[env-trinity] Monterey County Herald Editorial 2 17 10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Feb 17 16:46:36 PST 2010

Editorial: Water wars impact big ag, fishing industry


The Monterey County Herald

Updated: 02/17/2010 01:28:49 AM PST

There are those on the Central Coast who watch the growing water wars of the
San Joaquin Valley and reflexively side with big agriculture because the
controversy has been overly simplified into a contest between farms and the
"tiny delta smelt."  

Some might switch sides, or at least reserve judgment, if they understood
that the stakes include the salmon population and the coastal fishing
industry, both of which are struggling to survive. 

Much has been said and written about how a federal judge has ordered the
pumping reduced in the San Joaquin Delta to protect the little smelt, which
is of relatively little concern to anyone except biologists and
environmentalists. Much less information has been spread about how the
rulings by U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger affect the fate of native
salmon, which until recently played a primary role in the Central and
Northern California fisheries. 

Even while freshly hatched Chinook salmon congregated in the San Joaquin
Delta, Wanger earlier this month temporarily lifted pumping limits aimed at
safeguarding the salmon. The huge delta pumps, which push Northern
California water southward to the giant farms of the San Joaquin and the
giant subdivisions of Southern California, had been set too low as part of
the federal government's salmon management plan, Wanger ruled. 

He found that salmon-saving pumping restrictions had been created without
enough analysis of alternatives and the impact on humans-presumably


Members of the fishing industry, an endangered species if there ever was

Wanger's tentative ruling Feb. 5 was cheered by representatives of the
sprawling Westlands Water District, which has done an artful job of making
it appear that it was the pumping restrictions first ordered in 2007 that
devastated the valley's west side rather than seasonal unemployment, drought
and the general economic malaise. 

The water cutbacks had a significant effect on agriculture, but not nearly
to the extent depicted by the valley ag lobby. Some row crops went
unplanted, providing great photo opportunities for the public relations
campaign, which failed to let on that the same growers had diverted much of
their water allotments to protect more valuable orchards. 

Valley farmers in recent years have added more efficient irrigation systems,
but they have planted thousands of acres of water-thirsty almonds and
oranges. We have always been great champions of California agriculture, but
that doesn't mean we support unsustainable cultivation practices and
inefficient crop choices. 

Until his most recent ruling, valley agriculture vilified Wanger as a
tree-hugging liberal when he actually is a rather conservative Bush
appointee who has based his various rulings on a strict reading of water
laws and environmental regulations. 

How he rules next will likely have a dramatic effect on the fate of the
coastal salmon, whose numbers have dipped in recent years for a variety of
reasons, including low water on the inland streams. Also key is the outcome
of ill-considered legislation by Sen. Dianne Feinstein to greatly increase
big agriculture's allotment, a move many are attributing to generous
campaign contributions from valley ag interests. 

California water law and water politics are complicated matters that require
careful consideration before decisions are made that can affect large
populations of people, wildlife, farmers and fishermen. 

It isn't nearly as simply as the Westlands people, or Dianne Feinstein,
would have us believe.



Byron Leydecker, JcT, Chair

Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 Land/Fax (Call first to Fax) 

415 519 4810 Mobile

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org (Secondary)

www.fotr.org <http://www.fotr.org/>  


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