Because I represent landowners, builders and businesses on matters relating to the Endangered Species Act and have done so for 20 years, I realize my interest in ESA-stories is just a tad higher than the general public. But the devastation brought about by the Act on the water supply in California and thus on the state’s agricultural sector, farmers and farm workers in the past two years is astonishing in its scope –as is the fact that very, very few people know about the story. Calling John Stoessel. Calling William La Jeunesse.
Read the San Jose Mercury News account of the hearing closely, and then ask yourself why you haven’t seen this controversy reported on the MSM. Key graphs:
In 2007, a federal judge ordered federal and state water authorities to reduce the amount of water they pump through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in a bid to protect the delta smelt. The finger-length fish is considered a bellwether for the health of the delta, the heart of California’s water-delivery system.
Speaking before the House Natural Resources Committee, several of the state’s lawmakers discounted the drought as the reason for the San Joaquin Valley’s lack of water.
Rather, they said it was a matter of priorities, with the government valuing fish over families.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, said thousands of families were moving out of his district. He called the exodus the “Dust Bowl migration in reverse.” …
The state has said it will deliver only 20 percent of the water typically allocated for cities and farms this year. The federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates a separate system to deliver water to farmers, has said it will not deliver any water this spring to farms south of the delta. Farmers north of the delta can expect to get just 5 percent of their contracted amount.
The shortage could force farmers to idle more than 300,000 acres, leading to a loss of about 37,000 jobs. The delta also feeds drinking water to some 25 million Californians, stretching from the San Francisco Bay area to San Diego. Dozens of cities that expect to get less water from the delta this year are considering conservation measures.
Like the CPSIA, the ESA acts with extraordinary impact on relatively small numbers of people, forcing them to bear the costs for broadly defined “societal goals” which are often “oversold” as with the rhetoric surrounding the phthalates ban in the CPSIA or the threat to the delta smelt from additional pumping of water from the delta.
The control of the environmental movement on key committees in the House and the Senate means that even these Democratic Congressmen will get no relief from the Hill. The partially man-made drought will thus go on, the job losses will mount, and California’s breadbasket will loses some of its incredible productivity –another blow to the state’s already reeling economy. Finding some relief will be Interior Secretary Salazar’s first great challenge, but the real solution lies with the 9th Circuit or the Supreme Court’s review of the cases that have flowed out of the ESA over 35 years.
The ESA controversies of the next few years –the smelt and the polar bear litigation being only the most visible– will quietly determine the artificial limits on growth America imposes upon itself. The very aggressive push by very competent counsel for the activists versus the supine response by American industry means that even if the GOP returns to majority status in 2010 or the presidency in 2012, the ability to reignite robust growth will be seriously compromised by years of aggressive rulemaking and overreaching court decisions.