The water shortage in California’s Central Valley is a classic example of how liberals are willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of environmentalism. The water shortage that has devastated America’s richest farmland, boosting food prices nationwide, is a political, man-made nightmare.
Rainfall in California runs in cycles, sometimes with years of abundant rain followed by years of drought. In the mid-1930s, as a result of these cycles, California built the State Water Project (SWP), a system of aqueducts, dams and reservoirs designed to store enough water for five years of drought conditions by collecting rain and mountain snow runoff during the wet years.
However, during the last 20 years, no significant capacity was added to the SWP as radical environmentalists stopped new damn construction, including the 14,000 acre Sites Reservoir on the Sacramento River, the Los Banos Grandes facility along a section of the California Aqueduct in Merced County, and the Temperance Flat Reservoir above Millerton Lake north of Fresno. Had the gigantic Klamath River diversion project not likewise been canceled in the 1970s, the resulting Aw Paw reservoir would have been the state’s largest, able to store 15 million acre-feet of water, enough to supply San Francisco for 30 years.
But even more damaging to the water shortage is the fact that California, over the last five years, has released into the ocean 3 million acre-feet of fresh water from the SWP, that’s 978 billion gallons, enough to sustain around 12 million Californians for six years, to supposedly benefit a 3 inch baitfish that smells like cucumbers. Long live the smelt, right?
Wrong! A survey of young adult smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta last fall yielded only eight fish, the lowest level since 1967. An annual spring survey by state biologists turned up six in March and just one in April. While the surveys are a sampling and not intended to suggest the full population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicts that the smelt will disappear from the delta within the next two years. Disappearance doesn’t equate extinction. The Fish and Wildlife Service keeps a “refuge” population at a nearby fish hatchery and UC Davis raises hundreds for experiments and conservation at a lab near Stockton.
Even if the delta smelt were eliminated from the delta forever, the federal government would continue to restrict pumping to protect other fish like the longfin smelt, steelhead and Chinook winter-run salmon. And radical environmentalists would continue petitioning the government to expand its list of endangered species.
Parched Californians may soon wonder when it’s their turn for such concern. Devin Nunes who represents the 22nd Congressional District in the House told Investor’s Business Daily that “it’s not global warming that led us to this problem, but math and engineering….If we had that water (3 million acre-feet) we would not be in an unmitigated disaster.”
As a result of the last 20 years of liberal politics and policies, as California’s population doubled, 70% of their rainfall “washed out to sea,” year after year. In California, fish, frogs and flies are far more important than the 40% unemployment rate in certain parts of the central valley.
The rest of the country is about to suffer the same fate as the EPA’s new definition of “waters of the U.S.,” which makes an end-run around Congress and two Supreme Court rulings, vastly expands the range of waters that fall under federal jurisdiction. California’s water insanity is about to go nationwide!