Friday, November 13, 2009

Celebrating the death of the Delta

Landmark. Monumental. Unparalleled. No adjective is too grand for those trumpeting the draining of the Delta — er, we mean the water infrastructure package — recently OK'd by the state Legislature.

Sure, there are goodies thrown in there that should make anyone clap — a 20 percent urban conservation mandate and aggressive groundwater monitoring. But this is clearly a loser for the Delta and those who rely on its health as a waterway and ecosystem.

Turns out that the biggest political players got what they wanted, including more dams and a fairly clear pathway to building a peripheral canal.

Don't believe it? Think these players might shy away from digging a gigantic ditch to funnel water away from the Delta and call it an environmental victory, all the while continuing the harmful and wasteful practices that have led to the Delta's near-collapse to begin with?

Consider then the words of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: "Why it has to do with the environment is because we're also going to, part of this package is to fix the Delta and to build a canal around the Delta ... That was great news this morning."

The guv's delivery was made all the more poignant by its location — in Stockton, heart of Delta country. The Delta region was bypassed when this legislation was crafted, and if its backers have their way it'll be bypassed again by the canal.

Unfortunately, in all the political wrangling the state's biggest water problem was overlooked: overdraft. The state's water is overallocated. It is physically impossible to deliver all the water Californians have water rights to.

Instead of admit that there are simply too many demands on a limited supply of water — and making the requisite tough decisions about what the priorities for water use should be — politicians ignored the difficult truth, perpetuating the idea that all we need to do is conserve a little and build, build, build to untap more agua.

Now it's time for the canal cheerleaders to sell voters on a $11.1 billion bond that will help finance the legislation. Expect Second Thoughts to keep you posted...

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