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Restore the Delta Challenges “Sustainable Delta” To Open Books

If you like a good old fashion school yard fight, then check this one out as Restore the Delta and The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta are in a war of words challenging each other on funding. For the record, I’ll side with Restore the Delta any day of the week.

The Coalition For a Sustainable Delta accused Restore the Delta of being financed by local real estate moguls Alex Spanos and Fritz Grupe, and landowner Dino Cortopassi. Meanwhile, Restore the Delta shot back stating The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta of being bankrolled by billionaire Stewart Resnick.

I did a little research on The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and their website fails to mention anyone involved with the organization. Doing a Google Search, I found that three executives of billionaire Stewart Resnick’s Paramount Farms in Kern County founded the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta.  Funny how a group from Southern California is claiming its all for a “sustainable Delta.”

It’s very much a tangled web which Mr. Resnicks company stands to make millions, if not billions off water interests should water be diverted south.

Here is the response from Restore the Delta. Below you will find additional information on just who Stewart Resnick is.

Restore the Delta Coalition: “Our Books are Open”; Challenges “Sustainable Delta”: “Who’s funding you?”

Stockton, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition of farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and business owners dedicated to a fair water policy, today responded to an attack on RTD by a group “bankrolled by billionaire Stewart Resnick.” The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta has published a newsletter accusing Restore the Delta of being a front group for Delta developers out to pave over the Delta for profit.

In reply, Restore the Delta’s Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said, “It’s really ironic that a coalition being bankrolled by Beverly Hills billionaire Stewart Resnick is criticizing us for accepting contributions from people with business interests in the Delta region. We do accept support from all those who want to restore the Delta. We have been transparent about doing so. This includes business owners, including developers, along with contributions from thousands of others who care about the health of the Delta region.”

The proponents of unsustainable water exports criticize RTD for accepting support from “local real estate moguls Alex Spanos and Fritz Grupe, and landowner Dino Cortopassi.” Barrigan-Parrilla noted “in the entire six years Restore the Delta has been in existence, the organization has received less than 10% percent of its total funding from these donors. The rest has come from members, including farmers, fishermen, small business people, and all those concerned about the region’s environment, as well as from the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. RTD has produced a documentary film, put on pig roasts, Delta food & wine events, and engaged in the hard work of raising funds from the community the way almost all nonprofits must do. I’m not aware of any such events put on by our critics. Where do they get their funding without having to raise it from the community?”

“Our books are open,” says Barrigan-Parrilla. “We’d be interested in knowing exactly who is funding the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta.”

Restore the Delta Policy Analyst Jane Wagner-Tyack, said, “The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta is interested only in sustaining high levels of water exports used to grow permanent crops on arid land or to support housing and commercial development in what is essentially desert. Resnick’s Paramount Farms controls the Kern Water Bank where a lot of Delta water ends up. These people don’t care what happens to the Delta as long as they can keep getting as much water as they want.”

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan touted by the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta calls for habitat restoration in the Delta but has so far been unable to explain how threatened species can be protected if less fresh water is flowing through the Delta. Says Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, “The group criticizing RTD is one that focuses on factors such as urban runoff and striped bass predation as the causes of habitat decline in the Delta, ignoring the impact of excessive water diversions and of fish kills at the export pumps. Delta water quality is important to us all, but we can’t improve water quality by reducing flows of fresh water through the Delta and the estuary.”

Restore the Delta promotes a plan that would strengthen existing Delta levees to benefit both Delta communities and export reliability while continuing to route fresh water through the Delta for users in other parts of the state. The organization advocates a return to a system in which only surplus water is available for export, as required by law. This goal is achievable with increased reliance on local water supplies, water conservation, and retirement of toxic land in the San Joaquin Valley that is not suitable for farming.

This is in response to a recent newsletter that was put out by the The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta on their website. You can also view the PDF: DeltaWatch2012-10.

Earlier this year, the California Fish and Game Commission in Sacramento on Thursday, February 2 took final action to reject the Department of Fish and Game’s controversial proposed changes to striped bass regulations. Here is a portion of the article below.

Three executives of Stewart Resnick’s Paramount Farms in Kern County founded the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta. Resnick is the politically connected Beverly Hills billionaire who has made tens of millions of dollars annually from buying and reselling water back to the public for a big profit.

The Coalition claimed that the striped bass, an East Coast fish introduced to the Sacramento over 130 years ago, should not be protected because the fish prey on protected chinook salmon and Delta smelt. Anglers accused the Coalition of trying to blame striped bass “predation” for the decline of salmon and smelt in order to divert attention from record exports out of the Delta in recent years that resulted in the 2008-2009 Central Valley fall salmon collapse, in addition to the collapse of Delta smelt, longsfin smelt, threadfin shad, young striped bass and other species.

The coalition’s backers want to divert more Delta water to San Joaquin Valley growers and southern California. While supporters of Central Valley and Delta fish restoration scored a victory against the water contractors Thursday, this is one battle in a war by corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies to take more water from the Delta.

According to Forbes Magazine, here is the profile on Stewart and Linda Resnick’s.As of Sept. 2012, they were worth $2.2 billion.

Beverly Hills power couple Lynda and Stewart Resnick have built or acquired a number of companies since the 1970s, including POM Wonderful, Fiji Water, and flower delivery service Teleflora. They bought family-operated Justin Vineyards and Winery in December 2010. The Resnicks also own some of the largest farms of pistachios, almonds, citrus fruit and pomegranates in the U.S. Lynda ran a marketing and advertising agency before she joined entrepreneurial forces with her husband. In December 2011, their POM juice company lost a lawsuit that alleged Ocean Spray had misled consumers by selling a Cranberry Pomegranate juice blend with less than 2% pomegranate juice. This May, a Federal Trade Commission judge made an initial decision that POM marketing misled consumers with claims that pomegranate juice is beneficial for treating prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, and heart disease. The Resnicks fought back with a direct campaign, including newspaper ads and a website, noting that “out of 600 print and outdoor ads, the judge found less than 2% misleading,” and encouraging readers to review “some of the other 98%.” The Resnicks are art collectors as well as patrons; they’ve given $45 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for an exhibition pavilion that bears their names. They also provide scholarships to the children of workers on their farms and in the surrounding community; they donated $20 million for The Resnick Institute at CalTech and $15 million for The Stewart & Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA.

According to a 2010 Bloomberg Business Week article, there is some very telling parts in the article of just how important water is to their business. While the article is full of good information (you should really read the entire thing) some of the paragraphs include:

Pistachios require a modest but regular supply of water—a commodity sometimes so hard to come by in the Central Valley that it can dominate all other discussions. Season after season, Resnick has outwitted the weather, largely because of Paramount’s water bank, which is the biggest in America, if not the world. It occupies 32 square miles in Kern County, making it larger than Hollywood and Beverly Hills combined; it extends across the main highways that run through the San Joaquin Valley and alongside the California aqueduct. The bank itself is a network of 70 man-made ponds, a six-mile-long canal, and 33 miles of pipeline that captures rain and snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada range and can be fed by water purchased from the federal and state governments as well as local sources.

Water banks are eagerly endorsed as a public resource but are increasingly divisive as a business proposition. In California, water means power and wealth: It is dammed and diverted and transported hundreds of miles to let great cities (and great pistachio orchards) blossom in bone-dry places. As a changing climate makes the American West increasingly arid, Resnick’s water bank may someday be more important than his orchards. “The value of the Kern Water Bank will only increase as uncertainty over our water situation grows,” says Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Oakland.

The Kern Water Bank has six members in all, but Paramount is the biggest, with a 52 percent stake. The five others are water districts and agencies serving farmers and homeowners. Each member maintains an underground water account, storing water in wet years, drawing it down in dry ones, and selling it whenever they choose. “We’re like Bank of America,” says Jonathan Parker, the general manager. “We hold the money and give it back to the participants when they want it.” Except almost anybody can open an account at Bank of America; only the members can deposit water in the Kern Water Bank. Resnick compares it to insurance. “It lets us do things without worrying about the ups and downs.” Some of those things include nearly doubling the number of Paramount’s pistachio trees.

Then of course, there is his relationship with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. According to the 2007 article,   Resnick asked Feinstein to weigh in on the side of agribusiness in a drought-fueled environmental dispute over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, this wealthy grower and political donor got quick results, documents show.

Finally, the real kicker of this mess is that Resnicks contributed $99,000 to Jerry Brown’s campaign

Resnicks contributed $99,000 to Jerry Brown’s campaign

It is no surprise that Brown is pushing so hard for the construction of the canal, since one of Brown’s biggest campaign contributors is Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills billionaire agribusiness tycoon who owns Paramount Farms in Kern County.

Resnick is a big advocate of the canal and increased water exports from the Delta – and has waged a relentless campaign to exterminate striped bass and to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and other species. Resnick is notorious for selling subsidized water back to the public at a tidy profit.

Resnick and his wife Lynda contributed $99,000 to Jerry Brown’s 2010 campaign (http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/brown-and-whitmans-contributions-glance-5779?appSession=772187602630348).

“It’s ironic that the Resnicks, among California’s wealthiest 1 percent, contributed $99,000, since it’s the 99 percent that will pay for the peripheral canal,” said Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director at Food & Water Watch.

The Resnicks are known not only for their inordinate influence over California water politics, but their deceptive business practices. An administrative law judge recently upheld a Federal Trade Commission ruling that the Resnicks engaged in deceptive claims promoting pomegranate benefits.

Going back to a Dan Bacher article from February 2010 entitled Big Ag’s Power Couple Are Banking on Brown, Feinstein,  there is a solid quote from Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), quipped about Resnicks’ contributions to Brown and others. “Resnick is an equal opportunity contributor to candidates seekers. He gives money to everybody – it doesn’t matter if they’re Republican, Democrat or the Anti-Christ, he’ll try to buy their votes.” http://californiawatch.org/data/resnick-and-associates-spend-nearly-4-million-campaigns

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