The title (minus the question mark, colon, and verbiage in parentheses) comes directly from an article by Matt Weiser in the Sacramento Bee in which he reported that the appointment of a National Academy of Sciences panel to examine California's water problems and provide recommendations has itself generated controversy. [Disclosure notice: I am a member of the panel.]
An appropriate post the day before the panel meets in Davis.
Here's how Weiser started his story:
An elite science panel's work to clarify California's water problems has become, instead, the latest front in a battle over the Delta's endangered species.
Experts on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta say political meddling prompted the review by the National Academy of Sciences. It risks becoming a "sideshow," they say, that could delay real solutions to California's water woes.
Water agencies, on the other hand, say the review is essential to ensure California is on the right path because the economic stakes are so high.
Dr. Jeffrey Mount, Professor of Geology and Founding Director of UC-Davis' Center for Watershed Sciences, is one of the aforementioned experts on Bay-Delta issues. We had Jeff speak on the Bay-Delta situation at OSU last spring and he gave an excellent, lucid explanation. Here is a summary of what he said.
Mount took the new study panel to task, saying that it's not really needed, but was convened as the result of political pressure from "people of great influence" who hope that a different answer will be obtained. That 'different answer' would presumably demonstrate that more water is available for irrigators.
"It's not a wise use of the National Academy of Sciences, in my opinion," said Mount, who served on a prior academy panel that examined Klamath River issues. "It will become a sideshow. We are setting a bad precedent that will stretch well beyond the Delta."
Holly Doremus, professor of environmental law at the University of California, Berkeley, said many critics fail to understand that perfect science is not in the Endangered Species Act's mandate. It does not, for example, require the government to guarantee that its rules will save the fish.
"Lots of people are uncomfortable with uncertain science," said Doremus, who served on two prior academy panels. "The water users really want to know that when they're giving up water, the fish will be saved. And that's an assurance that just can't be provided."
The academy panel can recommend science-based solutions that can't be attained under the law, an outcome that could complicate California's work on its water problems, Mount and Doremus said.
Representatives from agriculture registered their views as well:
"I think it's just time for a really good, thorough look," said Bill Phillimore, executive vice president of Paramount Farms. "If you're taking actions that have a significant economic effect on employment numbers and people's lives, you ought to make very certain that you're right."
"The science is so critical here that we have to ensure we get it right," said Michael Boccadoro spokesman for the coalition [Coalition for a Sustainable Delta]. "Bringing in the highest science body in the nation to do that review is probably long overdue."
Read Matt Weiser's entire article, and the comments posted to the Bee's site.
I know Jeff Mount and respect him and his knowledge. I have never met Holly Doremus but know of her work, which is held in high esteem by some of my legal colleagues. I know neither Bill Phillimore nor Michael Boccadoro.
I do know of Stewart Resnick, wealthy owner of Paramount Farms, who referred to 'sloppy science' in a 4 September 2009 letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Letters like his prompted Sen. Feinstein to ask for the new study.
I find all this amusing; not much else I can say at this point. But perhaps people will give the committee credit for bringing rain to Califronia.
The next two years promise to be an interesting trip. For some reason, I'm looking forward to it.
Ask me again a week from today.
And today's quote says it all.
"Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower