A Free-Market Energy Blog

Trump & California’s Farm Water Vote

By -- June 21, 2016

“A ‘crisis is a terrible thing to waste.’ So is a non-crisis.”  – author

“’There is no drought’… You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to the sea in order to protect a certain kind of three-inch fish.”

Donald Trump, Fresno, California, May 27, 2016

“We have been assured that once the winter rains and snow returned so would California’s water supply. Despite storage levels near or above 100% in California’s major reservoirs, we understand … FWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) is “now proposing… actions that will significantly reduce the water available to Californians”.… FWS has requested up to 300,000 acre-feet of water be purchased to further increase (Sacramento) Delta outflow this summer for Delta Smelt – something not required by the Delta Smelt biological opinion…the cost could approach $500 million.”

Letter to Sally Jewell, Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior, co-signed by fifteen California members of Congress, June 9, 2016

Two weeks ago presumptive Republican candidate for President Donald Trump was widely ridiculed in the media for saying “there is no drought” in California. A Google search indicates 4,910,000 mostly negative results. Among the pushback: The union-controlled Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed column on May 27 by muckraker journalist Michael Hiltzik “California’s Drought: How Trump’s Blustering Caricatured a Genuine Crisis”.

But now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to buy 300,000 acre-feet of water this summer to flush down rivers to the ocean to protect the threatened Delta Smelt fish  — the minnow-like fish referred to by Trump.  The Federal National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has alternatively proposed to withhold 400,000 acre-feet of water in reservoirs during the summer in case cold water needs to be released to flow to the sea to protect the Delta Smelt from warm rivers.

These proposals have arisen just as reservoirs on California’s east side of the Central Valley have reached 100 percent of average capacity for this time of year, while those on the west side continue to fall short.  The Sacramento Bee newspaper has been one of the main proponents that what California has experienced is a “drought of the future” due to climate warming and not a water shortage. Now the Bee comes out with a story “How Plans to Save Fish Species Could Cut Summer Water Supply” essentially saying the same thing as Trump.

In reaction to these proposals, a June 9 letter signed by fourteen California Republican and one Democrat congressmen to Sally Jewell, Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior, states:

“In a year when Shasta Reservoir went from near empty to almost full, these results would be an absolute travesty and embarrassment for Federal agencies”.

Neither the letter sent to Sec. Jewell nor news coverage on this issue indicates whether both of these proposed planned water spillage and retention measures might be implemented concurrently.

Justifying the FWS and NMFS proposals are Delta Smelt river population sampling counts that have dropped to zero as of 2015 (average 9.75; standard deviation 12.5; median 8.0; high 62.5 in 1978; low 0.0 in 2015).  The problem with such fish counts is that they are based on trawling a net behind a boat on the surface of a river.  But the Smelt thrive by hiding in deeper, colder river bottoms adjacent to rapids and reappear even after deep droughts, as in 1978 after the deep drought of 1976-77 (see data above).

And ironically, California is expending huge resources to protect the Smelt that environmentalists contend will be wiped out by warmer lake and river water and lack of dissolved oxygen resulting from global warming.

It is little wonder why Trump would call such a system “insane”, despite media perceptions to the contrary.

All this is potential political fodder for the Hispanic vote in the upcoming 2016 Presidential election in California.  Will Hispanic voters choose Trump as the pro-water, anti-drought vote over Hillary Clinton and the federal “establishment” that continue with plans to deny Central Valley farmers water this summer? Below is a list of those Congressional districts in California with high percentages of Hispanic voters in both rural and agricultural areas that could swing to Trump.

A “crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” But so is a non-crisis.


Congressional Districts in Play on Drought Issue 2016

Arrayed by Percent Hispanic Population

Name Party


District Locale Percent Hispanic Economic Base President

Vote 2008 or 2012

David Valadao Republican 21st Central


72.1% Farming Obama


Jim Costa Democrat 16th Fresno


58% Farming Obama


Devin Nunes Republican 22nd Central California 44.8% Farming McCain 59.7%


Jeff Denham Republican 10th Central California 40.1% Farming Obama 64.7% 2008
Ken Calvert Republican 42nd Riverside County 36.2% Mixed Romney



Kevin McCarthy Republican 23rd Southern

Central Valley

35.5% Farming Obama



Paul Cook Republican 8th Eastern


35.3% Farming Obama


Stephen Knight Republican 25th North LA County 35.3% Mixed Obama 49.4%


Edward R.


Republican 39th


Inland So. California 32.6% Urban Romney 50.8%


Duncan Hunter Republican 50th San Diego


29.9% Urban Obama 51.3%


Darell Issa Republican 49th San Diego


25.8% Urban Romney





Republican 48th Orange County 19.9% Urban Obama



Mimi Walters Republican 45th Orange County 18.4% Urban Romney 54.8%


Tom McClintock Republican 4th Eastern Sierras 12.4% Rural McCain



Doug LaMalfa Republican 1st North Eastern Sierras 12.0% Farm Romney



Note: Many congressional districts re-gerrymandered by Democratic legislature





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