America’s New Endangered Species: The San Joaquin Valley

It was bad enough when the Obama administration announced that wind turbine facilities now have a thirty-year license to kill or injure, with impunity, two American icons: bald and golden eagles. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) turns a blind eye to this, it is now choking a $45 billion agricultural industry with a three-inch baitfish called the Delta Smelt by denying precious water to San Joaquin valley farmers.

The problem is that these French-fry-size fish are killed in the pumping stations that provide water to the San Joaquin Valley and could have become extinct had nothing been done to save them. The San Diego Zoo has come to their rescue through captive breeding to ensure that the health of captive populations and successful species reintroductions are maintained when another habitat is found.

Currently this tiny fish is found exclusively in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta that serves as a place of storage and transition for water that originates from northern California. In the past, this water had been diverted west of the delta for agricultural use and south of the delta for human consumption in southern California.

Back in the sixties, a system was developed for diverting and storing water runoff during wet years with a capacity of holding enough water for five years of drought. It was designed specifically to provide water for agriculture during dry periods in the San Joaquin valley. Ironically, this system is now inactive thanks to environmental groups and near-sighted liberal politicians.

What exactly is the role of the Delta Smelt in the Delta? Basically—very small. Other than acting as bait for larger fish, the Delta Smelt is not a national symbol or a major player in the area’s ecosystem. It is non-edible, does nothing to eliminate pests nor does it have any meaningful commercial value. Not discouraged by such superfluous details, leftist environmental zealots armed with the Endangered Species Act sued to “save” the tiny Delta Smelt (which the San Diego Zoo has already done). Their action is now wasting tens of billions of gallons of precious water by sending it into the ocean.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior have brought the case before the courts. It seems their case is far from convincing. In his ruling on the Delta Smelt case, U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger states: “I have never seen anything like what has been placed before this court by these two witnesses. The only inference that the court can draw is that it is an attempt to mislead and to deceive the court.” Judge Wanger further referred to one of the Fish and Wildlife Service scientists who provided testimony in the case as a “zealot,” stating “She may be a good scientist. She may be honest, but she has not been honest with this court. Protecting endangered species is crucially important. But when it overwhelms us to the point that we lose objectivity, we lose honesty, we’re all in a lot of trouble. Serious, serious trouble.”1

Thankfully, 160 California State Water Contractors have filed their own lawsuit against these two witnesses arguing that both agencies ignored the most current scientific evidence and other probable causes for the decline of the Delta Smelt.2 Unfortunately, the case is still pending much to the detriment of California farmers and the American consumer.

Liberals have no proposals to prevent the decline of the Delta Smelt, or solve California’s water shortages. They do however, with a straight face, assign blame to “man-made global warming.” The problem is, California’s water problems are definitely man-made, but they have nothing to do with “global warming.” The crisis can simply be unmade by releasing the needed water to agriculture. Instead, President Obama has offered $2 billion in relief funds to shore up the sagging $45 billion agricultural industry. That will do nothing to remedy the dereliction of duty on the part of politicians in California for mismanaging the state’s water infrastructure.

Farmers in California desperately need the tens of billions of gallons of water being poured into the ocean. They do not need or want handouts from the federal government. What is the rationale behind “saving” the tiny smelt while killing a $45 billion agricultural sector? Why allow the slaughter of national symbols to promote a feel-good “green” energy and not look for real solutions to keep the American farmers’ fields green?

While the EPA picks and chooses what it enforces, the San Joaquin valley has been put on America’s endangered species list. Will our nation wake up or will it take a huge spike in vegetable prices to shake the nation out of its slumber?

Footnotes

  1. http://plf.typepad.com/files/9-16-11-motion-to-stay-final.pdf
  2. http://www.waterplan.water.ca.gov/docs/cwpu2009/0310final/v4c16a03_cwp2009.pdf

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