Back in May 2010, I wrote an extensive blog piece on the latest attempts to divert water from Northern California to urban areas and desert agriculture in the Southern half of the state.(*) For at least three generations, water districts, corporate agriculture, and municipal business factions have been attempting to justify the creation of a so-called peripheral canal, to divert most of the water flowing down the Sacramento River, to points south. Such a canal already exists, or course, in pieces. It's called the California State Water Project, and its main feature is the California Aquaduct, which siphons off millions of acre feet of water each year to Central Valley agriculture and cities and towns south of San Francisco.
The latest attempt was the so-called "Bay Delta Conservation Plan"--certainly an oxymoron if there ever was one!--but the Obama Administration's National Research Council, a group of biologists, hydrologists and engineers, concluded that the Plan was a "post-Hoc" attempt to justify the construction of an underground "tunnel" designed to divert nearly all the fresh water flowing into the California Delta and send it southward. The California voters rejected this idea in 1982, but the water interests have never given up the idea. They want the taxpayers of California to pay for the billion dollar project, and they want increased flows at reduced prices. But with every year that passes, the population growth of the state puts increased pressure on its finite water resources.
It seems safe to say that there will never be enough fresh water to supply all the needs of the Western States. Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner (1986, revised edition 1993), and the Floyd Dominy section in John McPhee's Encounters With the Archdruid (1971) are good places to begin, to understand the history of water exploitation and misuse in the West.
The authors of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan know perfectly well that the health of the Delta system, the San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific Ocean ecosystems depend crucially on an adequate supply of fresh water flowing into the delta from Sierra Nevada riverine systems. And they know that that baseline flow has already been significantly reduced, to the degree that the Delta is already, literally, on its last legs from a bio-system point of view. Further reducing flows would, in effect, create a huge mud flat north-south between Sacramento and Tracy, and east-west between San Pablo Bay and Stockton, stinking with flies and choked with tules, polluted with heavy metals, pesticide residues and sewage, with rotting dock pilings and marooned garbage hulks. This is what the authors of the Plan know would happen with the creation of their "tunnel." To assert that this would somehow "save" the Delta ecosystem, as proof of its commitment to achieving "ecosystem restoration," constitutes the sort of bald-faced lying which I discussed in yesterday's blog about the fine art of lying.
The Plan is a lie. The people of California know it. The Federal Government's people know it. The authors of the plan know it. It's as obvious as the hair tickling the inside of your nostrils.
Do we want more vast tracts of shoddy suburban "development," more corporate agri-business rip-offs (they already take 85% of the state's water), and more devastation to the state's fisheries and wild habitat? The question remains, and has been asked again and again. The only answer must again be "No!"
*For readers curious about that previous blog essay, you might be interested to know that proponents of the canal went to the trouble to demand removal of the post by the blog site server. It was probably done at the behest of Judge Wanger, a Bush appointee who supports the agri-business interests in their pursuit of more water allocations. I can send anyone who wants to see it, the text of that blocked essay, privately as an e.mail attachment. The Judge Wangers of the world don't want you to know about what they're doing, and will use any means at their disposal to shield themselves from public view.