Monday, June 29, 2009

Environmentalists dispute water shortage = job loss claims

From the Central Valley Business Times

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance says that blaming Central Valley job losses on claims of water shortages is disingenuous at best.

"The truth is more water won't wash away the Valley's recession and endangered species are the victims, not the problem,” says CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings.

Referring to Sunday’s Fresno town hall meeting by Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Valley congressmen and others, Mr. Jennings says “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."

Mr. Jennings says a careful reading of data collected by the California Economic Development Department finds that during three years of drought -- between May 2006 and May 2009 -- farm employment went up 13.7 percent in Kern County, 12.1 percent in Fresno County, 19.3 percent in Tulare County, 2 percent in Merced County, 5.3 percent in Madera and 8.4 percent in Stanislaus County.

“While we're told that 262,000 acres have been fallowed in 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 percent over the previous record year of 2007,” Mr. Jennings says.

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, he says.

“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?” he says.

He says one problem is that over the years California has issued water rights for eight times the average amount of water in the Bay-Delta watershed. Another, Mr. Jennings says, is 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.”

There is enough water in California to provide for people and rivers, if it's used wisely, says Mr. Jennings, arguing that a combination of 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, he says. "A dysfunctional water delivery system, greed and failure to comply with existing laws have brought us to the edge of disaster," says Mr. Jennings. "Common sense, sound science and a proper respect for law can lead us back from the abyss."

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