Photo of protesters in front of The Wonderful Company's corporate offices on August 19 courtesy of Food & Water Watch.
Protesters slam LA funding of Delta tunnels for Big Ag tycoons
by Dan Bacher
Outside the plush Los Angeles headquarters of Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoon Stewart Resnick on August 19, 25 protesters chanted, "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Corporate Greed has got to go" and “Mayor Garcetti, have some will. Don’t let Resnick raise our bills.”
The protesters, including Los Angeles ratepayers, community leaders and representatives of water watchdog groups, demanded that Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti protect LA water ratepayers from funding the massive Delta tunnels project promoted by Governor Jerry Brown to export more water to corporate agribusiness interests and oil companies on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
The tunnels opponents held their rally outside the corporate headquarters of The Wonderful Company, owned by Stewart and Lynda Resnick, to expose the Resnicks' campaign to promote the "California Water Fix," formerly known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The Resnicks in June unveiled their company's new name, the Wonderful Company, to replace the old corporate name, Roll Global. (http://www.eastbayexpress.
Protesters wore giant “almond” and “POM Wonderful" face cut outs in an effort to depict how the Resnicks are pushing the tunnels plan to benefit their almond and cash crop empire. LA ratepayers also held a number of colorful signs, incuding ones saying, “No LA dollars for Big Ag Tycoons," "Stop the Tunnels," "No $ For Tunnels Garcetti," and "Tunnels = Corporate Welfare."
The rally took place during a record drought in California, one that has been badly aggravated by state and federal government mismanagement of Trinity, Shasta, Oroville, Folsom and other northern California reservoirs. The event was also held as the State is accepting public comments on the multibillion project that will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
"Resnick, a billionaire agriculture tycoon who controls vast amounts of California water, is pushing the controversial tunnels in an attempt to secure more water for Central Valley corporate agriculture interests and dupe Californians into paying for massive tunnels that won’t secure new water for Angelenos," said Brenna Norton of Food and Water Watch, who spoke at the protest. "Food & Water Watch estimates the average household could be charged as much as $5000 to pay for the project."
Other speakers at the rally besides Norton included Adam Scow, the California Director of Food and Water Watch, and Conner Everts, from the Southern California Watershed Network.
"As Governor Brown and his powerful agricultural allies continue to attempt to sell this boondoggle project to California, it is critical for Mayor Garcetti to oppose any water rate hike or other L.A. funding for the tunnels," she explained. "The project comes at a time when LADWP needs to invest billions into fixing the aging pipes and water infrastructure beneath the city."
Food & Water Watch and other groups oppose the tunnels as a "massive and unfair waste of ratepayer money" at a time when better and more crucial infrastructure investments are needed.
Resnicks Expand Agribusiness Empire During Drought
Norton also noted that at a time when Californians are being forced to slash their water use, Resnick has "vowed to expand his agribusiness empire that already depends on taxpayer subsidized water - and is poised to benefit from even greater subsidies via rate hikes to finance the tunnels."
In addition, she said Stewart Resnick's corporation has been financing advertisements in support of the project, recently renamed the “California Water Fix" by the Brown and Obama administrations.
As the Brown administration mandated that urban users slash their water use, Stewart Resnick in March revealed his current efforts to expand pistachio, almond, and walnut acreage during a record drought at this year’s annual pistachio conference hosted by Paramount Farms.
During the event covered by the Western Farm Press, Resnick bragged about the increase in his nut acreage over the past ten years, including an 118 percent increase for pistachios, 47 percent increase for almonds, and 30 percent increase for walnuts. (http://www.eastbayexpress.
The Koch Brothers of California Water
The Resnicks have been instrumental in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations, as well as to build the fish-killing Delta Tunnels and pass Jerry Brown's corporate water grab, the Proposition 1 water bond. Last year at a rally against Proposition 1 in front of the Resnick's mansion in Beverly Hills, environmentalists and anglers accused the Resnicks of being the "Koch Brothers of California Water."
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, exposed the enormous influence of the Resnicks and the Westlands Water District on the water and fish policies of Governor Jerry Brown and his predecessors in an April 2014 op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. The Resnicks made $270,000 in contributions to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, $350,000 to support Gov. Gray Davis, and $102,000 to Gov. Jerry Brown, according to Barrigan-Parrilla. (http://www.sfgate.com/
“As a result of the political influence of billionaires who receive taxpayer-subsidized water, the state Department of Water Resources functions almost as a subsidiary of the water exporters,” she said.
The Resnicks also contributed $150,000 to Proposition 1 last fall. They joined a who's who of corporate interests in California, including other corporate agribusiness interests, timber barons, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, the health insurance industry and other Big Money interests, that contributed over $21.8 million to the successful campaign to pass Governor Brown's water bond. (http://www.eastbayexpress.
Stewart Resnick, the “Environmentalist”
The wealthy agribusinessman also wears another hat - "environmental leader." Yes, Resnick serves on the board of directors of Conservation International, a corporate "environmental" NGO noted for its top-down approach to conservation and involvement with corporate greenwashing throughout the world. (http://www.conservation.org/
Stewart Resnick sits on the board with Rob Walton, the Chairman of the board's Executive Committee. Walton, the oldest child of Sam and Helen Walton, is Chairman (Retired) of the Board of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
It is no surprise that Conservation International was the top recipient of Walton Family Foundation money in 2013, receiving $20,427,136 including $6,080,392 for the Bird’s Head Seascape, $4,345,744 for the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape and $10,000,000 for “Other Environmental Grants.”
However, while serving on the board of Conservation International, Resnick become notorious for buying subsidized Delta water and then selling it back to the public for a big profit as Delta fish and Central Valley salmon populations crashed.
“As the West Coast’s largest estuary plunged to the brink of collapse from 2000 to 2007, state water officials pumped unprecedented amounts of water out of the Delta only to effectively buy some of it back at taxpayer expense for a failed environmental protection plan, a MediaNews investigation has found,” according an article by the late investigative reporter Mike Taugher in the Contra Costa Times on May 23, 2009. (http://www.
Taugher said the environmental water account set up in 2000 to “improve” the Delta ecosystem spent nearly $200 million mostly to benefit water users while also creating a “cash stream" for private landowners and water agencies in the Bakersfield area.
“No one appears to have benefited more than companies owned or controlled by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire, philanthropist and major political donor whose companies, including Paramount Farms, own more than 115,000 acres in Kern County,” Taugher stated. “Resnick’s water and farm companies collected about 20 cents of every dollar spent by the program.”
Resnick and his wife, Lynda, own The Wonderful Company, formerly Roll Global, a Los Angeles-based holding company that includes both global agricultural operations and well-known brands. The Resnicks' companies include Paramount Citrus, Paramount Farming, and Paramount Farms, the world’s largest growers, processors, and marketers of citrus, almonds, and pistachios.
The couple's holdings also include POM Wonderful, FIJI Water, Teleflora, Suterra, and JUSTIN Vineyard. Dubbed the "POM Queen," Lynda is behind the marketing success of POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice and Wonderful Pistachios.
Big Ag’s Power Couple Makes Millions Off Selling Subsidized Water
One of the largest private water brokers in the U.S., The Wonderful Company makes millions of dollars in profits off marketing subsidized public water back to the public, confirmed independent journalist Yasha Levine.
“Through a series of subsidiary companies and organizations, Roll International is able to convert California’s water from a public, shared resource into a private asset that can be sold on the market to the highest bidder,” said Levine in “How Limousine Liberals, Water Oligarchs and Even Sean Hannity are Hijacking Our Water” on alternet.org. (http://www.alternet.org/
Last year, Lois Henry of the Bakersfield Californian revealed how the Resnicks have made a profit selling water from the Kern County Water Bank, through a complicated series of maneuvers, to supply a 2,000 acre development called Gateway Village in Madera County.(http://www.
The Resnicks are known for the influence they have exerted over California politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, including former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein, former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and others, through campaign contributions. (http://www.indybay.org/
The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, the Resnicks' Astroturf group
The Resnicks exert their influence over California politics in other ways besides direct contributions to political campaigns and the manipulation of environmental and water regulations for their own profit. For example, the executives of Paramount Farms have also set up an Astroturf group, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, that engages in greenwashing campaigns such as one blaming striped bass, rather than water exports, for salmon and other fish declines.
The Resnicks, through their foundation, are well known for their contributions to the arts and charities, as well as the millions donated to the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy at UCLA.(http://www.law.ucla.edu/
However, very few are aware that Stewart Resnick also sits on the Board of Advisors of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, made famous for serving as Chancellor when UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper sprayed students during the Occupy protests in the fall of 2011. Resnick and his wife have managed to use their wealth not only to exert enormous influence over water politics in California, but over the educational sphere as well. (http://chancellor.ucdavis.
That's not the only position in the educational system than Resnick holds. According to the UC Davis website, Resnick is a member of the Executive Board of the UCLA Medical Sciences; member of the Board of Trustees of Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; member of the Board of Trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust; and trustee of the California Institute of Technology. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Anderson School Management, University of California, Los Angeles.
The Resnicks' enormous influence over environmental and educational policies in the state is a classic example of how the regulated have been able to capture the regulatory apparatus in California. To combat this regulatory capture, it is essential that people back efforts to get the corporate money out of politics, including the Move to Amend and 99Rise campaigns.
To read the UK Guardian's coverage of the protest against the Resnicks' nut empire, go to: http://www.theguardian.
The corporate headquarters of The Wonderful Company in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Food & Water Watch.
Putah Creek: A Wild Trout Fishery Reborn
By Dan Bacher
The Pleasant Valleys Road Bridge over Lake Solano, a still-water section of Putah Creek above the Solano Diversion Dam, used to be a popular spot where anglers from throughout the area would congregate to catch rainbow trout on a variety of offerings. But the bridge is nearly deserted now any day you cross it.
On weekends, families, including many farmworkers from the Winters area, would spread throughout the river and accesses on the creek, to catch trout. The Department of Fish and Wildlife planted the lake with lots of rainbow and brown trout for decades, providing a good put-and-take fishery. Many of the fish would grow to become big, fat holdovers.
The creek below Monticello Dam, the dam that forms Lake Berryessa, has constant temperatures of 50-55 degrees because the creek draws from the cold depths of the lake’s water, creating a classic “tail water” fishery. However, the popularity of the fishery in declined dramatically after rainbow and brown trout plants ceased in both the creek and lake in 2008.
Although the popular planted trout fishery is no longer, the creek has been reborn as a trophy trout fishery and there is now a wild, self-sustaining rainbow population in the creek and lake. The California Fish and Game Commission, responding to a request by Putah Creek Trout, other angling groups, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, designated the fishery as a trophy “Wild Trout” stream in December 2014.
CDFW stopped stocking Putah Creek and Lake Solano with catchable trout when the Department was sued by the Center for Biological Diversity and other NGOs in regards to effects of its fish stocking on ESA and CESA listed species, according to Stephanie Hogan with the DFW Heritage & Wild Trout Program.
“Hatchery trout impacts on sensitive native species include predation, competition, and changes to ecological relationships. Interbreeding with native trout could alter genetic composition of wild populations such as hatchery fish breeding with Central Valley steelhead,” she said.
Since the Department stopped stocking, the Department and Putah Creek Trout have been monitoring the wild trout fishery and angler use on an annual basis. Along with this, they have successfully completed numerous habitat restoration projects, increased outreach to anglers, and have an ongoing research study to track localized movements of trout within the system.
“Our efforts have shown an increase in the wild trout fishery, particularly an increase in smaller size classes, which is indicative of a healthy spawning population,” she said. “Putah Creek is a productive fishery with some of the highest observed growth rates in the state, which lends itself well to having some very large, 18-plus inch trout in the system.”
Steve Karr, Executive Director of Putah Creek Trout, said the number of trout has quadruped in the 4 miles of creek below Monticello Dam since they began their surveys.
“The average size of fish in the creek now is under 10 inches, but there is a good population of 12 to 18 inch fish. The trophy fish over 20 inches are about 10 percent of the fishery, he said.
He said the number of fish spawning on redds (nests) in the creek has also risen dramatically.
“We saw 89 adult fish spawning on redds the first year, 150 the next year and then 400 last year,” Karr noted.
However, there is limited spawning gravel on the creek, so his group and agency are working to improve spawning habitat.
The habitat restoration efforts on Putah Creek are designed to improve habitat to increase salmonid populations both above and below the Solano Diversion Dam, according to Hogan.
“Efforts above the Lake Solano diversion will aid wild trout populations that support the newly designated Wild Trout Water Fishery,” she said. “Restoration effort below the diversion dam will improve habitat for both anadromous salmonids (Central Valley steelhead and Chinook salmon) as well as resident trout.”
Hogan said the dams are the main issue because they are fish passage barriers and reduce the frequency of high-flow events that deliver spawning gravels and scour gravels to free them of sediment.
The Department recommended to the Fish and Game Commission that Putah Creek be designated as”Wild Trout Water” because it is a popular fishery that provides anglers with a unique opportunity to catch trophy-sized trout.
“These fish are wild and self-sustaining and Putah Creek receives quite a bit of angling pressure,” Hogan said. “By including it in the Wild Trout Program, it will be actively monitored and managed to ensure the self-sustaining fishery is maintained concurrent with the angling pressure it receives. Along with the designation comes the requirement to create a Fishery Management Plan and this will outline recommendations on how best to monitor and maintain it for future generations of wild trout anglers.”
She said that there have been no genetic studies of the trout conducted that she is aware of, but the fish in Putah Creek above the Diversion Dam are considered a coastal rainbow trout. The three most-common species in the creek are coastal rainbow trout, three-spine stickleback and sculpin, all of which are native. No brown trout have been detected in the surveys.
“Sculpin are very well-camouflaged in the substrate but if you were to go to the lower portion of Putah Creek near Lake Solano, you can see thousands of three-spine stickleback darting around in the slower water; it is quite cool,” she said.
Other native species include pike minnow, western mosquitofish and Sacramento suckers. A few non-native bluegills have also been captured in the lower portion of the creek, according to Hogan.
In tribute to the restoration efforts on the creek, over 100 salmon were reported in the lower creek in the fall of 2014. I asked her why the numbers in the creek have gone up in a year when the numbers of salmon in other Central Valley rivers dropped from the two previous years.
“It is likely that most of these salmon are strays from other Central Valley streams,” said Hogan. “Along with habitat restoration, required water releases by the Solano County Water Agency may have improved conditions for salmon in recent years. During this drought winter releases may have attracted more salmon upstream.”
Below the Solano Diversion Dam, anglers can find a sleeper fishery for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, carp, sunfish, channel catfish and some rainbow trout in the the upper, cooler reaches. However, most of the access is on private land.
Karr noted that Putah Creek is unique is being the only designated trophy “wild trout” fishery on the west of the Sacramento Valley and is the closest one to Bay Area anglers.
“The fishery was in really bad shape after the trout plants stopped,” Karr said. “Now the fishery is rebounding and I’m proud our group has been able to work with the CDFW in a cooperative program to restore the fishery.”
For more information about Putah Creek Trout, go to http://www.putahcreektrout.
Putah Creek Council, a group dedicated to the protection and enhancement of Putah Creek and its tributaries through advocacy, education and community-based stewardship, conducts tree, shrub and planting along the creek and Lake Solano. For more information, go to http://www.
Lake Solano/Putah Creek Facts
Season: Putah Creek is open to trout fishing year round. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. There is a zero limit on trout..
Lake Solano from the Solano Diversion dam to the Island Split is open year round also, but anglers aren’t restricted to artificial lures with barbless hooks. There is a five fish limit on trout, but catch and release is highly advisable since the neither the lake or creek are no longer planted with trout any more.
Lake Solano County Park: A destination point for outdoor enthusiasts since its creation in 1973, Lake Solano Park caters especially to anglers, boaters, campers, swimmers, sunbathers and picnickers. The lake is 1.5 miles long and has a capacity of 750 acre feet of water. Owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, Lake Solano has been administered as a recreational area by the County of Solano since 1971. More than 200,000 visitors a year enjoy a wealth of recreational activities both on and off the water.
Campground: The County operates a campground with 90 campsites, of which 40 have water and electric hookups. There are restrooms which have flush toilets, sinks and hot showers.
Day Use Facilities: The day use area has picnic sites, group picnic facilities, and a free boat launch for non-powered vessels, parking, restrooms and a public telephone. The picnic area is located directly east of the campground. Paddle boat and canoe rentals are available on the weekends. To contact Lake Solano Park call 530-795-2990.
Yolo County Putah Creek Fishing Access. Five access points are provided for fishing along the creek as its winds it way along Highway 128 from below Monticello Dam to the Pleasant Valley Road Bridge. The access offers picnic tables, barbecues, parking and sanitary facilities.
New Zealand Mudsnails: For tips on preventing the spread of this invasive species, go to:http://www.putahcreektrout.
Guide Service: Craig Bonovich, Bono’s Putah Creek Flyfishing Guide Service, (800) 480-5285 or (707) 480-3809,wwwputahcreekflyfishi
ng.com. He guides for wild rainbow trout in Putah Creek from . To protect spawning trout, he doesn’t fish from through the end of February.