Background -2009: California has a new endangered species on its hands in the San Joaquin Valley—farmers. Thanks to environmental regulations designed to protect the likes of the three-inch long delta smelt, one of America’s premier agricultural regions is suffering in a drought made worse by federal regulations.
I love smelt. Slathered in tartar sauce that is… 🙂
The state’s water emergency is unfolding thanks to the latest mishandling of the Endangered Species Act. Last December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued what is known as a “biological opinion” imposing water reductions on the San Joaquin Valley and environs to safeguard the federally protected hypomesus transpacificus, a.k.a., the delta smelt. As a result, tens of billions of gallons of water from mountains east and north of Sacramento have been channelled away from farmers and into the ocean, leaving hundreds of thousands of acres of arable land fallow or scorched.
For this, Californians can thank the usual environmental suspects, er, lawyers. (And whacko enviromentalists that value a smelt over humans) Last year’s government ruling was the result of a 2006 lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other outfits objecting to increased water pumping in the smelt vicinity. In June, things got even dustier when the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that local salmon and steelhead also needed to be defended from the valley’s water pumps. Those additional restrictions will begin to effect pumping operations next year.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he “doesn’t have the authority to turn on the pumps” that would supply the delta with water, or “otherwise, they would be on.” He did, however, have the ability to request intervention from the Department of Interior. Under a provision added to the Endangered Species Act in 1978 after the snail darter fiasco, a panel of seven cabinet officials known as a “God Squad” is able to intercede in economic emergencies, such as the one now parching California farmers. Despite a petition with more than 12,000 signers, Mr. Schwarzenegger has refused that remedy.
Perspective: California’s San Joaquin Valley is the salad bowl of the world, providing the majority of fruits and vegetables for the entire nation. But, with another man-made drought looming, the San Joaquin Valley is in danger of becoming a dust bowl unless immediate action is taken to change policies that put the needs of fish above the livelihood of people. (Natural Resources Committee-US Congress)
JUMP TO 2014:
A California appeals court sided with environmentalists over growers on Thursday and upheld federal guidelines that limit water diversions to protect Delta smelt, in a battle over how the state will cope with its worst drought in a century.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court should not have overturned recommendations that the state reduce exports of water from north to south California. The plan leaves more water in the Sacramento Delta for the finger-sized fish and have been blamed for exacerbating the effects of drought for humans.
Reaction from both sides was swift in the national political issue. In a blog post, Damien Schiff, an attorney for growers, said the ruling “bodes ill for farmers, farm laborers and millions of other Californians dependent on a reliable water supply.”
Efforts to save the Delta smelt, which lives only in the wetlands stretching north of San Francisco, have been described as a humans versus fish battle.
Kate Poole, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said growers’ hopes of taking more water out of the Delta wouldn’t solve California’s problems.
“It’s the drought, not the Delta, that’s affecting the water supply this year,” Poole said in a statement. “While we can’t make it rain, we can take charge of our water use by investing in smart water practices that protect and preserve our water supply.”
At issue is a 2008 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which concluded that the fish’s existence was threatened and recommended limited exports of water to farmers and southern California. Farmers and allies sued, and a lower court called the federal biological opinion “arbitrary and capricious.”
However, in the opinion on Thursday, 9th Circuit Judge Jay Bybee ruled that the lower court should have been more deferential to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bybee, an appointee of President George W. Bush, is considered a consistent conservative voice on the 9th Circuit.
“We recognize the enormous practical implications of this decision,” Bybee wrote. “But the consequences were prescribed when Congress determined that ‘these species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people.'”
The Untouchable fish! The Sacred and Holy Anointed By Government. Thou shalt not touch thy holy fish! Even Human harm is not enough to stop the veneration of The Holy Fish!
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which represented wildlife regulators, said it was pleased with the ruling.
Paul Weiland, an attorney who represented Kern County Water Agency and a coalition of Central Valley water users in the case, said he hopes the ruling will clear the way for all sides to come together and make progress on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
The plan seeks to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystems and secure California water supplies into the future. A draft of the plan is currently open for public comment.
“While these cases are pending it is difficult for the parties to make concessions,” he said. “To the extent that this hits the reset button, it works to everyone’s advantage in the sense that the parties don’t have to be sticking to their litigation positions anymore.”
We Won! F*ck you! Get over it! It’s the Law! Sound Familiar…. 🙂
That progress could be delayed if one or more of the parties in the case ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case or ask for a Supreme Court review, Weiland said.
Thursday’s ruling could also pave the way for a ruling in a pending case involving the water needs of wild salmon and steelhead trout in the state, which involves many of the same players. A February hearing on that case was postponed until after the Delta smelt decision was handed down.
The Delta smelt case in the 9th Circuit is San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority et al. vs. Sally Jewell et al., 11-15871.
The raucous crowd of farmers, farmworkers and supporters chanted “wa-ter, wa-ter, wa-ter” as participants raised signs saying things such as “Turn on the pumps, chumps!”, “Environmentalists are against migrant workers.” and “U.S. Senate: Don’t leave us high and dry!” (Hanford)
Gee, I wonder if that makes environmentalists racists? 🙂
An environmental group is calling on the federal government to provide drought relief to Delta and northern California farmers and business owners, and not just those on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore The Delta, says Delta farmers are on the verge of losing farms, and salmon and other fisheries are suffering too. (PNS)
But don’t blame the smelt because I’m an environmentalist and I only blame humans. Oh, and the Mama Government and Big Brother need to fix this.
Missing the point that the Government isn’t the solution to the problem, Government IS THE PROBLEM! 🙂
“If California had its priorities straight, we’d be building water storage instead of a train that may never come,” <CA Rep. Jeff >Denham said in a reference to high-speed rail that drew huge applause from the packed audience.
But Jeff, the Agenda is The Agenda. And you need a High Speed rail from Nowhere to somewhere more than farmers need water to grow food!
Larry Starrh, a farmer from Kern County, wondered whether Tuesday’s hearing would lead to the same dead end. “Southern California doesn’t believe their water’s at risk,” he said.
So why would they care. 🙂
“We hope to get the attention of the Congress and get some action,” said Fresno farmer Phil Pierre. “There’s got to be some common sense brought to this.” (Hanford)
Good Luck with that. Common Sense and The Left are Holy Water meets Vampire!
see also: https://indyfromaz.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/of-fish-and-foul/