Friday, December 5, 2008

In defense of the Delta

For residents of the San Joaquin Delta looking for someone to defend your turf, Mike Fitzgerald's your man. His latest piece in The Record pulls no punches in opposing "the rape/kill of the San Joaquin Delta":

... in recent years, state and federal agencies charged with guarding the Delta actually increased water exports.

Merely degrading the Delta wasn't enough. They're determined to kill the biggest estuary in the Western Americas and pipe a Peripheral Canal around the corpse.

To put it another way, the degradation of regulatory agencies is as bad as the degradation of the Delta. The agencies need systemic change, too.

The issue is more complex than a mere Balkan problem of NorCal residents and resources vs. SoCal's outsized water demand.

It's true that without plundering the Delta's limited water supply, folks in Beverly Hills would never have been able to build lush gardens in a chaparral desert. Then again, major agriculture in the Central Valley — the nation's breadbasket — would also never have come to pass. Keeping farmers in business is a major problem when advocates clamor for a decrease in pumping from the Delta.

I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing SoCal get by on its own water sources, but letting farms blow away in a new Dust Bowl is an unsettling thought.

But Fitzgerald's main point, despite the sometimes-over-the-top rhetoric, is well-made:

The Delta's collapse is irreversible. Once a delicate mechanism that took millennia to evolve is smashed, its inhabitants gone extinct, there is no remedy under law.

The Delta, to say nothing of this region, will remain permanently impaired.

Bottom line: If something isn't done to protect that resource soon, we'll never be able to save it. And then we'll all be royally screwed.

So if finding a workable compromise between the stakeholders requires Delta residents to enter negotations on a hard line and move to the center later, so be it.

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