Tuesday, June 30, 2009

California Water Crisis: don´t blame the fish

CSPA Press Release - Myths, Lies and Damn Lies  
Despite drought, Valley agriculture doing far better than rest of
Stockton, CA - Sunday, June 28, 2009 -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
is in Fresno today to attend a meeting and listen to the

economic woes of the south Valley. Newspapers and airways are awash
with accusations that a three-inch fish has caused a man-made
drought in California and that environmentalists and fishermen seek
to "starve people in order to save whales." Congressmen, farmers
and water agencies claim that 450,000 or more acres of land have
been fallowed and 35-50,000 people have been put out of work: all
because of Delta smelt and the Endangered Species Act. But, facts
are stubborn things. And the facts tell us that these accusations
are lies - bald-face lies.

"We hope Secretary Salazar will seek out the facts and see through
the transparent efforts by Governor Schwarzenegger, Valley elected
officials and the hydrologic brotherhood to use the red-herring of
economic recession as justification for depriving the Delta of
essential water," said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings.
"Their efforts can only be successful if the Secretary, reporters
and the general public ignore the facts," he said, adding, "The
truth is more water won't wash away the Valley's recession and
endangered species are the victims, not the problem."

According to official data collected by the California Economic
Development Department, during three years of drought, between May
of 2006 and May of 2009, farm employment went up 13.7% in Kern
County, 12.1% in Fresno County, 19.3% in Tulare County, 2% in
Merced County, 5.3% in Madera and 8.4% in Stanislaus County.(1)
Only in the smallest agricultural county of Kings, did we find a
decline. While we're told that 262,000 acres have been fallowedin
Fresno County, the County's Department of Agriculture was releasing
a report that revealed 2008 was another record year with
agricultural production dollars up 5.9% over the previous record
year of 2007.(2)

San Joaquin Valley farm unemployment has always been high and,
while the present economic disaster has exacerbated conditions,
farm unemployment has not fluctuated according to wet and dry
years.(3) Indeed, agriculture has fared far better in the current
recession than other segments of the economy. While May 08 to May
09 construction, manufacturing, trade & transportation and
financial employment in Fresno County dropped by 3,000, 2,300,
1,200 and 900, respectively: agricultural employment actually
increased by 100.(4) Tulare County reports that while, agricultural
employment increased by 2,100 between May 08 and May 09,
construction, manufacturing, trade & transportation, hospitality
and financial employment was down 800,1,100, 1,300, 400 and 500,
respectively.(5) Even in counties reporting slight declines in
agricultural employment: other employment sectors experienced far
greater drops. In the last year of a three-year drought (May
08-May09), statewide farm employment dropped by only 9,600 while
nonfarm employment plunged 744,400.(6) Indeed, employment figures
for counties for north-of-Delta counties that are receiving full
water allotments are showing similar employment impacts.

Who is not telling the truth: our elected representatives or the
California Employment Development Department? And, who is
distorting the truth about actual water shortages?

As Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow pointed out
in a 15 May 2009 letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Westlands
Water District is expected to receive 86% of its normal water
supplies in this third year of drought; Kern Count Water Agency is
expecting 85% and the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors will
receive 100% of its non-drought supplies.(7) The chart attached to
Snow's letter claims that Westlands' 14% shortfall will force it to
fallow 225,000 acres rather than its normal fallowing of 78,000
acres and Kern County Water Agency's 15% shortfall will compel it
to fallow 220,000 acres rather than the normal 100,000 acres.(8)
The numbers simply don't add up.

Mr. Snow was candid when he wrote Senator Feinstein that, "I
believe many have lost sight of the plain fact that we are in a
hydrologic drought, and as such water supplies are simply limited
for all users"(9) and when he testified to Congress that, if there
was no court order protecting fish, there would only be a 5%
increase in water to the Central Valley.

Unfortunately, Mr. Snow and those who scapegoat fisheries seem
unable to admit that water supplies in a drought are also limited
for fish and wildlife and that recent biological opinions provide
less water for the environment during shortages. Nor can they
acknowledge that California has issued water rights for 8 _ times
the average amount of water in the Bay-Delta watershed or that
Valley farmers have recently planted hundreds of thousands of acres
of perennial crops based upon the most junior water rights that
assume interrupted supplies during the inevitable droughts that
occur more than a third of the time in the state.

Those who accuse fishermen and environmentalists of trying to
"starve families to protect whales" appear incapable of exhibiting
compassion for the depressed communities along the coast and
wrecked livelihoods of commercial fishermen whose boats are either
dry-docked or repossessed by the bank or lamenting the 23,000
people out of work or the $1.4 billion lost to the state's economy
because of fishing closures. And what of those on the Westside of
the Valley who irrigate selenium laced soils that discharge toxic
wastes back to the river and Delta? Do they believe they have a
prerogative to water that leaves the Delta with salinity levels
that threaten the existence of generations of Delta farmers who
cultivate over 400,000 acres of some of the finest prime soils on

There is enough water in California to provide for people and
rivers, if it's used wisely. Reclamation, recycling, groundwater
banking, conservation and desalination offer a virtual river far
larger than any additional supplies secured via new surface storage
or a peripheral canal. Fish are not the problem. "A dysfunctional
water delivery system, greed and failure to comply with existing
laws have brought us to the edge of disaster," observed Jennings.
"Common sense, sound science and a proper respect for law can lead
us back from the abyss," he said.

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