Bonnie Alba
California's breadbasket drying up for a fish
By Bonnie Alba
September 25, 2009

Water is a boring subject until you're without it, isn't it? Herein lies the story: Three years of drought in California threatens the San Joaquin Valley.

A little CA background: The population of CA was about 10 million in pre-WWII. From 1950 to 2000, people flocked to the southern half of the state as all kinds of businesses and industries based themselves in that "sunny, mild climate." The estimated 2009 population is about 38 million people with almost half, 17 million, in Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta system of reservoirs and canals built to provide mountain snowmelt and other water from Northern California has not kept up with the growth in the southern part of the state.

In the 1950s, the San Joaquin Valley, devoted to agriculture, was called the "breadbasket of the world." Providing produce, food and dairy products, cotton (garment industry and cottonseed oil) and feed for animals — the farmers of the Valley managed to survive even in drought years. One element among many that they depended on — water.

There are three distributive elements of CA water, depending on the measure of snow melt from the mountains:

  1. Estimated 23 million residents, mostly located in middle to southern CA;

  2. Valley farmers, do-or-die irrigation of some 750,000 acres of cropland; and,

  3. Delta Smelt, a teeny-weeny fish which court decisions favor above a) and b).

Let's not forget the Chinook Salmon which require rushing water to do its annual winter spawning which affects the salmon industry.

You might ask then why don't the farmers pump their irrigation water from the ground? Electric and diesel generators to pump well water have become very expensive. But in drought years, even this method is not enough.

The 2009 lowest snow accumulation since 1992 has brought on a drought crisis!

The combined state and federal water shutoff, thereby saving a fish, to Valley farmers is killing the world's breadbasket. The prediction is dire — 40,000 jobs lost; hundreds of farms bankrupt; over 750,000 acres of farmland turning into desert.

The trickle-down effect on businesses, retail and otherwise, through higher prices of food and dairy products, will be felt near and far, and the crisis will grow. Broke people can't buy more than the necessities.

Scarcity of food? Free trade? You'll be eating many more imported foods from South America and China — just to save a fish or two.

As a Valley (Kings County) friend dived into finding answers on the water crisis, she found a tangled web of "all different agencies (state and federal) involved with very different statistics." She says the political impact of "the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service (and their so-called 'biological opinions' on the smelt and salmon), and the Endangered species Act — these people have a lot of power. Something really 'fishy' is going on."

Governor Schwarzenegger ( ) noted some of this in his July 2009 letter to the U.S. Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce, "The recent biological opinions issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect threatened fish species in the Delta include overlapping and conflicting actions and restrictions that provide little or no fisheries benefit but do come at a high cost to the economy....Ironically, these opinions work against each other, especially in wet years, which may lead to species conflict and devastating water shortages in following dry years."

Since the 1970s, ecology has grown into a "save the animals, fish, fowl" movement which has turned state and federal agencies into homes for "animal over man" policies. When it became a political issue and ended up in the courts — against all common sense, progressive judges ruled for animal over man.

The tangled political web of state and federal agencies involved in determining "who gets water" is perverse. Why do they always come down on the side of the animal, bird, or fish in this ongoing management of life's essence, water?

On September 16, Rich Matteis ( ), Administrator for the California Farm Bureau Federation, wrote that "legislative leaders have called on the governor to convene a special legislative session within 30 days, to continue seeking a workable water solution. The consensus among observers is that this will likely be the next step."

It may be too late. Thousands of acres are now arid and blowing in the wind. This is just the latest example of liberal progressives' invasion into citizens' lives and livelihoods. All for a fish!

© Bonnie Alba


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Bonnie Alba

(Editor's note: Bonnie Alba passed away on February 12, 2017. You can read her obituary here.)

Bonnie Alba is a "politically incorrect" researcher-writer. Since 1995, her articles have appeared in California newspapers. Previously she served in various Department of Defense positions for over 16 years... (more)


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