Thursday, January 14, 2010

Disrespected by DWR

In the previous post, I chided Restore the Delta for attacking Lester Snow, Director of the Department of Water Resources.

On reflection, it is somewhat uneven for me to lecture Restore the Delta about disrespecting Lester Snow without mentioning how little respect I have personally received from the Department of Water Resources this year. Three things come to mind.

1. Every day, DWR sends 5 California Water News emails to its employees and interested others. The first email has the featured news stories, and the other 4 are on narrow topics and less read. In May, the Sacramento Bee and Fresno Bee published a column by me that brought new facts into the water discussion and proved to be very influential. California Water News listed it at the bottom of their 4th email of the day (where no one would see it) with an all caps OPINION label added by them. That wouldn't bother me except...

Two weeks later, DWR's California Water News circulated a response to my article full of personal attacks that went so far as to call me racist. DWR ran the personal attack as the lead article of their top stories without adding an opinion label. So DWR didn't attack me personally, they just approvingly forwarded someone else's attack to all their employees as the most important news of the day.

As for whether these reports are racist, two real Latino grassroots groups (Coalition of Mexican-American Associations and Hispanics for Political Action) invited me to speak about this and no one has been offended - in fact they applauded. That is two more invitations than I have received from DWR staff.

2. In August, I attended the California Water Issues Forum in Sacramento hosted by Lester Snow and David Hayes, U.S. Department of Interior. The primary reason I went was to ask Director Snow a question. They asked the audience to write questions on cards and submit them. I did. My main question was "Do you intend to sponsor a cost-benefit study of the peripheral canal. If yes, will there be an open request for proposals or will you just hire Jeff Mount." (Yes, the last part was sarcastic, but it was kind of funny if you were there to watch them share the podium with their favorite scientist for hours. I actually give Dr. Mount credit for staying until the interminable end to listen to all public comments long after most of the other panelists left the building.)

When question time finally arrived, Lester Snow announced that they were changing the format to public comments rather than Q&A. He said the questions were too specific for the forum, and they would respond to them directly in a few days. Since I had written a specific question instead of comment, I followed his instructions and didn't go to the microphone to comment. Five months later, and I'm still waiting for an answer to my very simple "yes or no" question.

3. Since last spring, DWR has produced a monthly report called "California's Drought Update." Every issue prominently features the UC-Davis job loss estimates. The issues since we released our Fish or Foreclosure report in August have been very interesting. The August 31 issue says,

UC Davis researchers are now revising their forecasts of 2009 water shortage impacts... Results from this new research should be available in time for
the September Drought Update.
There is no mention of why they were suddenly scrambling to revise their numbers or that many people were citing a very different estimate from a credible source.
The September issue says,

On September 28 a team of UC Davis researchers led by Dr. Richard Howitt revised their forecasts of 2009 water shortage employment impacts... DWR economists will use these new forecasts in their research on the economic impacts of the water shortages.

Still no mention of other estimates or an explanation of why they were sticking with the same source that misled them all year. I guess they didn't hear there was something else out there. Maybe someone reading this will tell them about our latest update of 8,500 jobs. If they have read it, I would be very interested in why they think the UC-Davis estimate is more accurate.

I don't blame DWR for ignoring our reports and commentary at first, and have no hard feelings (really) despite the complaints above. They don't know me, and I haven't been around these water issues for all that long (of course, that doesn't seem to stop them from seeking the expert analysis of comedian Paul Rodriguez). However, at this point, I think they at least owe me a citation and an answer to my simple question.

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