Feinstein announced that she would attach a rider to an upcoming federal jobs bill that would boost water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to a vocal agribusiness community in the west San Joaquin Valley. Because these farmers were late to the game of acquiring water rights, they're the first to get shorted when deliveries are cut, as they were last year because of drought conditions and court- ordered pumping restrictions aimed at restoring fish populations. West valley farmers only got about 10% of their allocations of federally subsidized water in 2009, and Feinstein's rider would ensure they get closer to 40% this year and next.
Feinstein says she's proposing the amendment because "people in California's breadbasket face complete economic ruin without help." Indeed, unemployment is running alarmingly high in some Central Valley communities. But then, they've long been beset by chronic unemployment. Moreover, a report by the University of the Pacific suggests that the vast majority of the region's job losses have been in the construction industry, not agriculture. And it's perverse to insert language in a jobs bill aimed at benefiting farmworkers without considering the impact on fishermen, whose industry has been devastated by heavy pumping of delta water. The delta is home to hundreds of species, including the increasingly threatened chinook salmon.