revising the Seymour Bill. S. 2016 (Autumn 1991)
Chall: But it was re-written
a number of times as I understand it--
Nelson: Before the final version came out?
Nelson: That's right. The final version [of the Seymour bill] cane out in
a hurry and my understanding is that MET wasn't delighted with the
final version. They thought it was going to go through further
revisions. But they supported the final product. I don't know,
not being terribly close to his office, I don't know the exact
details of how those revisions happened and where they went.
We looked at the Seymour bill before it was introduced and
critiqued it before it was introduced. It never really changed.
It was never amended from the time it was introduced until the
Senator offered some amendments on the Senate floor during the
final debate when it was far too late. As a matter of fact, one
of the last things the Senate did was to pass Seymour's bill and
send it over to the House. Which was a sop to the Senator in kind
of an absurd gesture because the House had already adjourned for
the session. So the Seymour bill did clear the Senate and was
sent over to the void.
It was never changed in response to criticisms, to strong
criticisms from the urban community and the business community
that the transfer sections were lousy. And strong criticisms from
the environmental community that the environmental section was
virtually meaningless. In a lot of ways it was worse than current
law. It was just a terribly written bill. The Senator never made
any attempt to turn that into a real bill. It was never a real
proposal, it was simply a gesture to show that he was willing to
deal with the issue. We called it a PR bill, it was a press
Chall: Is that do you think because they had always been powerful enough
to stop bills in the past?
Nelson: I think from the beginning of the process the ag community hoped
to stop any bill from moving forward- -and here I need to stop and
say that I'm going to make an exception with one piece of the
community because the Sacramento Valley folks, the California Rice
Industry Association and others at the end of the process came to
the table and participated constructively. They were neutral on
the final bill which was a huge, huge step forward for the rice
Share the Water is Organized: Its Members and Associates
Yes, I wanted to get to that. Let me go back now to Share the
Water. I realize from what you've written, how it might have been
organized, but at the time when you became the coordinator it must
have been pretty hot and heavy, much going on, so that they
realized that they needed extra staff and somebody to take charge.
So tell me about it and how you all worked.
I became the coordinator at the end of 1991.
coordinator before that.
Dave Behar was the
Dave Behar is the executive of the--
Bay Institute. But what did we do?
Yes. I mean, you organized, Behar organized it initially- -
It was a very cooperative effort. It was at a meeting at EDF's
office where a bunch of the folks--
In whose office?
In EDF's office. In Spring of '91 we got together and decided
that Share the Water was needed and we talked to Miller and
Bradley' s staffers and they made it real clear that they thought
it was needed as well. It was very much a group decision to pull
it together. We sort of looked around the table to figure out who
had the time to 'work on this . I was working on some other stuff
and Dave Behar got drafted to work on it for that first eight or
nine months of '91 until the end of the year.
What we did was sit down and decide that we had to run a
campaign. And there were always two pieces of a campaign, one was
the technical side and the other half was the political side. It
was always more tempting to deal with the technical side than the
nuts and bolts of running a campaign. We met probably for a good
chunk of the campaign about every two weeks .
All thirty of you? Eventually there were thirty organizations.
Over thirty organizations. All of them were active and there were
far more than thirty who were actively involved. Organizations
like California Waterfowl Association was never a member of--
You speak rapidly,
to be sure .
I think [transcribers] can hear you but I want
Dan Chapin was the lead guy with California Waterfowl and they
were never a member of Share the Water. But we worked very
closely with them and they were actively involved with us. We
worked very closely with the business community. Mike McGill was
the lead person on the business side and they were also never
members of Share the Water but we worked very closely.
The Involvement of the Business Community
I wondered about that. Mike McGill is with the Business
Roundtable or the Bay Area Economic Forum?
He was the director of the Bay Area Economic Forum and was the
lead staffer working with the California Business Roundtable but
he didn't work for them.
How did these people happen to come around?
the Business Roundtable for example?
Who are members of
The Business Roundtable is the hundred largest corporations in
California. They are the powerhouses of California business. The
Bay Area Economic Forum is, I think, the five hundred largest Bay
Area companies. So they very much represent the business
community respectively of the Bay Area and the state as a whole.
At what point did they come around? I would think that some of
these people would have ties to the agriculture industry?
Well, they do. The key players in the business community were
Mike McGill and Fred Cannon. He's an economist for Bank of
America, was never involved in the campaign, never involved in
advocating positions on the bill, but his background as an
economist for B of A was real important in helping educate the
business community about what was really happening with the
economics of water. Fred has been somewhat active in writing
articles about water issues and farm economics for years. Simply
working for B of A giving them good sound advice on agricultural
That work which was written for bankers was, we found, very
illuminating in terms of looking at what changes in water policy
would really mean for the ag economy and what Fred wrote for B of
A essentially demonstrated what we'd felt all along and that was
that it would be possible to re-allocate water, to encourage
conservation, to allow water marketing to happen, and to preserve
or even strengthen the ag economy. Fred was writing that not as
an environmentalist but as somebody giving B of A good sound
economic advice. It was important in terms of educating the
The other person who was a key here was Jim Harvey with
Transamerica. He was the head of the Business Roundtable 's water
task force, water committee. And other businesses as well. We
worked closely with the Port of Oakland and San Francisco. I
don't know whether this is something you've come across--
The Interests of the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco
Chall: Port of Oakland and Port of San Francisco?
Nelson: --and the Port of San Francisco, yes. Both of those ports were
starting to run into problems with the winter run salmon. When
the winter run was declared a threatened species they ran into
problems with dredging operations in the Bay because of potential
impacts on the winter run.
We went to the ports and said that we were concerned that
their dredging could potentially have an impact on the winter run
and that was a real issue that they needed to address but that
basically they could take the high road or the low road. They
could either attack the Endangered Species Act and drag their feet
and scream and y'ell which is difficult for an agency in the Bay
Area to do because of support for environmental protection. Or
they could take the high road and the high road is saying, "Yep,
the winter run is in serious trouble and let's find a solution
that will solve the problem and won't threaten the ports." And
they realized that the solution was the Miller-Bradley bill. We
went to them and worked with them for quite a while to persuade
them to support meaningful water reform and got them to do that.
Chall: So they worked directly with Miller and Bradley rather than
Nelson: Right. Again, the ports were not members of Share of Water but
the ports took public positions and then after the ports became
involved the mayors of San Francisco and Oakland got involved and
supported the Miller-Bradley bill and said that it was not just
good for the environment but that it would also protect ports in
the Bay Area.
Through the whole campaign, we kept hearing the agricultural
community talk about third-party impacts. The case we were able
to make was that there were third-party impacts already. There
were third-party impacts to Bay Area ports who were getting hit by
restrictions because of the winter run that had been wiped out by
the CVP and that the recreation and fishing industries had been
just devastated by the CVP. Those industries are not subsidized.
The farmers were screaming about impacts to farmers. Those are
the folks who created the problem and those are the folks who
received massive federal subsidies.
What we managed to show was that we don't have a choice about
whether or not there are going to be third-party impacts. We're
already living with those impacts. That load, that burden, was
being shared inequitably. The fisherman was getting wiped out,
the Port of Oakland was getting wiped out, and they had no part in
causing the problems. The biggest source of the winter run's
decline, without any argument, is the CVP. The CVP folks were
contributing nothing to the solution to the problem.
Chall: Somebody had to go out and speak to all these people, the port and
the cities of Oakland- -who was that?
Nelson: That was Share the Water. Every other week at Share the Water
meetings we would divide up what we were working on, both on the
political and media side and on the technical side and divide up
tasks. It was the only way we were able to do all the things that
we did. We had a core- -thirty organizations, roughly, that were
member groups and many more people than that were actively
involved with us that weren't formal members, and there was a core
group of twenty 'to thirty people who were very, very active. This
bill was their number one priority for two years. We met every
other week and plotted strategy and handed out tasks and reported
on what had happened since our last meeting.
Chall: Could you sometime give the names of some of those people? You
don't have to do it today.
Nelson: Sure. Okay.
Chall: We'll just put it in so we know who they were. Now, the L.A.
Water and Power, was that on your side before MET? Where were
they in all of this?
Nelson: I'd have to go back and check that. I think that's correct that
they came on before MET did. But I'd have to go back and check my
notes to verify that.
Chall: And possibly at the same kind of level, that is, not with you but
lobbying on their own.
Nelson: Exactly, there was no- -folks in the ag community, folks like Jason
Peltier said that MET climbed into bed with the environmentalists.
I've heard him say that. From our perspective it was kind of odd
because we never saw MET. The only times we sat down with MWD
[Metropolitan Water District] during this whole process,
basically, were when we were talking about the Seymour bill which
was in play, at the invitation of the farmers and the Senator.
But basically it was a strategy pulled together from the farming
community and through the Three -Way Process that I sat on and the
ag folks were at the table .
The Effect of Impending Legislation on the Three-Way Water
Chall: Was the Three -Way Process going on at this time?
Nelson: It was going on at the beginning of the process. Once the fights
over the bill really heated up in 1991, once it became clear that
this was a major push to get the legislation through then the
Three -Way Process completely petered out. Partially due to the
fact that the ag community went to the mattresses and wasn't in a
negotiating mood and hasn't come out of that since and the fact
that everybody was putting their energy into the bill. The fact
that there were a lot of people working on the bill meant there
was not a lot of extra energy to put into other issues. So the
Three-Way Process fell apart then, largely- -would meet
occasionally- -but it wasn't making a lot of progress. And still
hasn't gotten back on it's feet.
The Opposition of the Agriculture Community
Nelson: Right now that's clearly because as I said, the strategy of the
powers in the ag community with the exception of rice at the end
of the process was to stop the bill. I think from the very
beginning they assumed that they could stop this bill and never
came to the table as a community and stayed at the table to try to
negotiate solutions that were workable from their perspective. We
tried and we always figured that at some point ag would come to
the table and the bill would change and that they would recognize
that legislation was unavoidable. Eventually they would come to
the table and negotiate and we made numerable attempts to sit down
with ag. Share the Water sat down with ag lobbyists many, many
Chall: Who were these lobbyists?
Nelson: Oh, Stuart Somach was the lead staffer for them, along with Jason
Peltier, Dave Schuster was in on some of these talks as well, and
there were often representatives of the three major factions
within the CVP Water Association. The factions being the
Sacramento Valley, the west side of the San Joaquin and the east
side of the San Joaquin. They would each have a representative in
there and Share the Water would come in with- -we had a negotiating
team of about five or six people who we worked with most of the
time on the nuts and bolts of the technical issues. There were
about five or six on the other side, with Stuart as the lead
negotiator and attorneys from each of those three factions
providing him with guidance. Those talks never went any where.
We sat down with them a number of times and started
negotiations that then fell apart with regularity. I actually
did- -I can pull out for you- -a history of our attempts to
negotiate with the ag community. There was a very clear pattern.
There were folks in the community that recognized that a bill was
inevitable and would try to come to the table but they could never
develop enough of a consensus within the community to stay at the
table. Every time negotiations started the ag community would
reach into the room and yank the negotiator out.
Was it mainly the CVP water users that were intransigent?
about Schuster and the State Water Contractors?
Traditionally, they were different. The State Water Project was
different because the state has agricultural and urban users.
Therefore, once MET realized that it wanted a bill, folks like
Dave Schuster had conflicting messages from their leadership. And
with the Association of California Water Agencies that was even
more true. ACWA [Association of California Water Agencies] has
urban members and ag members and they pretty early on in this
process basically became paralyzed. They were not going to reach
a consensus between the ag and urban communities on what that
final bill would look like, if indeed there should be a bill. As
a result, ACWA and the state project users weren't major players
in the process because they were conflicted out. That's why the
CVP Water Association obviously had the folks most directly
affected, and as the folks who didn't get conflicting messages
from their leadership were the lead organizations fighting the
bill. When we attempted to negotiate they were the lead folks on
the agricultural side.
That's the Central Valley Project Water Association?
Chall: So they were intransigent most of the time?
Nelson: Well, it's difficult from the outside to see what's happening but
it's pretty clear to us that there were some folks in that
community who knew that a bill was going to happen. Stuart Somach
is a professional and I think Stuart probably recognized that a
bill was going to happen. And there were clearly folks within the
community who wanted to come to the table. But they were also
clearly in the minority. When they started to negotiate they were
pulled out of the room. On one occasion when Bradley convened
negotiations Stuart Somach walked in and said, "I can't negotiate.
There is nothing I can offer."
On another occasion when Bradley was trying to convene
negotiations the governor talked with some of the folks within the
farming community and pulled the plug on the talks. The governor
told the farmers that they shouldn't be in the room, they
shouldn't contribute to the process that was leading to a bill.
The Stuart Somach-Tom Graff Negotiations
Nelson: That happened when- -there was a separate process where Stuart
Somach and Tom Graff sat down as individuals and tried to
negotiate a package that was a very different direction from what
had happened before. It wasn't easy from our perspective, sort of
allowing Tom to remain in that room, because the direction they
were going in wasn't nearly as strong as the package that we were
supporting with Miller and Bradley and we were afraid that it
could potentially undermine their efforts. On the other hand we
were also afraid that we could hit gridlock and be unable to move
We didn't know whether we were going to be able to move a
bill and always felt that we needed to be flexible enough to
consider different approaches. We as a group, Share the Water,
debated whether or not we should try to talk Tom out of the room.
If the environmental community had said, had sort of told Tom that
we were going to disown his activities and whatever came out of
the process of those talks, he couldn't, Tom couldn't have
stayed in the room. There wouldn't have been any support, there
would have been no point to his staying in the room. Share the
Water told him to keep negotiating and it was the ag folks who
pulled Stuart out. It was actually when Tom and Stuart went back
to D.C. to present their product, I think Stuart actually flew
back to D.C. and he was not allowed to walk into the room. 3
Chall: Mr. Kahrl, I can't think of his first name at the moment.
Chall: He wrote a scathing article- -
3 See further discussion on the Somach/Graff negotiations on pp. 55-59.
Nelson: [sigh] Just one? [laughs]
Chall: I've only seen a few. About that Somach/Graff meeting in which he
claimed that Graff lost--
Nelson: That Tom was giving away the store.
Chall: Tom gave away the store. He said it in different words but Tom
gave it away. He [Kahrl] was really quite exercised about this.
He felt that once again Miller was about to give away the store.
Miller apparently, in Kahrl 's words, often has done this. You get
so far with Miller and then he gives it away. So I've always been
interested in what really happened.
The Editorial Position of the Sacramento Bee
Nelson: Bill Kahrl 's editorials through this whole process have been
particularly irrational. On the one hand, we never figured out
what Mr. Kahrl was for. As the lead daily for the Central Valley,
one of the major papers in the state, The f Sacramento 1 Bee never
took an editorial position regarding what they supported. He was
against Miller-Bradley, he was against the Somach/Graff proposal,
he was against the Miller-Bradley proposal. Each time he attacked
those proposals as being not perfect. Well, we would all freely
agree that they're not perfect from an environmental perspective.
We didn't get to draft the final bill in any of those cases.
It was frustrating to have a major daily sort of sitting
outside the process taking pot shots without ever suggesting what
direction they thought the bill should go in. When Somach/Graff
came out, which was something that Share the Water never endorsed
because we supported Miller-Bradley, it was a new direction. That
was attacked for being too weak and Miller-Bradley ultimately was
attacked for being too strong, and there was never any sense from
The Bee regarding what as an editorial board they actually were
for. So, basically we started looking at The Bee as a loose
cannon that wasn't really for anything.
Water reform in D.C. is an extremely difficult thing to
accomplish and the final bill we got was not perfect but it's an
incredibly good bill and The Bee attacked it for not being
perfect. By the time we got to the end of the process we all knew
that that's what would happen. That there was no hope to get The
Bee to support anything because they didn't seem to be a positive
agenda there. It's real easy to criticize D.C. as not being
perfect. It's not.
Chall: At some point can you tell me exactly what it was about
Somach/Graff that created such strong feeling? I understand
Somach was pulled out but you didn't pull Graff out?
Nelson: No. Even though we didn' t- -Share the Water never supported the
product that came out. I do have somewhere in those boxes a
critique of Somach/Graff that talks about some problems.
Chall: I'd like to see that.
Nelson: Sure. I can pull that out.
Share the Water 'Lobbyist David Weiman Assists the Campaign in
Chall: Back to Share the Water. Early on you appointed David Weiman to
be a staff member in Washington D.C.?
Nelson: Right. He was our lobbyist in D.C.
Chall: He has had a lot of experience back there hasn't he?
Nelson: He's been around water issues in D.C. for a long time. Yes. He
was in the Carter administration and, I think, for about the last
seventeen years or so he's been working as a lobbyist on water
issues in D.C.
Chall: Was he effective?
Nelson: Oh, he was terrific. We did have other organizational members in
D.C. We had- -especially National Wildlife Federation with Ed
Osann and Dave Conrad. Ed Osann and Dave Conrad were both really
active. There were a number of other folks as well, back in D.C. ,
Defenders of Wildlife, and a number of others. But David [Weiman]
was our lobbyist who provided us with a lot of guidanc.e regarding
how to make the bill happen and the big political picture that was
affecting the bill. David was tremendously effective in terms of,
not so much opening doors- -because many of the doors were already
open to Share the Water.
Chall: Okay, we're on.
Nelson: Well, I was talking about David Weiman. David was in touch with
what was going on in D.C. which was difficult for us out in
California always to see. To be back there on a day to day basis
and to know what was going on. David was just tremendously
important in terms of helping give us guidance about how the
process worked, what we needed to do strategically in order to
make the bill happen. Not so much on the technical side because
that we had a good handle on, but on the political side, the
Chall: Can you give me some examples? An example --
Nelson: Yes, I will. I'll give you one example that in a way was my
favorite piece of the campaign. David was always pushing us to
make the twin cases that this was not just an environmental bill,
this was an environmental and an economic bill. He was always
pushing us to make that case publicly. He pushed us to go talk
with the Port of Oakland and the Port of San Francisco, pushed us
to get the fishermen involved. Share the Water all the fishing
organizations were members of Share the Water and David pushed us
hard and pushed them hard to be more visible, to be more active.
The commercial and recreational fishermen had really never really
linked arms in a highly visible public way on fisheries issues.
They had never worked cooperatively together in a very
visible way and they had in some cases been in competition over
the resource. Were the commercial fisherman going to get the fish
or were the recreational fishermen going to get the fish? What
they realized in Share the Water was that nobody was getting the
fish. They were losing the fish, both of them were.
This was when the ag community was, when the farmers were
starting to ship farmworkers to Sacramento to parade around the
capital and say we've got to kill Miller-Bradley in order to
protect our jobs which made us sick because there were a lot of
folks within the environmental community who work very closely
with the farmworker community on environmental problems,
pesticides and so forth. It just struck us as obscene that these
growers who put farmworkers out of work every time they could
mechanize the fields and were poisoning them with pesticides would
throw these people on a bus and ship them up to Sacramento and
parade them around. Which they really did. The growers paid for
the buses and gave them lunches and made their signs and stamped
their letters. I happened to be in Bradley' s office once when
letters came in from farmworkers and they were all on company
stationery stamped with the company stamps. These folks were
really used as pawns by the growers, which just made us sick.
were railing about that at a meeting and Weiman said,
making your case . "
The fishermen got fired up and held a rally on the steps of
the State Capitol and for the first time, both the recreational
and commercial fishermen got there- -there were hundreds of them
there, three or four hundred fishermen there- -making the case that
they were getting wiped out. There were people from city councils
and an assemblyman from the north coast and recreational fishermen
representatives and they went up and screamed and yelled that they
were getting wiped out by water policy, wiped out by the CVP.
Miller-Bradley wasn't just for environmentalists, it was going to
save their jobs and their communities. And that Senator Seymour
was not even willing to meet with them.
It was my favorite, my sentimental favorite piece of the
campaign. It was a real turning point for us. In terms of making
the public case that, as I said, that the current practices were
already affecting peoples' lives. We felt that we could protect
the farming communities from unnecessary impacts, that we could
protect the farm communities by writing the bill properly. But
the current practices were wiping out communities and wiping out
folks like commercial fishermen and north coast communities. The
farm community was doing nothing to deal with those issues. They
weren't even willing to come to the table. Senator Seymour wasn't
even willing to sit down with us. And it was tremendously
important. It was that kind of political advice that Dave Weiman
gave us. At the end of the process I think it was very important.
Senator Seymour Refuses to Meet with Share the Water
Nelson: Senator Seymour never met with Share the Water, which was the
coalition of groups representing fishermen and environmentalists
and waterfowl users, never met with us until a few days before the
Senate acted. It wasn't until late September, early October that
the Senator finally sat down with us for a very perfunctory
Chall: What did he want, by that time? That was pretty late.
Nelson: You know, it wasn't much of a meeting. He wanted us to support
his bill and we clearly didn't. The day the Senate committee
acted, the Senate Energy Committee, acted on his bill, I saw the
Senator in the hallway. We had written him letters and talked to
staff and said we wanted to meet with him and you know, we never
got a meeting. This was for over a year.
Chall: Are you talking about October already?
Nelson: This was '92.
Chall: '92, when it was almost all over.
Nelson: Yes. But we started--! mean one of the first things Share the
Water did was write a letter to Senator Seymour saying, "Can we
sit down with you?" And we never got a meeting. We talked with
his staff and this went on for over a year. The Senator told me
in the hallway of the Senate that he didn't want to work with us.
He was very clear. He said, "As long as you are trying to rape
California agriculture for 1.2 million acre feet or 1 . 5 million
acre feet, he said- -which was the wrong number- -he said, I have no
interest in working with you." He didn't want to sit down with
us. We were very critical of him publicly for not being willing
to sit down. What happened at the end of the process was that
Republican senators rolled him. Because they knew that he wasn't
dealing with real issues, he wasn't meeting with his own
constituents, he, wasn't meeting with urban water users, he wasn't
meeting with environmentalists.
We went and talked to Republican senators to brief them on
what was happening and what we were proposing and what was wrong
with the Seymour bill. We could get in to talk to other senators
from around the U.S., Democratic and Republican; we couldn't get
in to talk to Senator Seymour.
Chall: When you say you went to other Republicans, are you talking about
Republicans in the states that were part of the Omnibus Bill? Or
other states. I mean, how did you choose- -
Nelson: Primarily there were Republicans- -the legislators that followed
this, other than Bradley, were basically the folks who were
western senators and House members who had a stake in the Omnibus
Bill. There aren't that many eastern- - there are a few eastern
legislators, folks like Howard Metzenbaum, and a number of others,
who have an interest in western water issues for environmental
reasons and like Bradley for economic reasons as well. But the
bottom line is that for most East Coast legislators western water
law isn't something that they spend much time thinking about.
The Genesis of H.R. 429: The Omnibus Water Bill
Chall: The big Omnibus Bill that you just mentioned, 429 I think it is-
Chall: I have never been able to figure out whether it was a Senate bill
or House bill or both.
Nelson: It was both. H.R. 429. Ultimately it was a House package. The
House passed it, the Senate came up with a proposal, and then I
believe the final language is that the Senate recedes to the House
bill with amendments and that was the final package. The final
version was a conference committee product. It wasn't really
House or Senate, it was a joint negotiated product.
Chall: H.R. 429 had been going- -
Nelson: --in the House for years.
Chall: And it was an Omnibus Bill for other- -
Nelson: --other western states.
Chall: Bureau of Reclamation projects, is that it?
Well, what happened was, all of these bills, most of these
bills were introduced separately and eventually were all rolled
into one package. At the committee level they were rolled into
one package. So instead of trying to move thirty-four or thirty-
six titles in here they lumped them together and dealt with them
as one bill. Which is something that's often done, where you have
so many different bills dealing with the same issue. These are
all western water bills. They're all reclamation projects and
they are all packaged together as one bill.
By the time the conference committee rolled around there was
some controversy over the Grand Canyon provisions in here, but it
wasn't a brutal fight. The question was what was going to happen
with the CVP.
Chall: So eventually 1306 and 484--
Nelson: --were rolled into 429.
Chall: After they had been reconciled?
Nelson: No, it was during the process. Miller and Bradley both made it
very clear that they were going to pass an omnibus bill and that
it was going to have CVP reform in it. So from the very beginning
of the process they simply made it very clear that they were going
to make sure that they didn't just deal piecemeal with other
projects around the U.S. --some of which were relatively easy to
come to a consensus on. Things like the Central Utah Project
which had been controversial for years. Eventually CUP and the
environmentalists sat down and came up with something that was not
universally agreed upon b'ut it was a dramatic improvement over the
original product. We worked closely with the CUP which was
furious about the Central Valley Project folks because CUP was
trying to get a bill. They sat down with the environmentalists,
they gave up water, they gave up money, and they looked at the
Central Valley Project and said, "These folks are paying nothing
for their water, they're swimming in water and they won't give up
a drop of water and they won't give up a penny." And that was
true westwide, that folks around the West looked at the CVP and
said this is the worst of American reclamation. It's wasteful,
greedy, and irrational. And other folks were coming to the table.
And, you know, CVP wasn't.
Chall: I see, so early on as they were revising 1306, 5099, and 484 it
was said ultimately though that a bill is going into the Omnibus
Bill. Is that it?
Chall: That I think might have frightened the water people considerably
at some point because it might look as if the whole thing could
move against them.
Nelson: Oh there were many, many points where we thought the bill was
going to go down. Either go down or pass. I mean, we didn't
Chall: The separate bills- -
Nelson: Yes, yes.
Chall: Before it went into the Omnibus?
Nelson: Right. We never- -Share the Water had remarkable mood swings where
we would think one week that the pieces were coming together and
it was going to sail through and the next week things would come
apart and it would look like the whole Omnibus Bill and the CVP
provision would simply come crashing down. This was- -the final
product, it started in '91 when Miller and Bradley introduced it--
and it was resolved not until the waning hours of the
congressional session in '92. This was the last bill resolved at
the end of '92.
There were a couple of bills at the end of '92 that were the
really intractable bills that they couldn't resolve. The energy
bills, some tax bills, a couple of other things that the Senate
simply couldn't resolve. They always hang on to the end of the
session. The stuff that they can get a consensus on happens
earlier and the stuff that they're not even close on dies. The
CVP and a couple of other bills were hanging on to the end of the
session. They were hanging on because one man, Senator Seymour,
wouldn't come to the table. We didn't really expect it to be a
full two-year process originally. We knew there was so much
impatience for that water Omnibus Bill. We thought what would
happen was that that pressure would drag the water users to the
table, that Miller and Bradley would negotiate a bill with them,
and that we would see a bill by the end of '91.
Senator Bradley Tries to Reach Agreement with Competing Water
Interests in Washington. D.C. (November 1991)
Chall: What can you tell me or have you discussed enough about the
Bradley hearings in California in September, or in November, when
Bradley called together the three competing interests in
Washington to consider a compromise on his own legislation. There
was no agreement and so he said he'd go back to the original S.
484, amending it.
Nelson: I'll take the second one, the second half of that question first.
Bradley called the competing sides together; we had been trying to
sit down with the water users and it hadn't worked. Bradley felt
that he could compel them to sit down with him. He called a
meeting in D.C. with the environmental folks, the urban
representatives, and the ag representatives, and the governor's
office. Both the governor's and the agricultural representatives
showed up and told the Senator that they were not authorized to
negotiate. It was a pretty short meeting. Bradley came in and
said, "Okay, where do we go from here? We haven't been able to
reach an agreement on my bill, I'm open to new approaches, what
have you got?"
We had sent Tom Graff back there with a long list: here's our
first priority, here's our second priority and here are
alternatives. If this doesn't work, try this alternative. We've
always been willing to try different approaches and to be flexible
in terms of how we found ways to deal with the environmental
problems. It could be more money, it could be more water, we
could re-allocate directly, we could tie it to contract renewals,
lots of different alternatives.
Share the Water's Firm Goals and Differing Approaches
Chall: The alternatives, though, were always directed toward what?
Nelson: Our goal was to deal with the environmental problems that the CVP
faced. There were a number of different pieces of that. There
were the hardware issues that were relatively easy to get
agreement on except for who funded them. The growers were
delighted to have these things built if they didn't have to pay
Chall: That's fish screens and--
Nelson: The hardware, the temperature curtain at Shasta Dam, and fixing
the Coleman fish hatchery. So there was the hardware piece, there
was a policy piece. Things like making fish and wildlife a
project purpose because the bureau had insisted in many, many,
many cases that they were not authorized to protect fish and
wildlife by their authorizing legislation. We felt that needed to
be changed. Third, we felt we needed to have water for fisheries
in the Trinity River and for wildlife refuges, and finally, we
needed money to pay for the fish screens and so forth.
There were a whole host- -I mean those could be combined in
different ways and if you didn't get all four you could get three
in a different way. We always were --when you look at the bills
they reflected very different approaches to that. Miller's bill,
for example, had 1.5 million acre-feet. It was a straight re-
allocation of water.
The final bill was a mixture of water and money so that they
decreased the impact on the growers and got power users into the
loop. The power users who contribute to the CVP problem and
benefit from the CVP greatly. If you just re-allocate water the
power users are off the hook.
The money and water was something that we were always willing
to be flexible on. And so Tom went back with a long list of
things as our lead negotiator. Tom went back with a long list of
directions from Share the Water and Tom walked into the room.
There were the ag representatives and Doug Robotham from [Douglas]
Wheeler's office. He said he wasn't authorized to negotiate and
Stuart Somach did the same thing. The meeting ended immediately.
Bradley made it clear that he was going to move a bill and that if
they couldn't negotiate on the bill he would move the one that he
had originally introduced.
Chall: There was nothing brought in from the ag side? No change?
Nelson: No, nothing. They literally sat down and Stuart Somach said, "I
am not authorized to negotiate anything, nothing." He couldn't
suggest anything, he couldn't agree to anything. He was
authorized to do no negotiating at all. They opposed the current
bill and they would not suggest how to fix it other than the
Seymour bill. That was it; that was their offer. And they
weren't negotiating. Doug Robotham showed up and said he actually
was not even representing the governor, he was there as an
individual, observing. The meeting died.
The Opinions of Governor Pete Wilson and his Administration
Chall: I was told at some point that Doug Wheeler was not always in
conformity with the opinions of Wilson. He was willing to give a
little more or he had at some point.
Nelson: Well, it's very clear thatit's no secret that there's a split in
the administration- -that Doug Wheeler recognized early on that a
bill was probably going to happen. It's clear from the outside
even though nobody ever talks to --there are no sort of
subterranean connections- -it' s very clear to anybody who's watched
the process that- -I think Doug Wheeler recognized that there was
probably going to be a bill and that they should go to the table
and that interests like the environmental interests and interests
of two- thirds of the people in California couldn't be simply
David Kennedy has been very intractable. I think it's also
clear that in that process David Kennedy has been the winner
regarding the governor's water policy. The governor has allied
himself with the most extreme elements of the agricultural
community for the last several years and has done virtually
nothing that has responded to the interests of urban areas or the
Even folks like the rice industry that were neutral on the
final bill- -there were plenty of people within ag--some portions
of ag like the rice community- -who recognized that they had to
come to the table. But the east side and the west side of the San
Joaquin Valley never came to the table, and they knew they had the
governor's ear and the governor essentially made it impossible for
them to negotiate. The ag community couldn't negotiate with the
governor making it clear that he was willing to do whatever the
most reactionary elements within that community wanted.
He opposed Miller-Bradley, he did the same thing when he
pulled the plug on state water standards. In that climate where
the governor is allying himself so closely with the extreme fringe
of a community, that community can't come to the table. If a
governor were to align himself with Earth First on all
environmental issues, it would be very difficult for the
environmental community to go to the table and negotiate. That
doesn't seem likely to happen. The governor talked in his water
policy about providing leadership- -in April of '92--about
providing leadership and being an honest broker and he's been the
opposite. He's not just allied himself with ag, he's allied
himself with the most extreme folks in ag and I don't even think,
on water policy, he's even talking to the other sides.
We got one meeting with the governor that was a token
meeting. He knew that he had to meet with us because he had
refused to and we were vocal about the fact that he had refused
to. He had to meet with us. We had a brief meeting and we made
our pitch and the governor said, "I don't see it that way; I'm
sorry you don't support my approach." We described why we thought
his approach didn't deal with all of the issues and it ended with
Chall: They think of you as environmental extremists.
Nelson: [laughter] They meaning whom?
Chall: Well, some of the agriculture people. They have used the term.
Nelson: Oh, now well there are plenty of folks who have accused us of
being environmental extremists. Which I have to say, I find
sometimes funny and sometimes really unfortunate. We worked with
the Port of Oakland, we worked with the Bank of America, the final
product was supported by the California Business Roundtable and
mayors of major cities, and most of the papers in the state. It
was supported by virtually the entire state except for the San
Joaquin Valley. The rest of the whole state, basically, supported
the bill. Share the Water was the coalition that led the campaign
to get that bill. It's not an extreme bill. It's just not an
We said early on to the agricultural users that these
problems aren't just going to go away. They're far better dealing
with these issues up front than letting the crisis get worse and
worse and relying solely on issues like the Endangered Species Act
to drive the process. That a proactive approach makes sense. I
still think that makes sense. I think that the final bill is
going to be good for the agricultural community.
The Opinions of Congressmen from the Central Valley
Chall: What about the congressional representatives in the valley like
[Calvin] Dooley, [Vic] Fazio, [Richard] Lehman, [Gary] Condit?
How did you deal with them? Some of them are Democrats. Are they
also on the ag side?
Nelson: We were able to talk with all of those folks, with all of their
staffers. The only legislator we couldn't get to was Senator
Seymour. We sat down with Cal Dooley and Condit 's staff quite a
bit and Lehman's staff quite a bit. Vic Fazio's staff quite
often. It was very clear early on that Share the Water and Cal
Dooley were unlikely to support a bill together down the road.
But their offices were very much open to us to understand what our
approach was and what our concerns were, what the problems were
and what solutions we had proposed. What we thought was wrong
with the Seymour bill and so forth.
Chall: What did they do about it?
Nelson: Well, Vic Fazio eventually sat down with Miller and came up with a
product that's reflected in the final bill. That meant that Vic
and his growers were neutral on the final bill.
Chall: What did they get as a result of their neutrality?
Nelson: When you look at the final bill there are a couple of things in
there that helped the Sacramento Valley growers, help reduce some
of the impacts and provided them with some things that they
thought would make the bill work for them. There's a maximum of a
two million dollar subsidy to help the rice growers pursue this
concept of creating wetlands during the waterfowl season in order
to eliminate rice stubble.
Chall: That's the side that Marc Reisner--
Nelson: --Marc Reisner's working on now. That was taken into account and
a couple of other things. Not major changes, but changes that
made the rice growers feel they were being listened to, that some
of their concerns were addressed in the final bill, and they wound
up neutral. Dooley in particular found himself in a really
interesting position. Cal is a very bright guy who understands
the issues that Miller and Bradley were trying to deal with and
comes at them from a very different perspective. Cal was the lead
negotiator in an effort to negotiate a bill in committee with
George Miller. And he negotiated a bill with Miller that we
thought, Share the Water thought, was terrible.
Yes. Tell me about that.
That was one of the low points.
Moving legislation out of the House is a very difficult process.
Congressman Miller sat down with Cal Dooley and Rick Lehman and
negotiated a package that they supported in order to get it out of
committee. [H.R. 5099] It was not a package that Share the Water
was happy with. We thought that it simply didn't provide any real
assurances that real reform was going to happen. The language was
very fuzzy, it didn't have water, it didn't have any money to
speak of. We thought it was a very weak bill.
So it was a real change then from 1306?*
It was a dramatic change from 1306. We were very disappointed
with it and let Miller know that we thought he let go too much. I
think Miller felt he needed to move a bill. To make sure that the
process didn't simply die in committee. Lehman and Dooley were
absolutely vilified in their districts for sitting down with
Miller and cutting a deal.
For doing anything?
Even though, apparently, they came out the
Right. Lehman and Dooley both voted against the package on the
floor. They voted for it in the committee and against it on the
floor. Miller did the same thing Bradley did when they didn't
stick to the table; he went back to his original package. I think
Lehman and Dooley, especially Cal Dooley, are still paying the
price in their districts for sitting down with the devil.
From my perspective, Cal did a terrific job of representing
his constituents. We were not happy with the product he was able
to negotiate. But his constituents killed it. His constituents
made it impossible for him to support that package and because of
that, Dooley and Lehman dropped off of the bill that they had
helped negotiate. We went back to the original version and it
made the final bill a lot stronger.
4 The bill was H.R. 5099 by that time (May 1992).
further discussion of this negotiation.
See pages 51-54 for
II THE PASSAGE OF THE CENTRAL VALLEY PROJECT IMPROVEMENT ACT AND
THE POTENTIAL IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND AGRICULTURE
Senator Bennett Johnston Moves into the Miller/Bradley
Negotiations: Johnston's and Bradlev's Staffs in California
In February  we've got the [Bennett] Johnston people coming
to California. Now that's different from the Bradley folks who
came in late 1991. Let's talk a minute then about Johnston. How
did he get into this? When did he start dealing?
Bradley 's subcommittee is a subcommittee of the Energy and Natural
Resources Committee. So we knew that any bill that went out of
the Senate was going to have to get through Chairman Johnston's
energy committee and therefore getting his staff and making sure
they understood the issues was a real key.
Just a moment,
Who were his staff?
There were a number of folks who worked with him.
I'll make sure I've got their names right.
Is that Ellsworth?
Gary Ellsworth works for the minority side.
Oh yes, [Malcolm] Wallop.
Yes. For the Wallop side. There were a number of folks and I am
sitting here --Mike Harvey is chief counsel and- -what's the name of
the chief of staff? I am drawing a blank. It'll come to me.
Chall: We'll find them.
Nelson: Yes. I'll find it. There were other folks as well. It was an
energy committee group. There were folks from the valley,
Democrats, I think. Lehman's office and Dooley's office were both
there. I don't think Fazio's was. But Jake Garn's office--
Senator Garn's office was represented there as well because they
were trying to move the Central Utah Project and they wanted to
come out and understand the problems with the Central Valley
Project. Which were their problems. So they came out and did a
tour of the Central Valley Project and sat down with the growers
and sat down with Share the Water.
Chall: Was this in Sacramento? Did they come to Sacramento?
Nelson: They did a tour through the valley and they sat down with the
growers somewhere in the valley. In Woodland--! don't remember
exactly. Somewhere in the valley.
Chall: Were you there?
Nelson: No. I wasn't there.
Chall: They took them group by group?
Nelson: Right. They did a tour --they sat down one night with the growers
and then I think it was the next afternoon they came down to the
Bay Area and sat down with Share the Water. We did a briefing for
them that laid the case out. We had the fisheries, we had Zeke
Grader from the fishing organization get up and talk about what
had happened to the fishing industry and what the bill would do
for them. Dan Chapin got up and talked about the waterfowl
Tom Graff and Dave Behar talked about the- -I was the chair- -
Tom Graff and Dave Behar talked about some of the environmental
issues. Mike McGill talked about the urban perspective. So it
was not just a Share the Water briefing. There were folks from
outside the coalition who talked about the breadth of issues
addressed in the bill. What we thought made sense, what we
thought worked, problems with the Seymour package and answered a
whole lot of questions.
Chall: These were the staffs of Johnston and Bradley? By this time,
certainly, the Bradley staff was familiar with all this. And the
Johnston staff was probably- -
Nelson: --less so. But coming up to speed. Jake Garn's staffer wasn't
terribly knowledgeable about CVP issues before he came out.
Chall: Was Wallop's staff there?
Nelson: Yes. I think Gary Ellsworth was on this trip.
The Proposal to Transfer the Central Valley Project to the
Chall: All right. Was this the time when Johnston suggested that the
Central Valley Project be turned over, transferred to the state?
Nelson: A side line in this whole thing.
Chall: A side line?
Nelson: It originated from the grower's community who saw this thing
coming down the road. They thought if we can take control of this
project we can get it out of George Miller's hands and use it as
an alternative to the legislation. It's clear that that's where
the idea originally came from. Then Pete Wilson picked that up.
But it was pretty clear to us from the start- -and I don't know
what Johnston's interest was- -but it was clear to us from the
start that the Wilson administration and the CVP Water Association
saw the proposal to transfer the project as a tool they could use
to kill the Miller-Bradley bill. But they weren't serious about
Chall: And Johnston wasn't?
Nelson: I don't know. I really don't know. If I were a Senator I'd love
to get rid of this dog. The Central Valley Project has been a
nightmare from a legislative perspective, it's been a financial
disaster for the taxpayer. I'd love to unload this dog if I were
a Senator. But if I were a Senator, I also wouldn't give it away.
The growers in the valley have worked hard to keep water prices
down and subsidies up. If I were a Senator from Louisiana I sure
wouldn't be interested in rewarding that by giving the project
away for free .
Anyone who looked at the issue with any thought realized that
this was a proposal going nowhere. It had to get through George
Miller's committee and it had to get through Bennett Johnston's
and Bill Bradley 's and the only way to do that would be to deal
with access of that water to urban areas.
The Senate would never give it to the growers essentially and
leave it off limits to the rest of California as it was before the
CVPIA was passed. They would never pass it, they would never give
it to the state without environmental restoration. Under federal
law and even international treaties, the government has an
obligation to run the CVP responsibly. They'd never simply give
that to the state without environmental reform. And they'd never
give it to the state without economic reform. They were going to
get a fair price for it. They weren't going to give it away.
Ironically, two of those three issues the Miller-Bradley bill
makes great strides towards addressing. There's not a lot of
economic reform in the package, a little, but not a lot. If
you're serious about transferring the project the Miller-Bradley
bill is a huge stride towards transferring the project. But as
soon as the bill passed, nobody talked about transfer anymore.
The proposal to transfer the project died and I think it died
because I think the proposal was a strategic move. It wasn't a
legitimate offer. It was a press conference strategy. We don't
need to reform the project, we'll just transfer it to the state
and somehow magically that will solve our problems.
What I find really ironic is that if anybody were willing to
push for a transfer of the project I would guarantee that Jason
Peltier would be in Congress lobbying to keep it in the federal
government. Because there is no way in the current budget climate
that the federal government would give the project away. They'd
sell it to the state for a fair price and the state can't afford
to support the kind of subsidies that the federal government has
been supporting for years. That means dramatic price increases,
unavoidably, if it went through the state. That's the last thing
Jason's growers want to see. While Jason was sort of touting
transfer as a way, an alternative to Miller-Bradley, CVP growers
don't want to see that project transferred.
In the final bill there is a higher cost of water for the Central
Valley Project people.
Marginally, it's not a dramatic shift. There's the surcharge for
fish and wildlife that's a couple bucks an acre foot. It's not a
huge charge, a huge additional charge, and there are caps on it.
There is an additional surcharge for the Friant unit because the
Friant unit of the project doesn't give up any water as a part of
this bill. So the final bill said that until the Friant unit
contributes water to the restoration of the river, they'll pay a
surcharge, an additional surcharge into the restoration fund.
Then there is a tiered pricing provision that says that growers
will continue to pay the subsidized rate for 80 percent of their
supply, when contracts are renewed. So the subsidized rate for 80
percent of their supply, full cost for the final 10 percent and an
average for the increment from 80-90 percent.
Chall: What a chore to keep track of that.
Nelson: Yes. That was not a dramatic pricing reform but it's a small step
in the right direction, towards an incentive to conserve water.
Chall: We'll go over a lot of that the next time. You didn't get very
far then with the Johnston and Bradley staff tour or do you think
that you did?
Nelson: Well, I think that it was part of the educational process. It
really was. It was both from the substantive perspective but also
from a political perspective. Obviously none of us were at the
water users' meeting. But Share the Water's meeting was a
briefing. Letting them know, sort of, here are the different
issues, here are the different bills, here are proposals and let's
answer questions .
Universally when we asked the staff what had happened at the
growers meeting, universally we were told that what they heard
were tirades. They didn't hear reasoned arguments, they didn't
hear economic analysis, they didn't hear criticism of the
environmental provisions of the bill, they didn't even hear
briefings about how the Seymour bill would deal with all of the
issues. All they heard were tirades and a lot of insults. From
I think for people like Jake Garn's staff whose people had
come to the table to negotiate with environmentalists and deal
with legitimate issues, I think it must have been a real eye
opener to see that the environmental community was working with
the business community, and that there were real environmental
issues that weren't hard to see, and real economic issues that
weren't hard to see, and that the growers weren't even interested
in talking about them. I think the political education was
probably more important even than the substantive.
The Johnston Version of the Bradley Bill: The Chairman's Markup
(February 20. 1992)
Chall: My notes say that the Johnston bill would replace S. 484 and be
amended into 429. Was that a stronger bill? Did you have a new
Nelson: From our perspective it was a stronger bill. The bills kept
evolving. We would look at proposals. As Share the Water became
more sophisticated in looking at some of our alternatives we
started to realize that there were different approaches to what we
had originally suggested. Bradley' s bill originally would have
reallocated to natural resources, initially 10 percent, ramping up
to 20 percent of water supply for renewing contracts which meant
that we wouldn't get water for quite some time. There were some
mechanical problems with Bradley 's bill. When Johnston's bill
came out it was a straight re-allocation and I think it was a wake
up call, it should have been a wake up call for the governor and
the ag community, that it was not going to be easy to kill a
How do you explain the fact that Johnston's bill was so clear?
Technically maybe better?
Nelson: A whole lot of reasons. Bradley and Johnston clearly had a good
relationship working on this issue and their staffs worked very
closely together. There was a lot of energy put in by Miller's
staff and a lot of communication between the House and the Senate
side. And as time passed, I don't think it was just that one
Senator came out with a better version than the other Senator did,
I think that as time passed the bill evolved. As Share the Water
got involved, as the business community got involved, with each
successive version, we tried to fix the problems of the last.
There were amendments that we suggested, amendments that MET
suggested, amendments coming in from a variety of different
Chall: Any amendments that came in from Somach, Schuster, Peltier side?
Nelson: Not really. They never really got sufficiently engaged to talk
about the fundamental issues. We would occasionally in our
negotiation start to make progress on some of the peripheral stuff
but when our first negotiations broke down with the users they
broke down over water and money. They wouldn't give up a drop of
water and they wouldn't give up a dime. That really never changed
through the whole process. Those were the most contentious
issues. They also wouldn't agree to any project purpose language.
Making fish and wildlife a project purpose. They wouldn't agree
to stronger transfer provisions.
What you're left with is the Seymour bill. They never moved
off of it. Even though the business community looked at the
Seymour bill and said this is a dog from the perspective of the
business community. The business community looked at it and said,
"This won't allow transfers to happen so it's a bad deal for
California business." The environmental community condemned it,
the waterfowl community condemned it. We were wrong a lot. We
figured that eventually Seymour would amend his bill to give it
some credibility somewhere, but he never did.
Chall: I think we're going to leave it right there. Next time we'll
start by trying to find out how come the Johnston bill loses in
the Senate and the Seymour bill passes when you just told me that
it was a dog from everybody's point of view. Okay? We'll leave
it as a cliffhanger.
Nelson: Okay. The whole process was a cliffhanger. It was like one long
serial. The fact that this process managed to sustain the drama
over two years was amazing, exhausting.
Chall: We'll go back and get some of those specific details as we go
along. But you know what I'm trying to get now, is not only the
big story but some of the details.
Share the Water's Media and Grassroots Efforts
[Interview 2: August 20, 1993] ##
Chall: Before we get started, I noticed there was one item that I
overlooked asking you about last week. I asked you about David
Weiman who was on your staff. Would you tell me who Patricia
Schifferle is and her role?
Nelson: Yes. Patty Schifferle. Patty and John Boesel were both
consultants for Share the Water in California. Patty was the head
of our California media effort and grassroots organizing effort.
Patty spent a tremendous amount of time working with us. Media
issues and working with grassroots groups up and down the state.
Patty and John both would spend quite a bit of time working the
media and organizing press conferences, organizing events and so
forth for us. Writing press releases, doing the follow up calls.
One of the things I haven't done is go through the media
clippings. There are about eight inches of press clippings over
there from this campaign. The bill got a tremendous amount of
press . We spent a lot of time making sure that it stayed in the
public eye because we've always felt that as long as water issues
are quiet, the contractors dominate the debate. But as soon as
water issues, especially during the drought, became highly public,
the political dynamics changed dramatically.
So half of Patty and John's job was to work with us on media.
The other half was to do grassroots organizing out there. Share
the Water was a big coalition. It took a lot of care and feeding
to keep that coalition informed and organized and involved. So
the two of them spent quite a bit of time in the Central Valley;
on the North Coast working with the fishermen; down in southern
California they talked to groups making sure they were informed
and involved, helping them figure out how they could plug in by
working with their local representatives, by doing local media
work, letter writing campaigns, whatever it was that we needed.
It was a real key just to make sure that all of the variety of
groups that were involved in the bill stayed plugged in. Share
the Water was a large enough group that it was a tremendous amount
of work just keeping all of those groups informed and up to speed.
There was a core of fifteen or twenty groups that followed
the bill on a, literally, daily basis. But there was a larger
group of organizations some of whom were never formal members of
Share the Water but had a very strong interest in the outcome of
the bill: fly fishing groups up and down the state and local
conservation groups and chapters of the Sierra Club and the
Audubon Society. Some were never formally members of Share the
Water, but all of them realized the importance of the bill. It
was a lot of work working with those groups to make sure they knew
what was going on, make sure they knew the importance of the bill,
make sure that they knew how to get involved and Patty and John
spent a lot of time helping them do that.
Chall: They're media experts?
Nelson: Media and organizing, yes.
aour Bill Passes the Senate Energy Committee (March 19921
Chall: Now, when we left off last time we were talking about the Johnston
bill and that it lost in committee.
Nelson: Well, it was never--! don't believe the Johnston mark was ever
introduced, I don't think it ever had a title, or a number. It
never went anywhere because the Senators said- -Senators Johnston
and Bradley said that they simply didn't have the votes to get it
through. That the votes were not there on the energy committee to
get a strong bill out of committee. It was a remarkable thing to
I should back up a moment. Senator Johnston realized that
Bradley and Seymour had not been able to come to any agreements .
Johnston stepped in and started negotiations with Senator Seymour.
Share the Water was sitting outside the door in D.C. waiting to
hear if there were results. We had no idea what was going on
behind that closed door because everything was being held very
tightly by staff. There were no drafts circulating.
But it was clear that some progress was being made and
suddenly, the day before or a couple of days before the energy
committee acted, everything exploded and we never- -we don't know
exactly what it exploded over, what the issues were. What
happened eventually was that Senator Johnston became convinced
that Senator Seymour was not negotiating, that he was not
attempting to come to an agreement. Senator Johnston had prepared
his draft in order to help push Seymour. I think Senator Johnston
believed that when he released his mark, his proposed bill, it
would convince Senator Seymour that he was serious. Senator
Johnston believed that there needed to be a bill and it needed to
be a meaningful one . And that it would force Seymour to
negotiate. That didn't happen. Seymour and Johnston never came
even close to an agreement.
At that point Senators Johnston and Bradley both said they
don't have the votes to get the bill they wanted out of committee,
and much to our surprise, when the day came, Senator Bradley said,
we're going to move Seymour's bill out of committee. And they
voted the bill out of committee. So Johnston's mark never went to
a vote at the energy committee. We were astonished and terrified
when Senator Seymour's bill passed out of the energy committee.
We didn't know whether this was stepping onto the slippery slope
which meant that Senator Seymour's bill would then go flying
through the floor and into conference committee and we'd lose
control of it and end up with a lousy bill. But both Bradley and
Senator Johnston were very clear in their statements in the
committee room, that this was a lousy bill and they would rather
have no bill than this bill and they were going to fix this bill
in conference committee. And they made it clear at that point at
the committee level that they were going to fix it at conference
committee. And not try to fix it on the floor.
Chall: That Seymour's was a lousy bill?
Nelson: Right. That Seymour's bill was lousy, that they were passing it
out because they didn't have the votes, and they were going to fix
it in conference committee not on the floor. That strategy on the
Senate side was very clear the minute the vote was taken in the
committee. It was a frightening thing to watch in the room
because none of us knew how this game was going to end.
When I saw Senator Seymour afterwards, it was pretty clear
that he didn't know whether he won or lost. His bill had made it
out of committee. I walked up to him after the energy committee
vote and told him that Share the Water would like to work with him
to try to come up with an agreement on a bill that we could all
support. That was when he said that he had no interest in working
with us. That was the end- -that encounter was later described in
the media by one of Seymour's aides as a meeting between Share the
Water and the Senator. It took place in the hallway while the
Senator was waiting for an elevator. My saying we'd like to work
with the Senator and the Senator saying we don't want to work with
you, and getting on an elevator and leaving- -that was claimed to
be our meeting with Senator Seymour.
So on the Senate side the Johnston mark I think was a signal -
-Bennett Johnston wanted this bill to move. He wanted the whole
package to move and he knew that CVP was the key to making the
package move. I think Senator Johnston believed that once Senator
Seymour knew that he was serious that Bennett Johnston wasn't
simply going to do whatever the growers wanted, that Senator
Seymour would s,ee the light, be forced to come to the table, the
growers would be forced to compromise and we'd wind up with a
negotiated bill. That didn't happen. Once the negotiations
didn't happen, Bennett Johnston said, "Well, we'll move the
Seymour bill and we'll settle it in conference," where Senator
Seymour won't have any clout.
Analyzing the Johnston Markup
Chall: So the next step, as I understand it, was that Miller then
introduced H.R. 5099, which was similar to the Johnston bill or
mark. Similar, quite similar, or totally similar?
Nelson: Not identical but very similar. There were so many different
versions that were similar but not identical. The key thing in
the Johnston bill was that the Johnston bill for the first time
included the 1,500,000 acre-feet proposal. Dedicating 1,500,000
acre-feet of water to fish and wildlife purposes.
Chall: Right out rather than 800,000? It was a lot according to William
Kahrl in his August 1992 article in the California Republic. 1
"Under its provisions, nearly 40 percent of the water currently
going to agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley would be diverted
to fish and wildlife. The prices farmers pay for water would rise
to a level much closer to the actual taxpayer cost."
William Kahrl, "The Drowning of Water Reform," California Republic.
August 1992, p. 20.
Nelson: His number is wrong, 40 percent is not even close. But irrigated
agriculture in the valley uses more like twenty million acre feet,
so this is not even ten percent of what agriculture valley-wide
Chall: Valley-wide, but does that include the State Water Project?
Nelson: Oh, that includes everything. The CVP's yield is, depending on
how you calculate it, somewhere around seven and a half. This was
one and a half. Clearly we're not looking at- -it wasn't 40
Chall: How about the price? Do you recall anything about that? If not,
somebody else can check that.
Nelson: There was no dramatic increase in price in--
Chall: From what the Bradley bill might have had.
Nelson: Right. The difference was that what the chairman's mark did was
go directly after the water. Bradley 's bill said they were going
to go after a percentage of water, of CVP water as contracts were
renewed. A percentage of water would be dedicated to fish and
wildlife. Start at ten and ramp up to twenty. That was one
mechanism that we tried to look at, one mechanism of producing
water for fish and wildlife. The chairman's mark was a much more
direct route. It was essentially proposing that fish and wildlife
be given a contract for 1,500,000 acre -feet.
Chall: And that's basically what stayed in the bill.
Nelson: The concepts stayed in the bill, but the amount was dropped down
to 800,000 acre-feet. Simultaneously the amount of money in the
restoration fund was increased. That's I think where- -that's the
area where Somach/Graff had a real influence. We always knew that
we needed to have a mix of hardware, policy, physical facilities,
water, and money in order to make fish and wildlife restoration
work. There were a tremendous number of different options in
terms of putting that together. Both mechanisms to get the water
and mechanisms to get the money and different ways of combining
the two --more money and less water or less money and more water.
The chairman's mark relied on providing a big block of water
and less money. The Somach/Graff version, on the other hand,
relied on providing a large chunk of money and no guaranteed water
supplies. That was predicated on the belief that they'd actually
go out and buy fish and wildlife water using the contractor's own
money. What we wound up with was a hybrid of that: 800,000 acre-
feet and a 50 million dollar-a-year restoration fund. Some of
which will be available to purchase fish and wildlife water
Chall: Purchase it from the--
Nelson: From anyone. It's not simply purchasing it from CVP contractors
and in a lot of cases the contractors may not be the right people
to buy it from. It's possible that it might make sense to go buy
water from the exchange contractors. The exchange contractors,
for example, have very senior water rights and have more water
than they know what to do with. But it might make sense to go buy
water from the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts. It might
make sense to go buy rice water; there are a lot of different
options. It's not restricted. The money doesn't have to be spent
within the CVP.
Source of the 800,000 Acre-Feet Figure
Chall: Where exactly did the 800,000 acre feet come from? How did
anybody arrive at that number, since you're already telling me
that it varied here and there.
Nelson: Right. We put together- -Share the Water put together- -our best
estimates of how much water we thought it would take to fully
restore fish and wildlife, not fully- -but to fully meet our
current understandings of what fish and wildlife needed to remain
Chall: Where does that come from? Does that understanding come from
scientific studies someplace?
Nelson: It came from a variety of different sources. Part of it came from
the Bay-Delta hearings record. Actually before this bill passed,
before this bill was actively pursued, the state water board had
proposed 1,500,000 acre -feet of increased flow for an average
year, increased flow for the Bay and Delta. That was the November
'88 draft set of standards. We simply looked at that and said
that's clearly a bottom line in terms of how much water we think
is necessary to protect the Bay and Delta, as a first step. We
never thought those were fully adequate standards. But it was
clear that that was a first step that had tremendously sound
scientific support. It may not have been enough, but it was
clearly a bottom line.
Then what we did was go around the state and look at needs
for in- stream flows in different rivers around the state. So we
looked at the need for in- stream flow on the American River, on
the Stanislaus River, on the Sacramento River. We looked at what
might be possible in terms of restoring the San Joaquin River to a
healthy state and added them up and came up with a very large
number. The grant total was as I recall, it was close to 6
million acre-feet- -it was a big number. It was a big number.
But what we then had to do was to make sure that those
numbers weren't overlapping. That the water that went into the
American River to restore flows there couldn't be counted twice as
it flowed through the Bay and Delta to provide Bay and Delta
needs. We had to take that into account. That we're dealing with
different reaches, and different timing.
So, we finally essentially came to the point where we
convinced Senators' Bradley and Johnston's offices that three
million acre-feet would be a fair first step to restore fish and
wildlife. That when you look at the valley, the CVP's surface
water supplies is roughly half. Ballpark. Senator Johnston came
to the conclusion that there was a credible argument that three
million acre-feet was the right amount of water as a first step
and that the CVP's fair share was 1,500,000 acre-feet.
At that point, Senators Johnston and Bradley made it clear
that they thought that was the ballpark level of protection that
they wanted to provide and that there were a variety of ways to
provide it. You could provide it through simply dedicating the
water or you could do what the final bill did and provide a mix.
Provide 800,000 acre feet of water and provide a pot of money that
could then go out and purchase additional water.
So when you were talking about a need for three million acre -feet,
that's half of what CVP--
Nelson: That would be valley-wide. That was not the CVP's share.
Essentially that was what we were able to convince Bradley and
Senator Johnston was- -they accepted that that was a very credible
scientifically sound number that they could stand by and say,
"This is the amount of water it would take to make a good first
step to restoring central valley rivers, wetlands, and Bay-Delta
fisheries and that the CVP's fair share is half, 1.5 million acre-
The Need for State Cooperation to Provide Additional Water and
Chall: Right. So the other 1.5 million acre -feet is to come from what,
the State Water Project?
Nelson: What Bradley and Johnston and George Miller said was the state has
to figure out how to come up with that. The federal government
has no jurisdiction over that water. The implication there was
that the state should provide it. Some should come from the state
project, and some should come from local water projects, of which
there are quite a few in the valley that are often untapped. But
that they could only provide the federal share .
Chall: In this bill, you're dealing with 800,000 plus.
Nelson: In the final act.
Chall: In the final act, so the other 1.5 million acre- feet of water is
not available to you.
Nelson: No. What they said was- -essentially the rationale behind the
final bill was that the federal government was going to take its
best shot at dividing that initial level of protection, that
initial amount of money and water to restore fish and wildlife.
And that the state needed to come up with its share of water and
money. And we're still waiting.
Chall: Would some of that water have been dedicated to the Delta by the
decision 1630 which the governor- -
Nelson: Pulled the plug on?
Chall: Yes, was that--
Nelson: Let me take that in two parts. What the bill does is to say that
the primary purpose of this water is to implement the goals of the
act, particularly the doubling requirement. The requirement to
double natural production of the anadramous fisheries. The Fish
and Wildlife Service is directed to develop a plan to meet this
In the interim, they're working with interim plans. But in
three years, the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to have a
doubling plan. The water is to be used to implement that plan.
Consistent with that plan, what the bill says, is that to a
maximum extent practicable, water should also be used to comply
with Bay-Delta hearings requirements and with Endangered Species
Act requirements. Which means that the water is available for
those two purposes, Bay-Delta hearings and EPA consistent with the
plan. That the doubling plan takes priority and that if
additional water is needed in order to double the fisheries and
meet Bay-Delta requirements and Endangered Species Act
requirements, that the CVP would have to provide more water.
One of things the growers have been arguing now is that all
of the water should be used for endangered species act or should
be used for Bay-Delta hearings. That's very clearly not the
intention of the act.
Governor Wilson Voids State Water Resources Control Board Interim
Draft Decision 1630 (April 1. 1993)
Nelson: The other question you asked is why the governor killed 1630?
Chall: Yes, why do you think he did?
Nelson: [Pause] The growers asked him to. I think it's really pretty
much that simple. When 1630 came out, it was roughly half of what
the board had come out with in November of '88. Ironically, it
was around 800,000 acre -feet impact in an average year.
The southern California community said that they could live
with that. They could live with 1630. They asked for some
modifications to allow them to do water transfers, but the message
from them was very clear. It was that we need some new standards
in the Delta. The ones we've got now are clearly not cutting it,
we know that we'll have to give up some water in order to protect
the Bay and Delta, we're willing to do that, grudgingly. .They
wanted some modifications that would allow them flexibility for
At first it looked as though that's where the staff was
going. That the staff was saying, okay, we'll try to find a way
to accommodate water transfers while providing Bay-Delta
protection, and for a time that's where the debate was.
Once again, just as we'd seen for the last two years the
growers never came to the table. Particularly in the San Joaquin
Valley they very rapidly simply declared war, and attacked with
their congressional representatives, their state assembly and
senators and especially with the governor's office.
We attempted to communicate with the governor's office. We
asked for a meeting. We said, "If the governor's going to step in
we'd like a chance to meet with him and discuss our issues."
Never even got a response' from his office. I happened to be back
East working on implementation issues on April first when the
governor's press conference happened. I didn't learn about it
until I arrived in D.C. Went to the press conference the next
morning and was absolutely astonished. Members of the media were
asking me before the governor made his announcement whether the
governor would kill this draft. I said, "No- -kill the standards- -
I didn't think the governor would do anything that dumb." I was
astonished. I think he did it simply because the growers asked
him to. Because everybody else, all of the urban users were
saying- -they were sending very clear signals that they could live
with something like this set of standards.
I expected the governor to come out and ask for some
modifications, if he said anything publicly at all. I was
astonished. It was quite simple. The growers asked him to kill
it. He didn't do them any favors. It has forced a confrontation
which has taken control of water policy out of the hands of the
state. The federal government for several years, unavoidably is
going to be setting Bay-Delta standards and providing protection
with the Endangered Species Act. The governor and the growers
don't have a leg to stand on.
Had the state adopted standards, the state would be able to
go credibly to the Clinton administration and say, "We're
responsibly dealing with our problems, please, work with us
cooperatively and get off our back." When the governor pulled the
plug on those standards, he destroyed any credibility the state
had. What he said was that the Endangered Species Act was going
to run everything in the Delta and that the Fish and Wildlife
Service was going to require two million acre-feet of additional
That was based on something that was said casually by a
staffer of the Fish and Wildlife Service in a completely
unofficial public forum. It was never a Fish and Wildlife Service
proposal. It wasn't even presented as a proposal. It was the
upper end of a range. It was a very vague reference. The
governor latched onto that and said that the Endangered Species
Act was going to require two million acre-feet. Of course it's
not requiring anything near that. It's actually, ironically,
requiring something quite close to 1630.
Had the governor let the state board do it's job, the state
would have a chance at working with the feds, with EPA and with
the Fish and Wildlife Service cooperatively. Right now, the state
needs to do something to reestablish some credibility and show
some good faith. There doesn't seem to be much on the horizon.
Chall: Can the Central Valley Project Improvement Act be implemented
without some Delta standards? What does it do about the Delta? I
noticed there is "Delta" in the language.
Nelson: Right. It's impossible to restore fish and wildlife in the Delta,
Central Valley rivers, and wetlands without state cooperation. It
simply can't be done. We can begin implementing the bill without
state cooperation. But it's unavoidable that the state has to be
involved somehow. We've got to have Bay- Delta standards. Now
it's clear that the EPA will set them and not the state. But
there are limits to the EPA's abilities to enforce those
standards. The state needs to enforce them. The fact that the
fish and wildlife is also looking at Endangered Species Act issues
means that the feds can enforce Endangered Species Act
requirements to the extent that the Bay-Delta standards that EPA
sets are similar to Endangered Species Act requirements. Those
the federal government can enforce. That's not an ideal
circumstance and issues that are not endangered species issues
will not be easy for the EPA to enforce directly. And the bureau
can control deliveries from the CVP to comply with standards.
That's just one issue.
We also need state funding in order to move all of the
hardware projects forward. We've got to have state cooperation
eventually. Frankly, the federal government wants that. Bruce
Babbitt does not want to have to run California water policy
forever. He doesn't want to run it at all. It's a hot potato
politically and he knows it. It's in the federal government's
interest to get the state involved responsibly. I think they
would be very interested in seeing that happen. But it's been
impossible for the last several years to open lines of
communication with the Wilson administration and work
cooperatively and come to any agreements with them.
George Miller Introduces H.R. 5099: Neeotiations with Central
Valley Congressmen Weaken the Bill (May 1992)
Chall: All right, now let's go back to the federal level. Miller in May
introduced his H.R. 5099 which was similar to the Johnston bill
you said. And then he made a deal, apparently, with
Representatives Dooley, Fazio and Lehman which weakened the bill.
So weakened, some have said, that there wasn't much difference
between it and 2016. So, what were the deals? And why did they
I'd need to pull those notes out to get the details. Essentially
what happened was we started losing the certainty. What we
started to get were--
We didn't get the fish and wildlife purpose. Most of the things
in Bradley 's bill that gave us a lot of certainty, specific levels
of money, specific levels of water, project purpose and so forth,
we lost them and they became vague.
As a result of these three?
As a result of Miller's working with
Right, the compromise with Lehman and Dooley. It was a better
bill than Seymour's bill, but it was not a bill that Share the
Water supported. That bill almost immediately exploded. Stepping
back from this issue, we were very disappointed with that bill.
But it was very clear that Rick Lehman and Vic Fazio and Cal
Dooley had done a tremendous job of representing their interests.
The Senator Seymour strategy always was not to come to the table,
to say no to everything and to grandstand. Fazio, Lehman, Dooley
came to the table and negotiated with Miller and cut a deal that
was a great deal for their constituents.
Now why did Miller accept this?
I think it was- -I think George was also concerned that he needed
to make sure that he had a bill and he was well, we had always
assumed that George would be able to get any bill he wanted out of
the House. We knew we could get a bill out of the House but we
didn't know we could get everything we wanted.
I think George wanted to make sure that he got something on
the floor so that he could move fast. Especially with- -not so
much with Dooley and Lehman- -but particularly with Vic Fazio given
his status in the party, stature in the House. George needed to
make sure that he dealt with some of their issues. So he cut a
deal in order to get a bill out of the House and onto the floor,
out of committee and onto the floor.
There were conflicting versions whether George thought it was
actually a good deal, or whether George was doing it just to get
it out of committee. I think it was clear that George never
thought it was a fully adequate bill but he wanted to make sure
that the process kept moving.
As I said, we certainly never supported it, but this one of
the shortest blips on the radar screen of the history of the bill
because the deal was announced and the response from the San
Joaquin Valley was overwhelming. Dooley and Lehman were
essentially called back to California by their constituents and
berated by their constituents for- -and not just for the merits of
the bill, they were berated for sitting down with George Miller.
They were berated for participating in the political process.
Share the Water people were at some of these public meetings
to hear the beratings. It was astonishing. The valley really
needed somebody to stand up and say, you can't simply sit this
out. You can't ignore the needs of California's environment and
urban areas. We can have a bill that will cost something to the
ag community but there are also things we can gain through this
bill. If we sit down and deal, we can make sure it's a fair deal.
The reality check was, if we don't sit down at the table
we'll wind up with a bill that's far, far worse. Nobody ever did
that. Cal Dooley tried and was hammered for it. Vic Fazio
succeeded eventually in getting some of his people to sit down and
deal. Cal Dooley wasn't able to do that. I don't think it was
his fault. It was particularly difficult because Senator Seymour
was over there in the Senate saying that he would make sure there
was no bill. As long as the Senator made it clear that he
wouldn't negotiate, that there would be no bill, that the
environment wouldn't get a drop of water and so forth, it was
impossible for anybody to negotiate. The Senator from California
was telling them they didn't need to.
Differing Perspectives on the Water Issues in the Sacramento
and San Joaquin Valleys
Chall: Fazio has a different constituency then, or a different
constituency than the others?
Nelson: Why was he able to? First, I think he's a more senior member. I
think when Vic Fazio said to his people that this is a real issue,
it's not going to go away, you've got to deal with it, I think Vic
had more seniority and his folks listened to him. Cal was a
freshman and I think they didn't- -when Cal said, "I can't stop
this bill," they said "Try harder."
The other half is just the hydrology of the situation. The
people in the Sacramento Valley knew that environmental issues
weren't simply going to go away. The rice growers had had real
problems with the Glenn Colusa Irrigation District [GCID] . They'd
been nearly shut down at times because of their impact in
fisheries. The winter run salmon had become listed as a
threatened species. These folks knew that the environmental
issues weren't simply going to go away. And that if they didn't
do something, things were going to get worse. I think beyond that
it finally dawned on them that if the valley stayed together that
the Sacramento Valley would wind up paying for the sins of the San
Joaquin. As the winter run salmon declined, certainly the
Sacramento Valley growers and GCID and Red Bluff diversion dam and
so forth were a big part of that decline. But what happened in
the Delta was a big part of it as well.
If nothing happened to deal with the San Joaquin Valley's
impact on the salmon and on fisheries and so forth, then the
Sacramento Valley would wind up paying for everybody's sins. They
finally recognized that it was in their interests for a solution
that would deal with the whole problem and make sure everybody had
to pay their fair share. And that's, I think, where the split
came. And there was a vicious split between Sacramento and the
San Joaquin valleys over this issue because the rice growers
finally realized, they needed a bill. They needed a bill because
they knew the issues weren't going to go away and because if a
bill didn't happen, the Sacramento Valley would pay a
disproportionally high burden and the San Joaquin Valley would get
off scot free.
So that's why Fazio had access, apparently- -input in the final--
In the final bill. Yes. And both Vic and his constituents
ultimately were neutral on the final bill. Which we thought was a
tremendous breakthrough. We were able to work with the rice
growers who had traditionally been one of the big evil communities
in the Central Valley ag community and they came to the table. We
don't see eye to eye certainly on all issues, but they came to the
table, responsibly, participated in the process. The final bill
reflects their interest far more because of that.
H.R. 5099 Passes the House (June 19. 1992)
Chall: This bill 5099, then, passed the House?
Chall: It passed the House [vote] on June 19th. According to what you
have written, Congressman [Sam] Gejdenson of the Merchant Marine
and Fisheries Committee strengthened the bill regarding fisheries
and water pricing. That's in your material. 2
how that came about?
Can you tell me
Nelson: Yes. There were substantial fisheries issues in this bill and
Congressman Gejdenson wanted to make sure that some of the issues
that they were concerned about were addressed. Congressman
Gejdenson' s interest was one of the reasons that tiered pricing, a
modest tiered pricing program, was included in the final bill.
Because it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you start
charging something closer to market rates, there's an incentive to
conserve and the more conservation, the more water's left for fish
So fisheries interests have long argued for market pricing,
or something closer to market pricing in order to provide through
those market forces, water to restore fish and wildlife.
Chall: That went into that bill and stayed in.
Nelson: You mean in the conference. Right.
Chall: That's interesting. In 5099 was the purpose for fish and wildlife
protection left in or taken out? Do you recall?
Nelson: In 5099, in the final version?
Chall: Was it in the 5099 as it passed in June?
Nelson: Yes, fish and wildlife purposes is in the final.
Stuart Somach and Tom Graff Negotiate an Alternative Version to
the Competing Water Bills
Now, this is considered a generally weak bill. Tell me why Tom
Graff and Stuart Somach decided to get into the act. Here we have
a bill  that is considered no good by anybody. It's pretty
weak and doesn't really matter apparently. What did Graff and
Somach want to accomplish?
Well, they never really cut a deal,
overlooked in this process.
That's what's often
Chall: What did they do?
2 The Bay Watcher. August 1992, p. 1.
Nelson: Our conversations with the growers--! gave you a copy of our
history of negotiations- -every time we sat down with the growers,
they walked out of the room, the talks fell apart. Something
happened to bring negotiations to an end. At the same time, we
were wondering what was going to happen in the Senate and on the
House side, but particularly on the Senate side, whether we would
be able to move a bill at all.
Tom Graff and Stuart Somach did something that took a lot of
guts. They set their organizational hats aside and went off into
a room and started negotiating directly. And they made it very
clear from the outset that they were negotiating as individuals
and that they were not that their organizations, their clients,
the members of Share the Water were not obligated to support what
they came up with. They were coming up with something that the
two of them were looking at in order to see if they could come up
with a fresh approach.
We always felt that we knew what the end result we wanted
was. We wanted fish and wildlife restoration. We also knew that
there were a whole host of different ways to get there. I think
that Stuart and Tom felt that they might be able to break the
logjam to blaze a new trail. So they sat down and tried to work
on a completely different approach.
What they came up with in terms of their proposal was a draft
proposal that left some of the tougher questions unanswered. They
didn't deal with all the hardware issues, they weren't even able
to deal with what should have been one of the easier issues for
the growers to deal with: they didn't deal with providing supplies
for wildlife refuges. The Seymour provisions for wildlife refuges
were worse than the status quo. It was a disaster. They weren't
even able to deal with that issue. Of course the biggest issue
they weren't able to deal with was money. What was behind
Somach/Graff was a hope that by raising a really big pot of money
they could simply buy fish and wildlife water without having to
formally reallocate water from the CVP. That if you could put
together a large enough pot of money, you could go out onto an
open market and buy fish and wildlife water.
Chall: Who would get the money? Where did the money come from?
Nelson: Well, that's what they never- -as I said, they never cut a deal.
Chall: Who was going to buy--
Nelson: Oh, the money would have gone through the Bureau of Reclamation,
the Fish and Wildlife Service. It would have gone through the
Secretary of the Interior. But they never cut the deal. They
never agreed what the right amount of money was . And they never
agreed regarding who should pay into the fund. This is where Tom
was roundly criticized by some of the enviros for sort of giving
on some issues like contract renewal and fish and wildlife project
purposes without getting a firm commitment in terms of the amount
of money and the sources of money for fish and wildlife.
However, they never closed the deal. Tom and Stuart never
came to an agreement on what were the critical issues. They stuck
on the same issues that we always got stuck on: money and water.
And the growers wouldn't give up either.
Tom and Stuart went back to D.C. essentially to say, "This is
far as we've gotten, this is as far as we can get, it's a
different framework and we haven't resolved some of the tough
issues , but maybe we can make more progress with this model than
with our existing ones." Stuart actually flew back to D.C. and he
was instructed by his clients before he went into the room to
brief Miller and Bradley that he was not allowed to go into the
room. So Stuart had to sit outside the room while Tom explained
what they had been working on.
It was a deal that was stillborn because Tom and Stuart never
reached an agreement. What they did do was start going down a
very different path. One that didn't rely on dedicating blocks of
water. That didn't rely on a clear statement of fish and wildlife
purpose. But, they never closed the deal.
Chall: But didn't that sort of negate everything that you had been
working for? The thrust that you explained to me a week or so ago
and you are still talking about. Didn't that negate it all?
Nelson: Well, Share the Water didn't support Somach/Graff . We didn't
support it. We started working on critiques of it. As I was
looking through my notes I realized that I don't think we ever
finished the critique of it because it died before we had a chance
to. We were concerned about the road Somach/Graff was going
down. Because we were concerned about making sure that we could
get- -it's a very uncertain thing to provide and provide the right
sized pot of money to buy fish and wildlife water.
Chall: That would have to be water transfers basically.
Nelson: Right. Water transfers which are unpredictable things. No one
has ever, anywhere, done large scale- -really- -water transfers on
this scale for fish and wildlife protection. It had never been
done. So we sort of felt we were going into uncharted territory
and we were very nervous about it. At the same time, in defense
of Tom, I think Somach/Graff was a part of breaking the logjam.
When you look at the final version, what Bradley and Miller and
Bennett Johnston took from Somach/Graff was the flexibility of
realizing that you could rely on a mix of money and water in order
to find fish and wildlife protection.
The final bill does include a substantial restoration fund
that allows for water marketing to be used as a tool to protect
fish and wildlife. I do think it was an important part of
breaking the logjam of providing an additional approach that was
clearly a part of the final bill. And frankly we were very
critical of Tom at the time for cutting what a lot of us thought
was a lousy deal and Tom said in his defense that he had never
closed the deal, they never came to an agreement. But it's clear,
I think, that Somach/Graff helped make it a stronger bill in the
Chall: Apparently Metropolitan Water District opposed it too.
Nelson: Right. Nobody ever supported it. Not even Stuart or Tom.
Chall: William Kahrl wrote, "Under the proposal the Defense Fund
accepted, agribusiness would get to keep its water forever. After
an initial environmental impact review, they'd never have to face
another. And their supplies could never be reduced no matter how
desperately the water was needed elsewhere. Under this proposal,
however, agribusiness could be relieved of having to pay a penny
for fish and wildlife restoration. Whole regions of the state
could be stripped of their entire water supply, without receiving
compensation or protection. And the thirsty cities of California
wouldn't be able to get a drop unless they first agreed to pay
hundreds of millions of dollars for access to a water system
they've already paid billions to develop." 3
Nelson: That's simply not true. Not in that sense. As I said they never
came to a final agreement, but one of the funding mechanisms they
talked about was having urban areas pay an access fee. A big
access fee. If you wanted access to CVP water you would have to
pay a large access fee into the restoration fund in order to help
pay for fish and wildlife.
The rationale--! think there is good rationale there --is that
if you're going to add another straw into the CVP system, you're
stressing a system that's already highly stressed. So when you
come into that system, you should pay a portion of the cost of
fixing the problems. It's something that's often talked about
3 William Kahrl, "The Drowning of Water Reform,
August 1992, p. 20.
with development projects. When development projects come on line
they need to make sure that the communities' problems don't get
worse. That they get better. They pay for fire services, or
police services, or schools or whatever. They sometimes go beyond
simply the needs of that individual project. They serve the
community at large. It's the same rationale with the access fee.
Chall: Is that in your bill?
Nelson: No, it's not in the bill. What's in the final bill is a surcharge
on transfers. Instead of saying you've got to pay a big chunk up
front in order to have access to the CVP, what there is in the
final bill is a twenty- five dollar surcharge on transfers on water
that's transferred from current CVP users to non-users --
Chall: Twenty- five dollars an acre- foot?
Nelson: Right. And that goes into the restoration fund. So that the
concept of making sure that communities that come into the CVP as
a result of this bill help pay for some of the cost of restoring
fish and wildlife. That concept is still in the bill.
The Conference Committee Develops the Final Bill: Title 34.
Central Valley Project Improvement Act, a Section of the Omnibus
Water Bill H.R. 429 (September 1992)*
Congressional Members and Their Staffs on the Inside
Chall: All right, now we get into the last month or so of the drafting.
In September, it went to a conference committee. Right? Now the
principle people in the conference committee would have been
Miller, Bradley, and Johnston?
Nelson: Well, a few more than that.
Chall: Those were the three Congressmen- -
Nelson: Those were the central players- -
Chall: Okay, then who else?
^Public Law 102-575, The Reclamation Projects Authorization and
Adjustment Act of 1992.
The two people I would add to that were Vic Fazio and Malcolm
Those are both--
Malcolm Wallop is the Republican Senator,
minority Senator on the Energy Committee.
course, on the House side.
He's the senior
And Vic Fazio, of
Fazio is a Democrat, isn't he? But Wallop is a Republican?
Right. As I mentioned before, essentially what happened was,
Malcolm Wallop took over negotiations for the minority. For the
Republicans on this bill because Senator Seymour wouldn't come to
the table. Bradley, Johnston, and Miller knew that a filibuster
was a real possibility on this bill and that they couldn't simply
stonewall the Republicans and have a conference that would
survive. They needed to make sure that the Republicans felt that
the CVP and John Seymour had gotten a fair deal.
Who would have been at Wallop's ear on the outside, talking to
him? Who was representing the CVP before Wallop?
Who was speaking to Wallop on behalf of the CVP? You know, I
assume that the CVP was talking to Wallop's staff. That they were
probably talking to Stuart Somach. They may have been talking to
Jason Peltier. But sitting back there and watching the process,
they were noticeably absent. There was not a highly visible
grower presence back there while the conference committee
It was not a conference committee in the sense of getting all
of the Senators into the room at the same time; it was drafts
passed from staff member to staff member to staff member. It
would go from the Senate majority to minority side to see what
they thought, then go to the House side to see what they thought.
And, as I said, you have to talk about the five major players in
terms of their staffs who were actively involved in crafting that
Was Fazio a conduit for the CVP even though he was a Democrat?
He was very much an active part of producing the final product. I
don't know how closely he was communicating with the San Joaquin
Valley. It's very clear that he was communicating very closely
with the rice industry because Share the Water was communicating
closely with the rice industry. We knew that they were engaged.
They were looking at different alternatives and making
suggestions. My impression is that a lot of people, by the time
it got to this point in the San Joaquin Valley, a lot of people
were figuring on John Seymour's filibuster and the president's
veto. They were not actively engaged, they were not nearly as
actively engaged in trying to shape what the final bill looked
Urban and Business Interests on the Outside
Chall: On the outside, were there also people like let's say Boronkay and
the business people?
Nelson: Oh, absolutely.
Chall: Did they have input?
Nelson: MET, Carl Boronkay, and some other folks, but especially Carl.
Bob Will their lobbyist back East. MET was very much an active
part of the process. Miller and Bradley always knew from the
beginning of this process, they knew that they were going to
produce a bill that was not just environmental in focus. As a
matter of fact, George has often said that he originally thought
of this bill as the Central Valley Fish and Wildlife Restoration
Bill and as he thought about it, he realized, that's not what it
was. This was a bill that was good for the California economy and
environment and that's why it was finally named the Central Valley
Project Improvement Act.
They always believed that there needed to be fish and
wildlife restoration and reform that would open up the CVP. That
was a lot of different things. That was allowing transfers to
happen more freely. It included the tiered pricing requirements.
It shortened contract renewal terms, requiring conservation. A
whole host of things that were real reform of the project. So it
absolutely was key to make sure that MET, the urban areas and the
business community supported the final bill.
Chall: In terms of the business community, who was representing them do
you think? Somebody said that maybe it was the Bank of America
president. Was he that close to the center?
Nelson: Mike McGill was the point person, I think, who was following the
bill for the business community and making sure that it was in
their best interests. We were never exactly sure how deep Bank of
America's involvement was. To this day, I don't really know how
deep Bank of America's involvement was. Not so much in the
conference but in the president's signature. But it is clear that
Transamerica, that Jim Harvey of Transamerica was the point senior
person in the business community supporting the bill.
We have heard rumors about all sorts of players and people
who weighed in- -we 're getting a little ahead regarding the
president's signaturewe heard all sorts of rumors that we've
never substantiated and never will regarding where support for
this bill came from. It came from all over the place. We were
amazed. We'll never know whether some of these rumors were true
but the final support for the bill- -we '11 get to this in a little
bit- -was amazing.
429 Passes the House on a Voice Vote at 1:00 A.M. (October 6.
Chall: That bill, that's the one that passed the House on a voice vote at
Nelson: Right. Well, what they- -there were a whole host of votes at the
House level. There were I think two roll call votes and then one
final vote. There were votes to send it back to committee, there
were votes to amend, there- -House rules, the Senate is a free-for-
all, the House has very elaborate byzantine rules- -so there were a
whole host of votes on the House side.
We sat up in the gallery and watched as the ticker ran to see
if we had the votes. The first vote was very close. After that
first vote, the next vote got a little better for us and the final
one was the House --by the time they got to the actual vote on
approving the conference report, it was pretty clear that we won
and it was approved on a voice vote. Which kind of astonished me.
Chall: It was pretty late, but they didn't want to take a--
Nelson: Oh, that wasn't late.
Chall: Nobody wanted to be on record?
Nelson: We were all hoping that we'd have a roll call so that we could see
who would vote for the final product, but by the time it got to
that point, I knew that that bill was going through. Therefore,
the roll call really wasn't that important. Because the way the
House works, House members will often be told that it's okay if
they vote against this bill because it's clear they've got the
votes to go through. They'll give people permission to vote
Often, the most important thing is not seeing how they vote,
but when they vote. If they vote early on or late.
Chall: What kind of lobbying was needed at that point, on the floor?
Nelson: On the House floor?
Nelson: On the House floor, Manuel Lujan was walking around the House
floor collaring Republicans, trying to make sure they were voting
against it. Bill Bradley was down on the House floor, George
Miller as well, talking with everybody they could get their hands
on. There was an awful lot of action on the floor and a feeding
frenzy around the door as lobbyists asked members to come out so
that they could speak with them about the final bill.
It was a real lobbying feeding frenzy. By the time it got to
that point, the CVP lobbyists were the only ones who were trying
to kill the thing. Everybody who was in the final bill, the
Central Utah Project, a whole host of other projects were there
with their lobbyists and a couple of lobbyists hired by growers
trying to kill it.
When House members come in during a voting process, they sort
of run a gauntlet of lobbyists who yell at them, thumbs up or
thumbs down, as they go in the door if they don't stop to talk
with people. So the lobbying on the outside was fast and furious,
and on the inside Bradley, Manuel Lujan, and George Miller were
circulating, talking to people. While we sat up in the galleries
Chall: Who are the we who sat in the gallery?
Nelson: Oh, at this point it was myself, David Weiman our D.C. lobbyist,
David Conrad who worked for National Wildlife Federation, Ed Osann
who was also at National Wildlife Federation may have been there
as well. By this point in the process, I think I was the last
Californian left in D.C. David Yardas and Dave Behar had been
there earlier on. I was the only one left at that point.
Chall: So, it passed as H.R. 429 at that time?
Senator Seymour Attempts a Filibuster
Then it went to the Senate.
so, didn't he, or try to?
Seymour did filibuster for a day or
Right. It was a bizarre process, he did start filibustering it
and basically the Senate minority decided that they weren't going
to allow the filibuster to continue. They came to an agreement
that would allow them to negotiate. They did something that
people told me was unheard of. Some of the folks in D.C. said
they had never seen this happen before. What Seymour did in order
to launch his filibuster was to ask the Senate clerk to read the
bill. Which is something apparently you can do. Well, it's a
hell of a thick bill. The Senate clerk started reading.
You mean the entire--
The whole omnibus bill, beginning to end. I was at this point
sitting in somebody's office watching it on cable and the clerk
was sitting in an empty Senate reading the bill. Page after page.
It was astonishingly silly. Primarily as the minority members
were talking with Seymour, I think, trying to figure out what they
were going to do. They finally came to an agreement that allowed
them to continue whereby the bill would deemed to have been read
at a rate of I think it was sixty pages an hour. So Seymour
hadn't given up his rights to have the bill read, but they let the
poor clerk go home, and they agreed that as the clock ticked,
somebody would sit there and turn pages of the bill. A remarkable
That then gave them room to negotiate. We weren't only
dealing with the water bill. We were still dealing with energy
and some tax issues at that point, Senate-wise. It was clear that
there were a number of potential filibusters.
What they did finally was to package them all and come up
with an agreement that allowed those bills to move through and
gave time to different Senators to express their opinions. It
broke [Alphonse] D'Amato's filibuster as well as Senator Seymour's
filibuster. They came up with an agreement.
And basically I think what happens there is that once it's
clear that there are enough votes to end debate- -once they have
enough votes for cloture--the Senator knows that he doesn't have
enough votes to make a filibuster stick. At that point, they
start saving face. The way they save face is by allowing several
hours of debate at the end of which the Senate votes. So the
Senate gave Senator Seymour six hours, I think, to debate. At the
end of which Senator Bradley was allowed a couple of hours and
then the Senate voted.
So Senator Seymour sat in a nearly empty Senate chamber with
himself and his staff and Bradley and his staff and I was one of
half a dozen people in the gallery. There was nobody there.
Senator Seymour went on for hours and hours railing against the
bill, waiting for his six hours to expire. Then, when his time
was up, Senator Bradley responded- -it struck me as really
interesting at this point.
Senator Bradley Responds
Nelson: Bradley knew he' had won at this point. But he spent almost all of
his time, carefully responding to every argument that he had seen
both Seymour raise and the growers raise in the media. He went
back into his file, had his staff go back into his file and pull
out letters from the business community when they were told about
the lack of business support for the fish and wildlife language.
Senator Bradley went back and pulled out his rationale and he put
all of that information in the record. It was really interesting
to watch him. I was sitting above Bradley in the gallery.
As Senator Seymour made a point, I would look down and
Bradley would lean down to Tom Jensen or Dana Cooper and they'd
say something--! couldn't hear it- -and Jensen or Dana would go
through their files and they'd pull out the memo that responded to
that issue. Bradley simply stacked them up on the table and when
Seymour was done, Bradley went through and rebutted all the points
that Seymour had made and other points that had been made in the
media during this point in the process. Very clearly trying to
lay out his record. I thought it was really interesting to do
that once it was clear that he had won. And, nobody was watching.
H.R. 429 Passes the Senate (October 8. 1992)
Chall: But it's in the record. When that was finished, the Senate
members moved in and voted. As I see it, it was passed eighty -
three to eight.
Chall: Do you know who the eight were?
Nelson: Oh, I did. I've forgotten. One of them was Seymour. And I've
forgotten who the other seven were. I'd have to look that up.
But it was interesting that those eight votes were late. Those
were sympathy votes from the Republican side of the aisle for
Senator Seymour. I was astonished. I don't think anybody
expected the vote to be that lopsided.
Once the filibuster was broken, some of the Republican
Senators, especially eastern Republican Senators who didn't have
any substantive stake in the bill, were free to protect Senator
Seymour. I'm sure that Senator Seymour was desperately going
around, trying to get Republicans to vote with him to make him
seem not so ineffective. Eighty- three to eight, when he couldn't
even carry a majority of the Republicans in the Senate was a hell
of a rebuke. I- was astonished at the final vote.
Analyzing the Final Bill
Chall: This final act, do you think that it was an improvement over what
you had, initially hoped that it would be? Were you in the
environmental community satisfied with the bill?
Nelson: If you compare it with the original bills, there is absolutely no
doubt that the final bill is stronger than the bill started out
originally. There were pieces of other bills that we would have
preferred. Obviously, we would have preferred the chairman's mark
of 1.5 million acre feet to the 800,000, but that mark didn't have
the same restoration fund approach in it.
It is by far, I think, the best-written bill. This bill got
an awful lot of attention. I think the final bill had a lot of
hard work put into it by a lot of people. By the time they got to
the conference committee, everybody who was around that table was
trying to make it work. So the minority staff who earlier had
been given instructions to try to stop the process or at least sit
out, were given direction to come to the table and make sure that
the final bill worked.
There are some real bright experienced staffers on that side
of the aisle, who came in and critiqued the bill and said, "This
will work, and that won't work." I think the final bill
benefitted by that.
Senator Malcolm Wallop's Participation
Chall: Those were people, you say, from Wallop's staff primarily?
Chall: I guess the names are available.
Nelson: Oh, folks like Gary Ellsworth and Jim Burney. When we met with
them earlier, I don't remember when we first sat down with Gary
and Jim Burney, they said, "We've got the votes, we can sustain a
filibuster, we're going to kill this bill. We're going to kill
the CVP title. And the Omnibus Bill will move without it." We
thought they were bluffing at that point, but they were not
working with Miller and Bradley to craft a final CVP title. They
said, "It's going to be the Seymour bill or it's going to be
As we got into conference committee- -as they cut the deal--
essentially Malcolm Wallop said, "Substantively , this is the right
outcome, now go back and craft the bill to make sure that it's
going to work properly." And this is a tremendously complicated
piece of legislation. I think it's by far the most tightly
written of all the versions we--
The Bill is Fair to Farmers and the Environment
In other words, you're saying that Wallop helped craft a bill that
he felt would work because he thought it was going to pass.
Yes. Not only did he think it was going to, he knew it was going
to pass, he wanted it to pass. Although we don't know this, I
assume that at some point, he said to Senator Seymour, "You're not
negotiating here, you're not trying to produce a final bill. I'm
going to step in and cut a deal that I think is fair for you and
your farmers . "
According to something I read, I think it was a New York Times
article, they felt that it was fair to the farmers.
It's certainly fairer than it was in the original.
Bush found it more fair.
Nelson: Frankly, as this bill was being written, there were all sorts of
apocalyptic pronunciations coming out of the valley. I have some
friends who are farmers in the valley who have told me, that when
the bill passed, that they sincerely believed that this bill was
going to mean that they would never get another drop of CVP water.
They believed this. They were being lied to by their leadership
which had made a decision to go with the train wreck strategy:
try to bring down the whole water omnibus bill instead of trying
to make sure that the CVP title was fair to their interests.
So there's been a tremendous amount of hysteria and a lot of
that is still out there. A lot of that is still out there.
People who think that the CVPIA is going to kill agriculture in
the Central Valley. It's just not true. I think there is a
tremendous amount of fat in Central Valley agriculture. What this
bill was carefully designed to try to do was to restore fish and
wildlife and to meet California's needs into the future without
sacrificing the health of the agricultural economy.
I think as time passes, it will be clear that that approach
is the right approach and that it's going to work. What I think
is ironic, is that I think a lot of the same growers who were told
by their leadership that this bill was the apocalypse for
California agriculture, are going to be first in line to explore
the water marketing alternatives as they look at, for example, the
possibility of going from cotton to tomatoes and saving half their
water and marketing what they save. Those are the same growers,
as they start to do that, those are the same growers who thought
that this bill was going to be an apocalypse for them.
Chall: Let's analyze some of this.
President George Bush Signs the Omnibus Water Bill (October 30.
Nelson: Do you want to go through the presidential signature process?
Chall: Oh, indeed. Yes of course. Tell me about that. The president
Nelson: He signed on the thirtieth of October. It was Halloween eve.
Pressures For and Against Signing
Chall: Yes, that's right. He had a month to consider.
Nelson: Right. The Senate has to package bills and forward them to the
president for him to sign and the clock doesn't start ticking
until it arrives at his desk. So he actually has until the
thirty- first. It was midnight the thirtieth, I think, that he had
to sign the bill or it would die. We actually, frankly our
feeling was once it was out of the Senate and once it was on the
president's desk, that there was not a whole lot Share the Water
could do to try to influence that final outcome. We did some
media work in California. And we brought everybody together who
had supported the bill. We did a conference at the Press Club
where George Miller came. Everybody who supported the bill in
California came to speak.
Chall: The National Press Club?
Nelson: The San Francisco Press Club. We did a press conference here that
George Miller led off and there was a tremendous array. We had
Jim Lockhart from the Port of Oakland and Transamerica. Mike
McGill was there. Native American community was there. There
were water districts there, environmental groups, fishermen, duck
hunters, labor unions. It was absolutely incredible.
At the end, George leaned over and said- -and sort of was
glassy eyed- -and said, "We must have written a good bill." Once
we did that and once the press was watching the president, we felt
there was not a whole lot we could do. I went on vacation for a
That's the point at which the business community really
weighed in. We don't to this day, I don't really know exactly,
who all was on the phone to White House staffers, urging them to
sign the bill. But we heard rumors of every Republican heavy
weight in the state outside the Central Valley, getting in touch
with the White House saying you need to sign this bill.
It was clear that the San Joaquin Valley was against it. The
rest of the Sacramento Valley I don't think was actively working
against it. But I suspect that most of the Republicans in the
state, outside of the San Joaquin Valley, were quietly calling
their contacts in the White House, telling them to sign it.
It's quite clear that some of the governor's supporters were
quietly doing that. Because some of them told me off the record
that they were going to. And some of them were people --Pete
Wilson was contacting Bush trying to get him to veto it and asking
for a meeting. And he did get a meeting with Bush on the
thirtieth a few hours before the president signed the bill.
Some of the governor's supporters who requested to remain
anonymous were at that point sort of working with Share the Water
trying to make sure that they understood what was in this final
bill. We were providing them with briefing information. They got
in touch with us and said, "We want your version of what this bill
will do to the farming community." And we talked to them and the
business community talked with them and some of Pete Wilson's
supporters were quietly getting in touch with the White House
saying to the president, "You need to sign the bill."
Chall: So they felt that it wasn't going to reduce agriculture to a--
Nelson: Well, the busin'ess community came to the conclusion that it was a
fair bill for agriculture. That it was a reasonable bill from an
environmental perspective; we weren't walking away with the store.
And that it was an absolutely essential bill for the business
community. It was the sort of reform that was unavoidable.
I think coupled with that was a real anger in the business
community that during the drought when urban California was
suffering legitimate shortages, that the Central Valley during the
majority of the drought, during certainly the first four years,
was swimming in water- -paid for at subsidized rates, used on
subsidized crops. More and more business leaders looked at that
and said, in effect, "Wait a minute, we're suffering shortages.
I'm trying to figure out if we have stable water supplies in the
future, and in the Central Valley they have nearly free water and
they're growing surplus and subsidized crops and they won't even
negotiate?" It's a lot of quiet anger in the business community.
I think, again, that's one of the reasons that they split. It was
because the San Joaquin Valley community wasn't at the table. And
they really drove the business community into our camp.
Agriculture did the same thing with MET. MET did not endorse
Miller-Bradley early on. They endorsed the concepts in Miller-
Bradley. It was very vague, but the clear message that came from
MET, was, we have to have a bill. We have to have a bill that
Chall: Yes. That's their main interest.
Nelson: And they knew early on that the Seymour bill was not, was never
intended as a bill that would ever survive the political process.
It was a press conference strategy.
The Sources for Additional Water for Southern California Throuyh
Water Transfers. Conservation, and Other Strateeles
Chall: I think it was you who said to me, regarding the MET, that the
pipes are in place to take the water there. Is that what you
Chall: In what way are the pipes there? What I wonder about is how much
work is going to be needed to build new pipelines to get the water
from Central Valley Project to the MET, for example.
Nelson: There's an awful lot of plumbing already in place. Traditionally,
what people generally say about the state and federal projects is
that the federal project is water rich and the state project is
conveyance rich. That is that the State Water Project has the
ability to move more water than the state project will ever get.
People still talk about the state project being completed to
roughly double the present size. Well, I don't know where they're
going to get that water because that water doesn't exist. What
that means, is that the State Water Project has the ability to
move more water and as CVP water is transferred, the state canal
and the pumps going over to southern California have the ability
to take more water.
Chall: In other words, some of the transfer will be done at the Delta and
other places along the canals?
Nelson: Our hope has always been that the majority of the water
transferred is going to be south of Delta water. Frankly, I think
there's a way to use the restoration fund with water marketing and
transfers to make sure that that really works to the advantage of
the environment .
Chall: South of the Delta?
Nelson: The Westland's Water District has terrible drainage problems. A
good chunk of that never should have been brought into
agriculture. It's lousy land. And the clock is ticking as their
salts build up in the soils and their selenium and other
contamination problems get worse. Everybody knows that that land
is coming out of production. Some of it already has come out of
production. If you fly over the Westlands District, you'll see
these dried up salted looking- -they look like alkali lake beds,
which is what they are. They are man-made alkali lake beds. Some
of that land is going to come out of production. According to the
valley drainage report, within the next fifty years up to half a
million acres may come out of production. Or will come out of
Chall: The next fifty years? That's a long time.
Nelson: It's not clear about whether they'll all go out at the end of the
process or the beginning. But that process is clearly already
begun. That land is coming out of production there. As that
comes out of production, we've always felt that this restoration
bill could allow us to go in and pick up some of that water for
fish and wildlife purposes and increase Delta outflow and reduce
Delta pumping. MET will at the same time be trying to purchase
water for their supplies.
We've always felt that-- the environmental community feels
very strongly that growth management is something that California
desperately needs. But when you look at southern California, it's
very clear that constraining water supply doesn't work. Where
constraining water supply has worked is as a tool to manage
growth. It's been in areas like Mar in county and Santa Barbara
where there have been two things. A local desire to control
growth- - there ' s been a political consensus that growth control is
something they want to see. And there have been physical
constraints to getting the water there. And once they have the
political consensus that they want to manage growth, they
essentially make sure that they don't provide themselves with a
massive water supply that will fuel growth.
In southern California, that simply hasn't been true. For
the last decade, there has been no new source of supply for
southern California. The supply has been slowly shrinking. As
their Colorado supply becomes more uncertain and as Mono Lake
supplies have dropped, there's been greater uncertainty with
supplies coming out of the Central Valley. If you can stop growth
by reducing water supplies or making them uncertain, then growth
should have stopped in southern California during the eighties.
It failed miserably.
MET's perspective and they're right is that twenty million
Calif ornians will not go thirsty. I think that's a political
fact. When you've got that many Californians , they're going to
get a water supply.
Chall: How are they going to get it through your bill?
Nelson: Some of it we want to make sure they get outside the bill. We
hope that southern California, at some point, figures out that
growth control is in the interest of the survival of southern
California. There's going to be a terrifying- -there are going to
be terrifying consequences in southern California. Not just
environmental, but quality of life and for the future of the
southern Californian economy. And the lives of twenty million
Calif ornians. There will be terrible consequences if we don't see
some serious effort at growth control in southern California.
Coupled with a lot of other things.
That isn't going to be done by water.
No, it's not going to be done by water.
Okay, so where- -
Where does the water come from?
Where does Boronkay think he was going to get that water, which he
Nelson: They're going to get it from a couple of sources. They're going
to get it through much more aggressive conservation. Which is
something that has really started. One of the things that
happened during the course of Miller-Bradley, which has not gotten
a lot of attention, is the negotiation of best -management
practices with urban water districts. What urban water districts
have always felt is that they can't save as much water as the
environmentalists think they can, but that agriculture can save
massive amounts of water.
We started a negotiating process where the environmental
community was trying to get commitments to pursue aggressive
conservation programs. I think from the perspective of the urban
community, they recognized that the political reality is that they
had to conserve water. The economic reality came when they really
started looking at water conservation as an affordable source of
new supply. Retrofitting toilets and doing grey water recycling
and so forth is a cheap source of new supply. They realized that
economically, it made sense.
We started negotiations and the end result is a relatively
aggressive list of conservation programs that urban areas are
going to be implementing state-wide. A long list of best-
management practices. A relatively conservative estimate of the
amount of water that those things would save, we think that those
conservation programs if implemented aggressively, can save a lot
more water. We're going to see in the next decade, a much greater
emphasis on conservation.
There used to be in southern California sort of token
gestures toward water conservation. I think in the next decade,
we're going to see serious water conservation programs where real
money is spent encouraging water conservation. That's one source
Another source of supply is waste water reclamation.
Southern California is looking at the possibility of saving, just
in southern California, a million acre-feet of reclaimed water.
Sewage is now dumped in the ocean. They're looking at cleaning
that water up and using it as a new source of supply. In most
cases using it for landscape and using it in industrial processes
and so forth. But in some cases, they are also talking about --oh,
they also use it in ground water- -but in some cases they're
starting to talk about potable water reclamation. Which is
something that there is still a real public taboo regarding. But
as we increasingly contaminate our surface water supplies, we need
to step back and look at that taboo against potable reclamation.
As our treatment techniques improve, and given the polluted
sources of some of our ground water and surface water, we can't
simply assume that what comes out of rivers is safe and that what
comes out of treatment plants is not.
Chall: This bill deals primarily with transfers.
Nelson: Right, and it's clear that transfers are going to be part of the
picture. Southern California's supplies in the future will- -needs
will be met, we hope, by a lot of growth management. They'll be
met by conservation, ground water cleanup, waste water recycling,
probably a small amount of desalination- -but that won't be a big
part of the southern California water supply- -and transfer from
the Central Valley.
Nelson: The agricultural community has said that this bill has sort of
made, created open season on farming in the Central Valley and
that all of the water in the Central Valley is going to get
gobbled up by growth in southern California.
There's something like twenty million acre -feet used in the
Central Valley, and that's enough to support somewhere around one
hundred million Californians . Now, I'm praying there will never
be one hundred million Californians, but simply given the amount
of water used in California, the tremendous amount of water used
by Central Valley growers, we don't think that southern California
growth- -in our lifetimes- -is going to put a substantial dent in
the amount of water that's available currently for agriculture.
Chall: The whole notion of transfers wiping out the Central Valley is not
Nelson: Turning the Central Valley into the Owens Valley? I think it's
just not a reality. First, it's not a reality because politically
it would simply not be possible to pull that sort of a land
swindle that was pulled in the Owens Valley. Politically, that's
just not an option, when you've got the Central Valley which is a
political power in California. Beyond that, there's no way we
could ever- -that Metropolitan Water could ever take that much
water out of the valley.
The Case Against a Peripheral Canal
Chall: The act provides for a certain amount of the building- -the
opportunity if other things don't work- -for building new
facilities, is that correct? That's in the bill?
Nelson: What's in the bill is a study provision requiring the Bureau of
Reclamation to look at ways of increasing water supply,
essentially to recapture- -for all project purposes including fish
and wildlife- -additional project yield. Essentially, nothing's
off the table there; the bureau can study building new gigantic
dams. But the bureau will also be looking at conjunctive use
programs, at conservation programs, at land retirement programs,
and a whole host of ways to increase the amount of water that's
available for the various uses that rely on the project.
We're convinced, and Dan Beard the new commissioner of
reclamation is convinced, that the time is past for the gigantic
dam in California. Auburn Dam, one of the last big traditional
multi-purpose water storage facilities- -Auburn Dam is as dead for
economic reasons as it is for environmental reasons.
Chall: What about a peripheral canal? What about the facilities that
growers do talk about?
Nelson: The bill is very clear that it doesn't authorize the construction
of any new facilities.
Chall: It doesn't authorize it but it provides for--
Nelson: It provides for a study that goes back to Congress regarding how
to increase yield. I have no doubts that the growers will be
pushing to make sure that the bureau is looking at the peripheral
canal as a way of increasing water supply. It's an increasingly
difficult case to make as the scientific case is now indisputable
that San Francisco Bay needs more water than it's been getting.
We are starting now to turn the corner with the Endangered Species
Act and stronger standards from the EPA that will require more
outflow for San Francisco Bay.
The case for the peripheral canal just gets weaker and
weaker. The argument there is always that they can get more water
out of the system by building a peripheral canal. Well, if
there's no more water to be had, then the constituency to build
the canal begins to dry out. People will always say- -people will
still tell you that we have to have the peripheral canal for water
quality reasons or for earthquake reasons or because we need to do
water transfers- -the latest trojan horse.
The bottom line is that the people who want to build the
peripheral canal want to build it because they want to take more
water out of the system. If it's clear that it can't be done,
there's no reason to build the canal. And if you've got a few
billion bucks lying around, which is what the canal would cost,
you could take that same money and solve the problems, the water
quality problems, the seismic stability of the levies, you could
solve those problems with several billion bucks quite handily.
The Argument for the Environmental Impact Statement
Chall: One of the aspects that I find difficult to understand is the
purpose of the EIS, the Environmental Impact Statement. It has to
be done rather soon?
Nelson: Five years. Yes.
Chall: That's always required before the happening, before you begin to
make changes. How can such an immense and complicated project
like this be understood within the next five years --the impact of
it? That is really what is to be studied.
Nelson: Some folks have said that it's sort of an ex post facto EIS. That
we're studying the impacts of what Congress has required but
that'll already be in place. That's not really how I look at it.
I think that the message this bill sent is that we can and should
develop economically sane, environmentally responsible and
sustainable water policies. That's the direction that the CVPIA
goes in. It says that we can protect and restore the environment
and meet our legitimate water needs at the same time.
The provisions in this bill are a big step in that direction
but it's not the end of the process. I think that EIS does two
things given that premise. The first thing is that there's never
been a document that looks at the overall impacts of the EIS of
the Central Valley Project. I think the bureau has been very
motivated never to do that.
I think you can make a strong case that the CVP is the
biggest single environmental disaster ever to strike California.
Maybe you can argue that the interstate highway system is on a par
with it, but if you're trying to look for a single project, a
single action that has had the greatest negative environmental
consequences on the state, I don't think you can beat the Central
Valley Project. It destroyed the San Joaquin River entirely,
dewatered it. It wiped out one hundred thousand acres of Central
Valley wetlands^. It's been pretty close to the last nail in the
coffin for San Francisco Bay and for valley fisheries. The
Sacramento fisheries are on the same decline that we saw in the
San Joaquin. It's just been a slower slide but it's clear that
they're on their way down. The Suisun Marsh is crashing, the Bay
water quality is going down. The CVP has been a disaster and I
think the Bureau of Reclamation has been very motivated not to
ever study the full scope of that disaster.
The Drainage Problem
Chall: So the EIS is to study the Central Valley Project as it is?
Nelson: Well, it's to take into account the impacts that the CVP's had
since it was constructed. To look at the operations requirements
that are required by the bill. And, we hope, to look at
additional possibilities that go beyond what's in the bill. Look
at the next step towards sustainable water policies. We still
think that- -well, there's still a huge drainage problem in the
Central Valley- -this bill will help in small ways but it won't
solve the problem.
Chall: How will it help?
Nelson: It'll help by- -couple of things. First, it will provide an
incentive for conservation for the first time, with tiered
pricing. It's a modest tiered pricing provision but there'll be
some incentive to conserve there. With the water transfer
provisions there'll be a much greater incentive for farmers to
reduce overall irrigation and sell excess water supplies. And the
fact that there is an actual reduction in the overall amount of
water available to agriculture users in some but not all years,
will provide some increased incentive to conserve. There'll be
some modest help on the drainage side. Mostly in terms of trying
to motivate water users to deal with drainage issues. But it
doesn't solve the problem.
Chall: There's no drainage --
Nelson: There's no drainage component per se. The San Joaquin River is
something that this bill didn't completely solve. It required the
preparation of a restoration plan, but that plan isn't required to
be implemented. When you look at a number of other issues that
the bureau is required to study, by this bill, that aren't- -well
the answer is not clearly laid out.
I think it.'s pretty clear that we're now, with the passage of
this bill, we've started down a new course. That course is
developing truly sustainable water policies and developing those
policies with a project as big as the CVP--the biggest project in
the country- -is a big challenge. One act is not going to solve
all of the problems. I think over the next five years, especially
with Dan Beard as commissioner of reclamation, we're going to see
a lot of new thinking about how we can responsibly manage our
water policies. A lot of those issues are going to surface and be
fleshed out- -should be- -surfaced and fleshed out in the EIS. When
that process is done, we hope we'll take the next step towards
improving the management of the CVP.
The Case for Ground Water Management
Chall: Explain if you can, how ground water management is --is this a part
Nelson: [Groan] It ain't in there. [Laughter]
Chall: No, I wondered, it was somewhere, floated around in other drafts,
but I guess it's not in this bill. I couldn't see how it could be
Nelson: It's not in here, it's not in here. As a matter of fact, Governor
Wilson recently has criticized the federal government for the fact
that they're not taking into account ground water management
needs. Which is astonishing. Because, I don't think he's
suggesting that the federal government should take over the
management of the ground water.
California desperately needs to manage it's ground water. We
have this fiction that our ground water is not connected with our
surface water and therefore shouldn't be seriously regulated.
That's a fiction. That's sort of saying you can poison the air in
my kitchen but you can't poison the air in my bedroom. On the
assumption that the poison isn't going to get from one place to
the next. Groundwater gets there from surface water. In some
cases, surface water gets there from ground water. The two are
unavoidably connected and it's an issue that this bill simply
can't get at. The state of California has to come to grips
somehow. The state of California has to come to grips with it's
ground water problem.
Are there some aspects of the bill that required some kind of
monitoring devices or was that an earlier bill that I read?
Monitoring devices that sounded as if they were for ground water.
Then, what about the argument that farmers will go to their ground
water rather than use their surface water. That they'll remove
the ground water --
Oh, that they'll sort of give up on CVP supplies and replace it
with ground water?
They could even transfer surface supplies and use their ground
Nelson: To start with, that's not allowed by the bill. You're not allowed
to transfer surface. If you're a grower using CVP water, you're
not allowed, very clearly, to transfer your surface water and pump
ground water. You can't do that. You have to conserve, or fallow
land, or do something, use less water. But you can't simply
replace supplies. It's clear here that that's sort of bait and
switch and not legal.
Chall: Because there's a certain percentage that you can't move without
Nelson: Once you get to 20 percent transfer in a given district, then you
have to have district approval. But the secretary has to approve
transfers and there are criteria in the bill and it's clear that
that's sort of a shell game- -selling surface water and mining your
ground water is not allowed. It's also something that eventually,
California will come to grips with as a state. California is
still struggling with water transfer legislation. If that ever
happens, and the federal government clearly intends that to happen
because the bill sunsets most of the federal restrictions on
ground water on water transfers.
The Sunset Provision of the Act
Chall: Sunset? Explain that to me.
Nelson: Some of the provisions that regulate water transfers in the bill
expire in 1999, I think. The message there is that California
doesn't have comprehensive water transfer legislation, so in the
interim, the federal government has stepped in and set up some
water transfer requirements that the bureau will regulate and the
state water board will regulate. It's clear that all CVP water
transfers have to comply with state law.
The bill is set up in such a way that by phasing some of the
provisions out it's encouraging the state of California to step to
the table and regulate transfers. One of the things that you
obviously have to do in regulating transfers is to make sure that
you don't worsen your ground water problems.
Chall: The regulations of transfers, transfers throughout the CVP are
permitted now. Are you saying those will be sunsetted?
Nelson: No. Some of the criteria used to regulate those transfers will
sunset. The message to the state of California is: these are the
rules that we're going to be using to regulate transfers for the
next several years. We're going to comply with state law, but
we're going to have some of our provisions sunset because we want
the state of California to take over. The state of California is
the right entity to regulate transfers, to be the primary
regulator of transfers. I think the secretary will always have a
The Need to Operate the Central Valley Project and the State Water
Project as a Single Project
Chall: So there might be more for the Coordinated Operation Agreement.
Beyond where it is right now?
Nelson: I don't recall whether we've talked about transfer of the CVP, but
increasingly those two projects are going to be operated as one.
I think that's just what we're going to be seeing down the road.
A bureau and a state project- -a CVP and a state project that are
going to be increasingly operated as a single project.
Chall: That has been the goal for quite some time. I thought with the
COA that that was in place but probably not quite.
Nelson: No, you know, it's moving in that direction. I think before
Miller-Bradley the direction was there but the political will
wasn't in some cases.
Chall: Over the years it's been the state trying to get the federal
government's cooperation. Now we see it turned around.
Nelson: It's very true. For years, for years, the environmental
community's sort of short hand was that the state project was
badly run but it was no where near the disaster that the CVP was
and it's real clear that that's turned around.
With the passage of this bill and Dan Beard becoming
commissioner of reclamation, there are more responsible rules
governing the CVP than governing the state project. We've got far
more responsible management from the bureau than the state
project. It's something that I would have never expected to see.
It never occurred to me that we would see Dan Beard, who on
the House side crafted the final bill for George Miller, as the
commissioner of reclamation. I never gave that a moment's
Chall: Is he commissioner at the behest of the president? If there's a
new president in four years, he could be out.
Nelson: Yes, he could be out, but the new policies would stay.
The Tasks Ahead for Share the Water: To Ensure Implementation of
the Central Valley Project Improvement Act
Chall: So that's something to consider I guess from all sides,
the Water still in existence?
Nelson: Oh yes. We met Wednesday. Two days ago. Yes, Share the Water is
making the transition from a legislative campaign to an
implementation campaign. We've been forming working groups to
follow what's going on. I've got a couple of pages of activities
that Share the Water is following.
As this bill is implemented, there are a tremendous number of
activities that are required from providing new refuge water
supplies and building facilities necessary to get some of it there
and planning how to get future supplies. Doing a fisheries impact
study and figuring out how to manage the 800,000 acre-feet, and
getting a restoration fund to work, and federal appropriations and
state matching funds. There's a staggering array of tasks that
have to ge t done .
We're convinced that the only way to make sure that that's
done properly is to have an active campaign following those issues
and coordinating and continuing to do public education and
continuing to do organizing and so forth. Miller and Bradley and
Dan Beard have made that very clear as well.
The Bureau of Reclamation has ninety-one years of history. A
lot of it has been going down a road which assumes that the
environment is the enemy. Turning that around in the CVP and
looking at environmental restoration as a goal is not something
that's going to simply happen overnight. It's a major change.
The bureau is a big bureaucracy with a long history. A lot of
dinosaurs in the bureau still think that the only good fish is a
dead fish. That's going to take a lot of time to change.
Chall: Will some of that require congressional action in terms of funds?
Nelson: Oh, without a doubt. I've had one trip back to D.C. already and a
whole host of Share the Water members have already gone back to
work on federal appropriations for the year. We'll be working
through the appropriations process for years to make sure that the
restoration fund and other areas have the money they need in order
to implement the requirements of the bill.
Chall: How does that look from your perspective right now, in terms of
the budget? Is it in the budget now?
Nelson: Yes, it's in the budget. The restoration fund is indexed for
inflation so this year it should be something over fifty-one
million. The president's budget called for thirty-four million.
It seems to be creeping up with various agency proposals to around
forty-five, forty-six million, and we're pushing to make sure it
gets up to fifty-one million. It's going to be a constant process
to make sure that the bill is implemented properly.
Chall: Are you going to continue to coordinate it?
Nelson: At the moment I'm going to continue to do it.
Chall: Nobody's burned out yet?
Nelson: [laughter) There was definitely a lull. After the bill passed, a
whole lot of people took some time off. A whole lot of people had
to turn their attentions to all of the issues that didn't get
dealt with during this fight. There are a lot of other water
issues in California other than the CVP. A lot of those issues
were dropped for two years as we fought this fight.
There was a lull. Initially, when the bill passed, the
euphoria carried us through December. At the beginning of the
year, people started working on some of the other issues and going
through their back files and a lot of people didn't get to take
time off until this summer. I'd say starting in mid- summer, Share
the Water has really gotten itself cranked up again. Continuing
to work on implementation and working on appropriations and
legislation that Vic Fazio has proposed and meeting with the
bureau and the Fish and Wildlife Service. We've got years of work
ahead of us .
The Concern of Agriculture
What do you think the Peltier people will be doing?
Or have they
You can ask Jason. One thing they've clearly done is to try to
launch a campaign to try to persuade the California public that
the California farmer is getting clobbered. Because of the
Endangered Species Act and because of the Central Valley Project
Improvement Act, the EPA standards in the Bay and Delta. It's
ironic that of those three, the Endangered Species Act, Bay-Delta
standards, and the CVPIA, that the Miller-Bradley bill has sort of
dropped off the list of the enemies of agriculture.
I think it's because the folks in ag have had to come to
grips with the fact- -despite the fact that they said that this
bill was the end of the world for agriculture, that it's not.
They're sort of moving quietly on without ever conceding that this
bill doesn't damage them tremendously.
But the CVPIA is predicated on the Endangered Species Act: "X"
The act makes it very clear that once the doubling plan is
prepared that if additional water is needed for the Endangered
Species Act above the 800,000, that the project has to provide
And right now, the Endangered Species Act is where most of
the growers have been focusing their attention. But when you look
valley-wide at the impacts of that act, there are very few impacts
on water supply. There have been no impacts on the east side of
the San Joaquin Valley, very few impacts on the Sacramento Valley.
The only impacts that are meaningful are on the west side of the
valley, the Westlands area.
As I said, that's a chunk of land in California that's going
to come out of production. There's been a lot of talk about
declining crop lands and declining employment in these cities and
so forth. Most of that has nothing to do with Endangered Species
Land values have plummeted in the last decade because they've
got a horrible drainage problem out there. That land is not worth
much because everybody knows the clock is ticking. That's why
values have dropped out there, it's not the Endangered Species
Chall: They have close'd the drain. They closed the outlet so sooner or
later something has to be done.
Nelson: The problem there is not just that they've closed the drain. The
problem is that the soils are salting up. They can't grow on a
lot of that land. As time passes, more and more of that will
become untenable as agricultural land.
Chall: That's not land that's now called fallowed- -the fallowing process?
Nelson: Fallowing, I said, tends to assume a voluntary action. Nature is
fallowing a lot of this land. Or rather, as we farm land nature
is clearly telling us we shouldn't be farming. Nature is taking
it out of production.
I think one of the things the growers are doing is trying to
focus the plight of Westlands on the Endangered Species Act. It's
simply not accurate. One of the things Westlands did was
overextend themselves dramatically by pushing to expand their
acreage, expand the amount of water they get.
As other areas like Santa Clara County take more water than
they were taking previously, that's cut into Westland's supply.
The drainage problem is kind of a disaster for them. That's a
problem they've created. They are attempting to blame all of
their woes on the Endangered Species Act. That's simply not true.
Chall: Well, perhaps we have run through our tape and time. There are
all kinds of other possibilities in terms of questions, but I
think we've pretty well covered as much of it as we can. The rest
of the story will come about as we watch what happens.
The Taste of Victory for the Environmental Movement
Nelson: The last couple of years have been a tremendously exciting time to
work on water issues. For the last decade, nationally, there
haven't been that many big victories on environmental issues.
We've spent a lot of time, during the eighties, and early
nineties, just trying to hold ground and fight a rear guard action
against policies and programs and proposals that would just make
things a lot worse. It's been very exciting being in the middle
of a big victory during that time.
Chall: I presume it has. Well, thanks for your time.
Nelson: Thank you. v
Transcriber: Samantha Schell
Final Typist: Aric Chen
TAPE GUIDE- -Barry Nelson
Interview: August 5, 1993
Tape 1, Side A 1
Tape 1, Side B 11
Tape 2, Side A 23
Tape 2, Side B 34
Interview: August 20, 1993
Tape 3, Side A 41
Tape 3, Side B 52
Tape 4, Side A 53
Tape 4, Side B 74
August 20, 1993
To: Malka Chall
Fr: Barry Nelson
Re: Key Players in the Campaign for the CVP Improvement Act (P.L. 102-
The following people were key players in the campaign in support of the Act,
in organizing, advocacy and actual drafting. Dozens of other groups and
individuals were involved in the campaign, however, the people below were
the most involved.
Dan Beard, House Interior Committee
Tom Jensen, Senate Energy Committee, Subcommittee on Water and Power
Jim Burney and Gary Ellsworth, Senate Energy Committee minority staff
Roger Gwynn, office of Congressman Vic Fazio
Note: The Senate minority staff only began to work in support of a bill once it
reached conference committee. Congressman Fazio, of course, began
negotiating with Miller far earlier.
Share the Water
Barry Nelson, coordinator and Save San Francisco Bay Association
David Behar, 1991 coordinator and Bay Institute
Tom Graff and David Yardas, Environmental Defense Fund
Laura King and Hal Candee, Natural Resources Defense Council
David Weiman, Patty Schifferle and John Boesel, Share the Water
Ed Osann, National Wildlife Federation
Zeke Grader, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations
John Beuttler, United Anglers of California
Tryg Sletteland, Sacramento River Council
Don Marciochi, Grasslands Water District
Patty McCleary, Sierra Club
Joan Reiss, Wilderness Society
Other Fish and Wildlife
Dan Chapin, California Waterfowl Association
Joe Membrino, Hoopa Valley Tribe
Mike McGill, Bay Area Economic Forum
Share the Water
A Coalition for Federal Water Reform 88
1736 Franklin Street, Suite 300
. Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 452-9261; FAX (510) 452-9266
ANALYSIS OF PENDING CVP REFORM LEGISLATION
Locks up 2C 4 of California's
developed water supplies for an .
unspecified period of time? NO
Increases federal and state taxpayer
payments to the CY?? NO
LiT.it s contractors' responsibility for
for fish ar.d wildlife rni tigaticn.tc
$1 per acre foot? NO
Creates flexibility in water planning
by reducing the maximum ccntract
length from 40 tc 1C years? YES
uarantees more wat
Provides assured water for ^er.tr?"
Guarantees adequate water deliveries
for wildlife refuges?
Requires water conservation
in agricultural industry?
Establishes fish and wildlife
restoration as a CVP
Prohibits new contracts until fish and
wildlife mitigation responsibilities
have been fulfilled?
2 ,/4 / 92
Share the Water
.4 Coalition for Federal Water Reform 89
1736 Franklin Street, Suite 300
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 452-9261; FAX (510) 452-9266
October 6, 1992
HISTORY OF NEGOTIATIONS ON CVP LEGISLATION
Over the past week, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding negotiations
to produce a compromise legislative package on the reform of the Central Valley
Project. In the past week, Senator John Seymour, Governor Pete Wilson and the
CVP growers have all objected to the process used to reach the final CVP reform
package in H.R. 429. It is,- therefore, worth reviewing attempts to negotiate a
Share the Water, a coalition of California's leading environmental, fishing,
waterfowl and family farming groups, has supported negotiations in the belief that
water reform is in the interests of all parties in California - cities, fish and wildlife
and even farmers.
When Share the Water was formed, it offered to begin negotiations with the CVP
Water Association, which represents CVP contractors. Several meetings were held
at which some progress was made. Suddenly, however, the contractors announced
that they were unwilling to negotiate on the key elements of a bill: water for the
environment, establishing fish and wildlife as a CVP project purpose and funding
by CVP contractors. They were willing to agree to build fish screens and
temperature curtains, at public expense -- the approach in the bill the CVP
contractors wrote for Senator Seymour (S. 2016). Given the impasse, all parties
agreed that the controversial issues would have to be settled in Washington D. C.
In November of 1991, Senator Bill Bradley summoned competing interests to
Washington to discuss compromise legislation. The contractors' representative
attended but announced that he did not have any authority to negotiate. As a result,
the talks lasted only a few minutes.
In the Senate, Senator Bennett Johnston worked to negotiate a compromise bill to be
considered by the Energy Committee. Talks broke down again in March because
Senator Seymour refused to agree to any changes in the bill written by the
contractors. As a result, the Energy Committee passed out Senator Seymour's bill
with clear statements by Senators Johnston and Bradley that the bill was
unacceptable and would be amended in Conference Committee.
In the House, Congressmen Cal Dooley, Vic Fazio and Rick Lehman negotiated a
compromise bill with Congressman George Miller and then voted against the bill
on the floor on June 19.
In an attempt to develop a different approach, one which might be acceptable to all
interests, Tom Graff of the Environmental Defense Fund and Stuart Somach, on
behalf of the contractors, began talks, negotiating as individuals with no
commitment of support from their groups. The Somach-Graff talks led to a draft
framework for an entirely new approach. Somach and Graff were invited to
Washington D. C. to present their results. Hours before the briefing was to begin,
Somach was forbidden by the CVP Water Association from entering the room.
Governor Wilson had personally told growers that they should not participate in
After a burst of outrage in the media, the growers asked to begin talks again. Before
talks began, Somach and Graff were each briefed by their constituent groups
regarding concerns in the 'draft Somach-Graff approach. Both sides agreed that talks
would conclude on June 20, when the Senate would reconvene. This time,
intensive talks involved many people addressing a variety of issues. On Friday,
June 17, after receiving a blistering attack from water interests, Stuart Somach
resigned. Although he was reinstated on July 20, it was clear that his clients were
again unable or unwilling to negotiate. Thus, talks ended, apparently permanently.
In August of 1991, Share the Water began requesting a meeting with Senator
Seymour to discuss compromise legislation. Despite repeated requests to the
Senator and four staff members, no meetings with Share the Water were granted
until August of 1992, when he met with Tom Graff for a few minutes. Several
Share the Water members met with the Senator on October 1. The Senator has
never engaged in substantive discussions with the opponents of his bill and has
indicated that he does not wish to work with the environmental, fishing or
waterfowl groups. Despite repeated statements that he is willing to compromise, the
Senator has never offered amendments to his bill or to those offered by
Congressman Miller or Senators Johnston or Bradley.
Governor Pete Wilson has also indicated a desire to compromise. However, when
he was in the U. S. Senate, he killed the CVP reform legislation. He was partially
responsible for ending the Somach-Graff talks. In four hearings, representatives of
the Governor appeared yet did not present substantive comments or offer
amendments. Indeed the Governor has never offered a substantive analysis of any
of the legislative proposals nor has he offered amendments which would be
acceptable to him. His representative at the November, 1991 meeting with Senator
Bradley indicated that he did not have the authority to negotiate.
Governor Wilson has based his water policy on a proposal to transfer the CVP to
state ownership. This position has been used as an excuse to oppose CVP legislation
despite the fact that the final version of CVP reform would assist in the transfer of
the Project. By deferring to state law, by addressing the environmental impacts of
the Project, by opening up the CVP to all of the people of California and by
beginning to institute water pricing reforms, Title 34 of H.R. 429 significantly
reduces the obstacles to transfer of the CVP.
In short, neither Senator Seymour nor Governor Wilson have been willing to enter
into negotiations on CVP reform. On the other hand, the proponents of reform
have demonstrated that they are eager to consider and accept reasonable
amendments offered by those with objections to provisions in their legislative
proposals. The evolution of the CVP bill has clearly indicated that these legislators
are flexible and willing to accommodate the interests of all sides.
Unfortunately Senator Seymour, Governor Wilson and the CVP growers are
attempting to prevent the passage of any CVP reform legislation. Fortunately, the
rest of California and the leaders of the Conference Committee realize that reform is
essential to California's economy and environment.
Share the Water
A Coalition for Federal Water Reform
1736 Franklin Street, Suite 300
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 452-9261; FAX (510) 452-9266
Summary Discussion Points on S.2016
January 14, 1992
On November 20, 1991, the "Central Valley Project Fish and
Wildlife Act of 1991" (S.2016) was introduced by Senator John
Seymour (R-California) . While S.2016 may be a welcome sign that
Senator Seymour has begun to recognize the impacts of the Central
Valley Project (CVP) on California's fish and wildlife resources,
it provides neither the authority, the water, nor the funds needed
to reasonably redress those impacts. Indeed, S.2016 developed in
large measure by CVP contractors does little more than to preserve
"business as usual" f or*. CVP agriculture while deferring for years
what is needed today in the way of substantive and meaningful fish
and wildlife mitigation actions. S.2016 does not, as such, meet
California's short-term water needs, and it will do very little to
help resolve its long-term water-management problems .
o Fails to clarify, once and for all, that fish and wildlife
protection is an important and integral aspect of CVP
operations and purposes;
o Fails to provide adequate and dependable supplies of good-
quality water for the protection and restoration of instream
and wetland resources in all areas affected by the CVP;
o Overlooks the critical issue of restoring fish and wildlife
populations by limiting mitigation for CVP impacts to
structural, and often inappropriate, habitat restoration
o Increases the need for State and Federal taxpayer subsidies
to the CVP to pay for significant portions of fish and
wildlife restoration measures because it fails to provide the
funding and the certainty necessary to accomplish these
o Relies on a variety of structural fixes and conditional
agreements that will be of limited utility absent adequate
water, authority, and funding;
o Uses inappropriate water- transfer mechanisms as smoke
screens for long-term contract renewals while ignoring
altogether the disposition of "unallocated" CVP yield; and
o Ignores the critical importance of fundamental water-
policy reforms for meeting the CVP's environmental mitigation
responsibilities and, ultimately, the water needs of all
Calif ornians .
The following discussion expands upon each of these points.
Project Purposes The CVP is virtually the only Bureau of
Reclamation project in 'the United States that is not operated in
a manner to protect fish and wildlife. Despite the fact that
authorizing legislation for the CVP already provides for fish and
wildlife protection as a project purpose, federal contractors and
the Bureau refuse to acknowledge this mandate. Silence on this
issue reflects policy priorities from the 1950 's, not the 1990 's.
Existing State policies call for the management of California's
water for all beneficial purposes, including the substantial public
interest in fish and wildlife protection. This interest must be
reflected in any major federal legislation affecting fish and
wildlife in the Central Valley.
Assured Water Supplies For the past 40 years, water
management practices of the CVP have favored consumptive uses at
the expense of instream and wetland needs. Today, as a
consequence, Central Valley wetlands have all but disappeared,
while Delta smelt, striped bass, and winter-run salmon (among
others) are on the brink of extinction. The reasons are clear:
fish and wildlife populations need adequate and dependable supplies
of good-quality water to survive, and those supplies have simply
not been forthcoming.
S.2016 does little to change this situation. Water supplies
for Central Valley refuges, for example, will not be provided with
any certainty for nearly a decade. Even then, deliveries over
"existing" levels will not take place absent burdensome state and
local cost-share commitments. Refuge supplies will also be
subordinate to the uses, wants, and priorities of existing CVP
agricultural contractors .
Instream resources fare even more poorly. Entirely ignored
are the needs of the Trinity and upper San Joaquin Rivers. In
other areas, water for instream purposes must await the findings
of a "Task Force" whose recommendations will not be finalized until
2010 nearly two decades hence. Even those recommendations will
require subsequent authorization by Congress to take effect, and
all actions will be contingent upon state and local cost-share
commitments and the satisfaction of numerous "social, economic, and
biologic" criteria. Nowhere are CVP responsibilities for Bay-
Delta outflows even addressed.
Fish and Wildlife Populations Restoring fish and wildlife
populations requires more than actions to restore habitat
conditions in specific locations in the Central Valley. S. 2016
ignores this crucial fact, implicitly assuming that site-specific
"techno-fixes" (see below) will result in restored fish and
wildlife populations . By failing to provide measures and resources
specific to the restoration of fish and wildlife populations, as
well as their habitats, the bill leaves out a fundamental
Adecmate Funding Meaningful improvements in fish and wildlife
conditions will require adequate implementation funding together
with assured supplies of water. (For example, voluntary water
purchases and conveyance-system improvements will be needed to
support "level 4" water deliveries to Central Valley refuges.)
Unfortunately, S.2016 provides little in the way of assured or
adequate funding. Total collections from existing agricultural
contractors will be limited to $1.00 per acre-foot annually
perhaps $7 million each year with all expenditures subject to
further appropriation by Congress. (At least ten times that amount
could be needed, and substantially more under the formulations of
this bill.) To the extent that funding under this bill is
insufficient to cover the costs of fish and wildlife improvements,
S. 2016 will lead to increased public subsidies for the CVP, this
time for the mitigation of project impacts. The absence of
contract or pricing reforms (see below) also ensures that CVP water
will continue to be sold at highly-subsidized rates and
substantially mis-allocated as a consequence.
Techno-Fixes and Agreements S.2016 relies on a laundry list
of structures temperature curtains, fish screens, fish ladders,
replacement gravels, fish hatcheries, and so on as substitutes for
assured supplies of water. Absent water, however, these costly and
capital-intensive "initial actions" will be of extremely limited
utility. (Even with water, some, like hatcheries, may be ill-
advised, and all will- take years to bear fruit.) Related programs
and agreements, such as those intended to mitigate for "direct
fishery losses," will be limited by a variety of implementation
contingencies, cost-sharing requirements, and overall tests of
Contracts and Water Management Existing CVP water-supply
contracts were initiated in the 1950 's, and remain wholly
unresponsive to California's changing economic, demographic, and
environmental circumstances and values . These contracts will
expire during the next 10 years, and it is imperative that they
include, if and when renewed, both pricing and water-management
reforms that reflect modern-day circumstances.
S.2016 does little in this regard. As noted above, the bill
fails to address water-price subsidies and needed pricing reforms.
Moreover, the bill actually weakens existing conservation
requirements under federal reclamation law; it does nothing to
ensure that longstanding problems of agricultural drainage will be
addressed; and it contains nothing in the way of viable enforcement
mechanisms. Even the much-heralded water-transfer provision fails
to create the conditions necessary for an effective system of
voluntary water transfers: District-level veto powers remain intact
and may actually be strengthened; only one-fifth of existing
delivery totals can ever be transferred from areas of current use;
and no assurance exists that water reserved through a transfer tax
for groundwater-recharge purposes will be managed so as to deal
with existing overdraft problems.
S.2016 also links contract renewals to water transfers in a
disingenuous fashion: a 100-year transfer involving 10 acre-feet
of water would, for instance, automatically "lock up" the water not
transferred (potentially thousands of acre-feet) for the same 100-
year period. The bill is otherwise silent, however, on the issue
of contract-renewals, and does nothing to ensure that new contracts
for allegedly "unallocated" CVP yield will be avoided in the
future. These are gaping holes, indeed.
o o o
From these and other shortcomings, it is clear that S.2016
falls dramatically short of its professed goals and purposes.
Recognizing, however, that S.2016 is at least a step in the right
direction, the member organizations of SHARE THE WATER are
committed to working with Senator Seymour and other interests so
as to best incorporate the viable elements of this bill into S.484,
the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (Bradley, as
introduced). Only S. 484 provides assurances that the management
of federal water in California will begin to respond to
contemporary challenges, including, in particular, the immediate
needs of fish and wildlife resources. It remains, as such, the
only meaningful platform for negotiation and possible amendment.
INDEX- -Barry Nelson
agriculture/water, lobby for, 7,
Association of California Water
Agencies (ACWA) , 20
Babbitt, Bruce, 51
Bank of America, 16, 61
Bay Area Economic Forum, 16
Bay Institute, 15
Beard, Daniel (Dan), 6, 75, 78,
Behar, David, 14-15, 36, 63
Boesel, John, 41-42
Boronkay, Carl, 10-12, 61, 73
Bradley, Bill/Bradley bill, 5-6,
7, 8, 9, 20-21, 27, 29, 30, 40,
42-43, 47, 59, 60, 63, 65
Bureau of Reclamation. See United
Burney, James (Jim), 67
Bush, George, 67, 68-70
business interests and the Central
Valley Project Improvement Act,
15-18, 40, 69, 70
California Business Roundtable,
California Rice Industry
Association, 14, 33, 53-54, 60
California State Water Project
(SWP), 13, 48, 71, 81
California State Water Resources
Control Board, 11, 49-51
California Waterfowl Association,
Cannon, Fred, 16
Central Utah Project, 28, 36, 63
Central Valley Project, 4, 5, 9,
17-18, 27, 28, 30, 77, 81
proposed transfer to the state,
Central Valley Project Water
Association, 13, 19-20, 37,
40, 63, 83
Chap in, Dan, 15, 36
Condit, Gary, 33
Conrad, David, 23, 63
Cooper, Dana, 65
Coordinated Operation Agreement,
Defenders of Wildlife, 23
Delta (San Francisco
Bay/Sacramento -San Joaquin
Delta Estuary), 2-3, 46, 71,
Draft Decision 1630, 48-51
Dooley, Calvin, 33-34, 36, 51-53
drainage, 78, 84
Ellsworth, Gary, 35, 37, 67
Endangered Species Act (ESA) , 9,
11, 17, 32, 48, 50, 76, 83, 84
Environmental Defense Fund (EOF) ,
2, 3, 8, 9, 15
Environmental Impact Statement
Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA), 49, 76
farmers and the Central Valley
Project Improvement Act, 9,
Fazio, Vic, 33, 36, 51-53, 54,
59, 60, 83,
fishing organizations and the
Central Valley Project
Improvement Act (CVPIA) , 24-25
Friant unit, 39
Gage, Michael (Mike), 11
Garn, E.J. (Jake), 36, 39
Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District,
Grader, Zeke, 36
Graff, Thomas (Tom), 3, 9, 21-23,
29, 30, 36. See also
ground water management, 78-79
Harvey, James (Jim), 16, 61
Harvey, Michael (Mike), 35
Jensen, Tom, 6, 8, 65
Johnston, J. Bennett, 35, 37, 39-
41, 42-45, 47, 59, 60
Kahrl, William, 21-22, 44-45, 58
Kennedy, David, 31
Krautkraemer , John, 2
Lanich, Steve, 6
Lawrence, John, 6
Lehman, Richard, 33-34, 36, 51-53
lobbyists/lobbying, 7, 19, 23, 63
Lockhart, James (Jim), 69
Los Angeles Water and Power, 18
Lu j an , Manue 1 , 63
McGill, Michael (Mike), 15-16,
36, 61, 69
Metropolitan Water District
(MET/MWD) , 10, 11, 13, 18, 20,
40, 58, 61, 70, 71, 72, 75
bills, 4, 5, 7, 27, 33-34, 44,
51-53, 59, 60, 61, 63, 69
National Resources Defense Council
National Wildlife Federation, 23
Omnibus Water Bill (H.R. 429),
Osann, Ed, 23, 63
Peltier, Jason, 18, 19, 38, 60
peripheral canal, 75-76
Port of Oakland, 16-18, 69
Port of San Francisco, 16-18
Racanelli (Judge John T.)
Reisner, Marc, 33
rice farmers. See California Rice
Robotham, Douglas, 30-31
Sacramento Bee . 22
Save San Francisco Bay
Schifferle, Patricia, 41-42
Schuster, David, 19, 20
Seymour, John/Seymour bill, 5, 6,
7, 13-14, 18, 25-26, 29, 40,
42-44, 52-53, 64-65
Share the Water, 3, 5, 6, 7, 14-
19, 21-26, 28, 30, 32, 33-34,
36, 39-40, 41-42, 46, 52-53,
57, 60, 69, 70, 81-83
Somach/Graff negotiations, 21-23,
Somach, Stuart, 13, 19, 20-23,
30, 31, 60
State Water Contractors, 20
State Water Project (SWP). See
Three -Way Water Agreement Process,
Transamerica Corp., 16, 61
Bureau of Reclamation, 75, 77,
Fish and Wildlife Service, 48,
Wallop, Malcolm, 35, 59, 60, 67
waste water reclamation, 74
water marketing/transfers, 8, 9,
10-13, 57-59, 68, 70, 71, 72,
75, 77, 79, 80
Water Resources Control Board.
See California State.
Weiman, David, 23-25, 63
Westlands Water District, 71, 84
Wheeler, Douglas, 30, 31
Will, Robert (Bob), 61
as governor, 5, 11, 21, 29,
31-32, 37, 48-51, 69-70, 78
as senator, 5
Yardas, David, 3, 63
Graduated from Reed College in 1942 with a B.A. degree,
and from the State University of Iowa in 1943 with an
M.A. degree in Political Science.
Wage Rate Analyst with the Twelfth Regional War Labor
Board, 1943-1945, specializing in agriculture and
services. Research and writing in the New York public
relations firm of Edward L. Bernays , 1946-1947, and
research and statistics for the Oakland Area Community
Chest and Council of Social Agencies, 1948-1951.
Active, in community affairs as director and past
president of the League of Women Voters of the Hayward
area specializing in state and local government; on
county-wide committees in the field of mental health; on
election campaign committees for school tax and bond
measures, and candidates for school board and state
Employed in 1967 by the Regional Oral History Office
interviewing in fields of agriculture and water
resources. Also director, Suffragists Project,
California Women Political Leaders Project, Land-Use
Planning Project, and the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care