Yesterday I started off by saying, “Richard Pombo is a world-class lying hypocrite.” Well, I’ve had some time to reflect on that statement, and in retrospect, I may have been too kind.
If you were paying attention to the 2004 Congressional race between Richard Pombo and Jerry McNerney, you might recall that with incredibly auspicious timing, about one week before the November 2 election, Pombo joined together with Dianne Feinstein to pass a massive $395 million CalFed water bill that was widely trumpeted as a remarkable bi-partisan solution to all of California’s water woes. Among the many supposed benefits of this water bill was the authorization for $90 million to reconstruct the Delta’s crumbling levees. Here is an excerpt from the AP story about the bill that was run at the time:
WASHINGTON -- President Bush signed a landmark California water bill, committing $395 million to restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that feeds the nation's most productive farm land and provides drinking water to 22 million Californians.Sounds pretty straightforward. Now, if you're anything like me, back in 2004 you might have read that article and thought to yourself, “Well, at least Pombo finally managed to use his vast power as House Resources Committee Chairman to actually benefit his own district.” Boy, would we both have been wrong.
The bill reauthorizes the California Federal Bay-Delta Program, earmarking funding for studying new storage projects, reconstructing levees, restoring ecosystems and other needs.
Bush's signature on the bill late Monday came after six years of debate and negotiations. Attempts in past years to pass versions of the bill with much larger price tags repeatedly failed, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, shepherded it through the House and Senate in recent weeks.
The legislation authorizes feasibility studies for several major new storage projects and includes $90 million for reconstructing levees.
You see, that bill only “authorized” $90 million for reconstructing levees. Unfortunately, what it did not include was the appropriation for the $90 million to actually FUND levee repair. It was a magic trick, a sleight of hand in Pombo’s confidence game. A way to say, “Hey, look at all I’m doing” while, in effect, doing absolutely nothing. A year later, after the wake-up call of Hurricane Katrina, Pombo and Feinstein were motivated to revisit their levee reconstruction project. Last fall, Richard Pombo postured as the concerned Congressman eager to take care of his district:
“In addition to the human tragedies, a massive flood could devastate our agricultural economy the same way Katrina decimated one of America's largest and most important sources of energy,” Representative Pombo said. “I hope this terrible tragedy never happens again anywhere, but we must be prepared for anything. Maintaining and strengthening our levee system has to be a top priority for all Californians, and rest assured, Senator Feinstein and I will make sure the work gets done."In a letter they sent at that time to Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, Commanding General of the Army Corps of Engineers, Pombo and Feinstein pointed out the similarities between the Delta and Katrina-ravaged Louisiana:
This disaster is also a wake-up call for Californians. For years, we have known about the severe flood risks we face, but like Louisiana have been unable to find the funding to do the necessary repairs.Did you catch that -- "IF we were able to fund the $90 million authorization"?
One of our most vulnerable points is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. U.C. Davis Professor Jeffrey Mount has estimated that if we don’t take effective action, there is a 2-in-3 chance that a major storm or earthquake will cause widespread levee collapse in the next 50 years.
In other words, if we don’t address this problem, we may suffer the same fate as Louisiana -- it’s just a matter of time. A massive Delta levee failure could severely harm the area’s farms, its rapidly growing towns, and the majority of the State’s water supply, which passes through the Delta.
To address this problem in the short-term, we sponsored CALFED legislation enacted last year that authorized $90 million to repair the most vulnerable of Delta levees. We understand that so far you have identified 200 miles of the levees that are priorities to repair.
Can you tell us what else the Army Corps of Engineers has done so far to identify or address problems with Delta levees? If we were able to fund the $90 million authorization, how much of the problem would that address?
Sadly, it’s nothing more than political three-card Monte -- while you thought you were watching closely, the Congressman masterfully switched the cards. But don’t expect Richard Pombo to admit that almost two years later, there is not and never was $90 million for levee reconstruction. And don’t expect him to actually go to bat for the citizens of his district and get real honest-to-goodness funding for levee repair; he’s way too busy trying to hide the true state of affairs from his constituents.