Fish remains, Salton Sea
Fish remains, Salton Sea

In summary

Feds to announce big changes to state water system. Imperial County wants help with Salton Sea crisis. Is Gavin Newsom actually a moderate?

Good morning, California.

“We’re either going to win, or get caught trying.”—Beverly Hills billionaire Ron Burkle, to The Sacramento Bee

Burkle was in Sacramento for Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber’s announcement that Sacramento would be the home of the 29th MLS franchise.

A $252 million stadium in the city’s downtown railyards is expected to be ready for the Republic Football Club in 2022.

Boisterous soccer fans gathered for the announcement at a downtown food court that once was a bank. Among their chants: “Beat L.A., beat L.A., beat L.A.”

Proposal: Big changes for water

San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta, west of Sacramento (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

The U.S. government today is announcing plans to alter operations of California’s water system, potentially resulting in less water flowing through the Delta into San Francisco Bay and more to cities and San Joaquin Valley farms.

The plan, part of which was announced via a commentary in CalMatters, includes changes that the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say will improve habitat for Chinook salmon and Delta smelt, a tiny fish that is teetering on the verge of extinction in the wild.

Details are to become public shortly before 8 a.m. at this site.

Environmentalists are alarmed, and a spokeswoman for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said the state “will evaluate the federal government’s proposal.” 

  • The Bureau of Reclamation proposes to operate the federal Central Valley Project in “real time,” running the massive pumps near Tracy that push water from the Delta toward farms to the south in ways that would avoid grinding up fish.
  • A hatchery would be built in an effort to reintroduce Delta smelt.
  • Beneficiaries would include Westlands Water District farms in the otherwise arid San Joaquin Valley. 
  • Jeffrey Mount, of the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center: “You cannot dispute the fact that they are shifting water away from the estuary.”

The announcement will add a complication to Newsom’s strategy of striking voluntary agreements among water users, including farmers and cities, commercial fishing interests and environmentalists.

  • Mount: “I am quite certain this is going to litigated.”

Forcing a focus on Salton Sea

Fish remains, Salton Sea
Fish remains, Salton Sea

California lawmakers have known for years that the Salton Sea in Imperial and Riverside counties is an environmental disaster and health crisis. 

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors today will try to force the state to act by voting to declare a public health emergency

The goal: Prompt Gov. Gavin Newsom and the feds to take immediate action to tamp down toxic dust from the shrinking lake, The Palm Springs Desert Sun reports.

Board Chairman Ryan Kelley told The Desert Sun’s Janet Wilson:

  • “If we declare a local emergency, it gets sent to the state, and then Gov. Newsom has to make a decision. If he doesn’t declare a state of emergency, he’s ignoring a major health crisis. If he does, it opens up the Emergency Services Act, and permitting and procurement materials and equipment are streamlined.”

The Salton Sea is an accidental body of water, created in 1905 when an irrigation canal breached and water rushed into the lakebed. 

As it evaporates, the lake has become increasingly saline. Dust blowing from the expanding shore contains toxins such as arsenic and selenium.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office said in a report last year that the state “bears primary financial responsibility for responding to changes at the Salton Sea.”

Money matters: Voters have approved bonds containing $280 million to deal with Salton Sea since 2014. The cost will be far greater. Much of the earmarked money is unspent.

Ranking Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom, after signing several gun control bills on Oct. 11.

If Gov. Gavin Newsom were a legislator, he would be more conservative than any other Democrat in the Senate and all but two in the Assembly. 

That’s based on CalMatters reporter Ben Christopher’s analysis of the 1,042 bills that the governor signed or vetoed this year.

Christopher made use of software produced by political scientists at UCLA, USC, University of Georgia and Rice University that converts legislative votes into a single ideological score on a left-right spectrum.

Newsom signed 870 bills this year and vetoed 172, including a few high-profile progressive favorites, such as one that would have frozen environmental standards in place to foil Trump administration environmental roadblocks. 

Treating signatures as yes votes and vetoes as no votes, Christopher situated Newsom in each legislative body. 

The result: Newsom is comparatively moderate, acting as a check on the more expansive ambitions of liberal legislators.

Newsom’s liberalism showed in other ways, as he placed a moratorium on the death penalty and issued an apology for California’s genocide against Native Americans. 

He also signed several bills Brown vetoed.

Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli counted 69 bills his predecessor vetoed.

Kamala Harris watch: Iowa is tough

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is campaigning for the White House as a "progressive prosecutor." Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)
Kamala Harris (photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris initially had staked her candidacy on a strong showing in the South Carolina primary. But after sputtering there, Harris a month ago announced: “I’m f**king moving to Iowa.”

A Suffolk University/USA Today poll shows the Democratic race in Iowa is between three candidates, none of them named Harris.

San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer polled slightly better than Harris, drawing 3% to Harris’ 2.6%. And a mere 5.38% ranked the first-term senator from California as their second choice.

  • USA Today: Harris was in second place in a June poll but “has plummeted 13 percentage points and is now in a three-way tie for sixth.”

The top three: Joe Biden, 17.6%, Elizabeth Warren, 16.8%, and Pete Buttigieg, 13.2%.

Commentary at CalMatters

Paul Souza, Barry Thom and Ernest Conant, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Bureau of Reclamation: The Bureau of Reclamation has proposed a new system of operating California’s water system in a flexible way based on storage and has incorporated a new commitment to performance objectives and scientific peer review. Collectively, these new approaches will improve the likelihood that drought effects on winter-run Chinook will be lessened.

Joel Bellman, writer: In a blue state, in a blue city, on the Bruin blue campus of a public university system that once gave rise to the Free Speech Movement, why were the UCLA administration and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, a liberal Democrat, bent on charging and jailing four young protesters for briefly interrupting a 2018 campus speaking appearance by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin?


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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.