Reports from other media opining on California’s water woes:
Dying on the vine
Mendota touts itself as the cantaloupe capital of the world, but its de facto motto is far less optimistic. “No water, no work” is the refrain repeated everywhere here in the western reaches of the San Joaquin Valley.
The unemployment rate in this 10,000-person town was an unfathomable 38% in July (including documented and undocumented workers). Nearly all those who have lost their jobs are farmworkers, who often straddle the poverty line even in boom times.
The result is a cruel irony: in the region that produces more food than anywhere else in the country, food lines have become regular fixtures, drawing hundreds, sometimes thousands.
Begin repairing Delta with or without approval of new dams
Fixing the levees will be costly, but there is little political disagreement that they must be improved and maintained.
How to deliver water is far more problematical. Those who opposed the Peripheral Canal back in 1982 understandably are wary of building an aqueduct around the Delta or a tunnel under it.
We believe a tunnel, at an estimated cost of $33 billion, is far too expensive and should be dismissed as an option. But a modest aqueduct that would not dramatically increase water delivery to south of the Delta deserves consideration as long as there are guarantees of a minimum year-round flow of water into the Delta to maintain its ecology.
The key to success in solving all of the Delta’s problems is water storage in new or enlarged reservoirs, not just in underground aquifers. That is why Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is so adamant about building new dams and has threatened to veto any water plan that does not include them.
Greater water storage is essential to make enough water available — primarily for the Delta environment — and for agriculture and urban use in dry periods.
We agree with the governor about the need for more aboveground storage. But he should not allow a veto to kill other aspects of fixing the Delta.
California’s man-made drought
The Wall Street Journal
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.
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. 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.
Compiled by The Packer staff