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"Fly fishing is solitary, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others, and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It is not even clear if catching fish is actually the point."
"Where is the Delta, I didn't even know it would fit in a pipe."
Since I have been writing the conservation section of our newsletter, people have asked me how I find enough material to write about. That isn’t a problem. Actually the converse is the issue. At this point in our history there’re more environmental, conservation and fisheries issues than have ever existed in the United States. We face two major problems. First is the number and seriousness of issues confronting us. The second is public ignorance and indifference.
Several months ago a Stockton Record reporter did a man on the street interview asking people the location of the Delta. Over 50% of the people living in Stockton couldn’t answer the question. That gives us some of the idea of what we are dealing with. Public ignorance is what those with self-interest in these issues count on. That’s, of course, a major card in the hand they play. Unfortunately, we rarely disappoint them. In the past we could count on the news media as a reliable source of information. This is no longer true. The media takes highly complex issues, such as the problems confronting the Delta, and turns them into 45-second sound bites such as “farmers income versus smelt” or “food vs. fish”. At best, this is overly simplistic, at worst it is dishonest. In a recent news article, it was reported that the proposed canal will pay for itself. Nonsense! This is despite the fact that former Governor Edmond (Pat) Brown (1959 to 1967) made the same promise that the State Water Project, which cost $1.75 billion, would pay for itself. We’re still paying off those General Obligation bonds, issued during his administration, despite his promise.
Of all the many issues confronting California’s fisheries, none is more important than the proposed building of a peripheral canal on the east side of the Delta. In other Conservation Reports, I have made a point of talking about some of the major issues relating to the Delta. Some of these issues include attempts at illegal water grabs, loss of our fisheries, agribusiness’ blatant on-going greed and the list grows and grows. As you know, our Delta is a totally unique estuary on the west coast of both North and South America. In size, it is over 730,000 acres with over 500,000 acres in agricultural production. More than 750 animal and plant species live in the Delta. It hosts about 80% of our commercial fishery which either lives in or passes through the Delta. This includes winter-run Sacramento Chinook salmon, Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead.
This new proposed canal will destroy the Delta as we know it. The canal will be over 40 miles in length and extend from Hood to the Clifton Court Forebay near Tracy. It will connect the Sacramento River north of the Delta to the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project in the south. It is proposed to take 15,000 cfs of water around the Delta to be exported south, totally bypassing the Delta.
With increases of water currently exported from the Delta, there has been a decline in the Delta’s water quality due to the influx of salt intrusion from San Francisco Bay. Salinity control is the most important issue in maintaining the water quality of the Delta. With this bypass of the Delta and loss of the Sacramento River’s water flow through the Delta, the loss of the Delta is certain. Despite what they tell us, their interest is only in high quality water, for their use and not in the health of the Delta or its fisheries.
It’s interesting, also, that they have yet to make public some of the other costs this project will entail in addition to the cost of the canal itself. Some of these “other” issues are:
• Loss of prime agricultural land needed for right of way for a peripheral canal. How much land and what will that cost be?
• Problems of seepage caused by a peripheral canal. At a recent meeting on the restoration for the San Joaquin River, a speaker for the Department of Water Resources (DWR) spoke to the issues of seepage along the San Joaquin River and problems it will cause. When I suggested that a peripheral canal would cause the same issues, and asked what the DWR is planning to do about the problem and what was the proposed cost to the public, the speaker wouldn’t answer the question.
• Total disruption of public utilities and transportation. If the canal is built on the east side of the Delta, it will totally disrupt passage of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway system, the Stockton Ship canal, fuel and gas lines, two major highways, transmission lines, and a major water district’s aqueducts, and other issues they chose not to address. And again, we see no attempt to address the financial aspect of this question.
• The loss of our fisheries including two salmon runs, steelhead, and the striped bass fishery. The loss of jobs and the fisheries also has not been taken into account.
• The loss of agriculture to San Joaquin County. It will devastate Stockton, and the county, since agriculture is the driving force in Stockton’s and the county’s economic life. Again, no discussion.
The governor and his colleagues make wonderful promises just like his father did. And, as in his father’s case, it’s not the truth.
Don’t trust what you see or hear from the news media, our local, state, or national governments. And do not trust what you hear from state agencies including the State Water Quality Control Board, DWR, DFG and so on. This list should also include the Federal agencies. These agencies have vested not public, interest at heart. For example, several State agencies have formed to “investigate” the building of a peripheral canal. Two of the best known are the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), and the so-called Blue Ribbon Task Force started by our former governor. The BDCP is nothing more than a vehicle to start a peripheral canal. The so-called Blue Ribbon committee is anything but blue ribbon. In both these groups all people who live, work or have any interest in Delta have been excluded from membership. This also includes our local or State elected representatives. Only pro-canal advocates have been included. Despite State laws prohibiting closed-door meetings, the State of California continues to hold them with so-called “Principals”. These “Principals”, of course, are those who want a canal including Westlands Water District, Kern County Land Company, Metropolitan Water District (LA) and major agribusiness interests. All Delta farmers have been carefully excluded.
When looking at any issue I feel we should follow what the best science available tells us. Science tells us that the peripheral canal, as proposed, will destroy the Delta and its fisheries as we have known it. Although judgments should not be based solely on economics, the economics of a peripheral canal are disastrous. Because of California’s low credit rating (the lowest in the nation at this point) and our current outstanding financial obligations, for every dollar we borrow we will have to pay back two. If this occurs, our economic life will not change in the foreseeable future. Given that outlook one would ask why a peripheral canal is being pushed for by those who want it. The answer is, of course, we the taxpayers pay of it. Not them. They will continue to become even wealthier, at our expense, despite the fact we can neither educate our children, nor have a high level of service for police and fire protection, and can no longer take care of those who can’t take care of themselves. Their issue is continued wealth and greed regardless of the consequences. This has always been their mentality and it will always continue.
The message I hope you will take away from this conservation report is not to take simplistic news reports on radio or TV seriously. Know and understand the sources of your information. For example, Sean Hannity (Fox News) and those in the Tea Party are not known as either paragons of environmental concerns or good in depth thinking. When you read about these issues, ask the standards questions. Who? What? Where? Why? Learn to be a skeptic. It will serve you well. And when you read my Conservation Report, I expect you to hold me to those standards.
Finally there are three sources I hope you’ll read:
1st - The Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisne. It’s an excellent source of water history and it will open your eyes and make you angry.
2nd - An article written by Dan McDaniels’ law partner, Dante Nomellini, in “The Water Report “, July 15th, 2008 issue #53 (go to their website and download a free copy by date) It is the best discussion of the history of the Delta I have seen to date and its’ 11 pages will bring you up to speed on the issues immediately.
3rd - The website of Restore The Delta. It is an outstanding source of current Delta information. You cannot find a better site and it will serve you well. Their site is: restorethedelta. org.