In an excellent article on the water shortage in the Golden State, Max Schulz gives a brief background on how massive irrigation projects helped transform the desert of the San Joaquin Valley “into a paradise, providing much of the fruits and vegetables and dairy products Americans consume.” Today, with the help of the entire Democratic caucus of the United States Senate, including the two senators from California, environmentalists may well succeed in using federal law to turn the region back into a desert.
The process began with “litigious environmental groups” going to court, suing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on behalf of a variety of species in order to “dismantle the infrastructure of California’s State Water Project (SWP) and the federal Central Valley Project (CVP).” Finally, with the delta smelt, a minnow that rarely gets bigger than three inches, they hit pay dirt:
In 2007, U.S. district judge Oliver Wanger ruled that the pumping that annually sent about 6 million acre-feet of water to Kern County and beyond was threatening the delta smelt’s existence by disrupting water flows for the fall spawning season. Citing the protections accorded by the Endangered Species Act, he ordered pumping for agricultural uses curtailed by one-third until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could evaluate the situation. After studying the issue for more than a year, the USFWS determined last December that pumping by the SWP and CVP “was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the delta smelt and adversely modify its critical habitat.”
Water that would have fertilized fields across the Central Valley, providing jobs to tens of thousands and producing food for (potentially) millions just flows out to sea. Fields lay fallow, jobs are lost.
Environmental rulings have cost the region as many as 32,00o jobs, with 50,000 more to come if restrictions intensify. Not just that, the “lack of produce from this formerly successful agricultural area,” Ed Morrissey writes, “will hike prices across the nation — and could make us more dependent on agricultural imports.”
You’d think the Senators representing the people in this region would be concerned. But, as Sonicfrog notes, it took a South Carolina Senator to do what the Golden State Senators would not:
After watching the Hannity show broadcast from the Central Valley on Thursday, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint decided to do something about it. Today he introduced a provision in a bill that would basically suspend the Endangered Species Act in regard to the Sacramento Delta for one year, which would prevent Federally mandated restrictions from shutting off water flow from the Sacramento Delta to the San Joaquin Valley, which has cause a severe shortage of water to farmers on the west side of the valley.
This would not be the first time the Senate suspended the ESA. Six years ago, it did so “for parts of New Mexico so that people would still get water.” So, instead of considering an amendment which could have said jobs and increased the food supply, the Senate voted to table the amendment, with both California Senators voting to sideline.
I guess to Mrs. Boxer, it matters more to toe the left-wing environmental line than to look out for her Central Valley constituents.
(H/t Michelle Malkin for Senate vote tails and Schulz article.)