The Fight for California's Fresh Water: America's Water Crisis (Part 3/3)

Uploaded by vice on 15.11.2012


EMERSON ROSENTHAL: The most important thing to know about
fresh water in California is that there just isn't enough.
The second thing you quickly find out is that the state's
no stranger to full-on water wars.
Basically, whoever controls the water in California
controls the future.
Currently the dominant player in the state's big agriculture
is Paramount Farms, which is owned and
operated by Stewart Resnick.
Stewart's goals have recently aligned very closely with
Governor Jerry Brown's.
WALT GRAY: California's water war is heating up.
The governor has just unveiled a new $14 billion plan to
build two tunnels underneath the delta, transferring water
from northern California to southern California.
The governor says his plan will create a reliable water
supply and still maintain a healthy
ecosystem in the delta.
Not everyone agrees.
EMERSON ROSENTHAL: That's why we came out west.
We wanted a firsthand look into the newest chapter of
California's water works.

So, our first job was to meet Congressman John Garamendi,
who has been fighting Jerry Brown's water
proposals since the '70s.
JOHN GARAMENDI: This proposal goes back at least 40 years.
Jerry Brown, in the 1970s, when he was governor, wanted
to build this system, got it through the legislature.
I and several other folks decided that was a bad thing
and we fought it.
We had a referendum.
And now he's back.
He said it very clearly, I'm going to do it this time.
What are you going to do, governor?
You're so determined to relive your old life that you want to
destroy this thing?
You want to build a system that would destroy the largest
estuary on the west coast of the Western hemisphere?
Is that what this is all about, just so
you say I did it?
It's the north versus the south.
It's the war of water in California.
It's been going on since the gold rush, and it's continuing
to this day.

ADAM KEATS: This area right here is the point at which the
water leaves the public realm and enters the private realm,
so to speak.
The equation is solely focused on big, Southern California
Huge mega-corporations that are some of the largest farm
interests in the world, producing big-money crops.
And that's the primary thing driving this thing.
And no one has a right to own the water.
It doesn't mean you can totally deprive the rest of
the state of its access to the water--
and when I say rest of the state, that includes the fish
and the birds and the animals.
Early on, in the early 2000s, mid 2000s, we noticed huge
declines of fish species in the delta.
6 million splittail were killed in one count, and
14,000, 15,000 salmon.
Instead of having the power in one interest, the San Joaquin
Valley farmers-- and that's primarily one company,
Paramount Farms--
instead of having one big boy controlling the whole game,
have the state control it, and have the state control with
very strict rules, in terms of who gets water, when they get
water, why they get water.
And include in that mix all the birds and fish in the
environment and ecosystem up here.
But you can answer all the questions just by figuring out
where the money is, who's making the most
money off the deal.
EMERSON ROSENTHAL: Moving large amounts of water from
one place to another isn't anything new.
But the water from the San Joaquin delta is already
spoken for.
By law, farmers who have lived here in the San Joaquin Valley
for over 250 years still maintain priority rights over
the delta's water.
They get it first, and their livelihoods depend on it.
RUDY MUSSI: My father was a farmer.
I farm with my brother, and I've done that
for the last 50 years.
All this proposal does is just steal the water from one area
and ship it to another area.
The reasoning changes all the time.
At first, it was to enhance the aquatic species out here.
Well, the Academy of Science said the peripheral tunnels or
canal won't enhance the species.
So then they said, well, we'll do adaptive management.
So, in other words, we're going to build this and then
we'll figure it out how to work it.
We fought this battle in 1982, and I think my dad fought this
battle in the '50s and the '60s.
It's always been somebody trying to steal our water.
Anytime there's a finite amount of water, there's
always somebody that doesn't have it that wants it.
And don't get me wrong.
We don't mind sharing any surplus water, but
don't take my water.
I depend on it for my livelihood.

EMERSON ROSENTHAL: Right now, we're heading into Clarksburg,
where we're going to film where they want to begin these
new tunnels.

Sacramento River, chilling on a private levee.
Snuck out here so we can see it for ourselves.
If Jerry Brown's peripheral canal proposal goes through,
they'll take two large tunnels underground, right under here,
and 9,000 cubic inches of water per second will be taken
from Sacramento River all the way down south.
And basically, all the farmers out here are completely
dependent on this water.
Potentially, that could all end as quickly as
shutting off a faucet.

John Herrick is one of a number of lawyers working to
stop the Bay Delta
conservation plan from approval.
Along with a number of colleagues, John's been on the
job for about 30 years already.

JOHN HERRICK: Their proposal is, we're going to improve the
delta by moving our intake.
So their plan is to make the delta better by having less
fresh water flow through it.
It's that nuts.
EMERSON ROSENTHAL: Why does the Department of Water
Resources and the Department of the Interior want them to
have those water rights?
JOHN HERRICK: That's an interesting question.
I don't know.
One of the things that should be separated, but isn't, is
the fact that the Department of Water Resources is a seller
to the contractors.
So large amounts of money go from the people who want the
water, exporters, to the department.
That connection of buyer-seller has resulted in
the Department of Water Resources following the
desires of their clients, their buyers.
In our opinion, although we haven't figured out a way,
there are people that should be put in
jail for these things.

EMERSON ROSENTHAL: All right, so basically, all of the
proponents of the peripheral canal have pointed us in the
direction of the Department of Water Resources.
But unfortunately, after we set up an appointment with
them, they claimed that they heard some things about us and
decided to cancel our 2 o'clock appointment.
So it is 10 o'clock now.
We figure we might jump in, because we have to hear from
their side, and their reasons behind wanting
this peripheral canal.

Yeah, we're doing an interview.
How's it going?
-Oh, you know.
I work for state parks.
How good can it be?
-This too shall pass.
-It's entertaining.

EMERSON ROSENTHAL: Uh, yeah we did.
For 10 o'clock, originally.
The secretary was sharp enough to divert us away from the
building and not let us talk to anybody.
But we got some good pizza
recommendations, so we're cool.

Once we got back to New York, we realized that after all of
our appointments were canceled with the Department of Water
Resources, the Natural Resources Agency, and the
chemist who helped back the proposal's science, we didn't
have a single statement from the proponents of the plan,
let alone a positive one.
So we tried again.
OK, so I just found the list of all of the supporters.
This is everybody who is a proponent of
the peripheral canal.
Let's see if we can talk to somebody.
-Financial Resources Agency, this is Kim, how may
I direct your call?
Hi there.
My name is Emerson Rosenthal, and I'm calling on behalf of
Vice Media.
Can you hold for just one second?
Let me see if there's somebody available.
Hi, this is Nancy Vogel, director of public affairs for
the department.
Hi, you've reached [INAUDIBLE]
with Paramount Farms, please leave a message and I will
return your call.
We had someone here in the office that covers Bay Delta.
They're not in right now, you can leave a message--
Were you the woman that sent us to that
really great pizza place?
That's me.
Oh good, you guys liked Zelda's, after all?
Yeah, it was delicious.
Just one second, let me see if there's somebody available.
Will you please hold for just one second?
One moment.
Thank you.
One moment.
EMERSON ROSENTHAL: The only response we got was an email
from the governor's press office, with a link to their
press release.
In the meantime, the governor's been hard at work
pushing the proposal past a legislative vote, in spite of
the opposition.
JERRY BROWN: This proposal balances the concerns of those
who live and work on the delta, those who rely on it
for water, and those who appreciate its beauty, its
fish, waterfowl and wildlife.
EMERSON ROSENTHAL: So we'll have to go with that as their
official statement.
And with all lines of communication cut off between
the designers of the plan and the people asking questions,
the Bay Delta conservation plan is quickly becoming an
imminent reality in the haze of California politics.
Will governor Jerry Brown win the water war he's been waging
since the '70s?
Is this a new precedent for controlling water in America?
In the words of Detective Walsh, in perhaps the most
famous film about California's water, "Forget it, Jake.
It's Chinatown."