Bill McEwen, Fresno Bee columnist, is starting a talk show on KYNO. His guest on Monday will be Lloyd G. Carter, San Joaquin Valley water activist.
Time: Noon, Monday, June 29, 2009
Location: Radio KYNO, 1300 AM, Fresno, or hear it live on the Internet at: http://1300kyno.com.
Topic: Water and the environment
They will come at the topic of the effects of drought and environmental law on the south Valley from different perspectives. McEwen's June 25 column on the alleged hypocrisy of environmentalists on the Hetch-Hetchy/Tuolumne River issue. If environmentalists sued on behalf of salmon on the San Joaquin River and in the Delta, why not on the Tuolumne and Hetch-Hetchy, whines McEwen. Closer to the issue as framed by Westlands, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Valley representatives Jim Costa, Devin Nunes and Dennis Cardoza, and others, is the issue of "drought-related unemployment in the south Valley. The California office of the Endangered Species Coalition prepared a brief fact sheet of comparative figures on the problem, circulated to a number of environmental activists, including Carter to defend the Endangered Species Act against the Westlands/Peripheral Canal propaganda machine at Salazar's Sunday town-hall meeting. The meeting will probably be livelier than a court hearing.
McEwen's column of June 25, 2009:
Bay Area water hypocrisy exposed...Bill McEwen
One of these days, a water-starved farmer will walk into federal court and demand that O'Shaughnessy Dam come down, finally restoring glacial Hetch Hetchy Valley to its natural grandeur and releasing a natural flow into the Tuolumne River.
Such a lawsuit wouldn't get the farmer more water. But it would expose the hypocrisy of Bay Area environmentalists who depict San Joaquin Valley residents as ignorant hillbillies making a mess of the desert and the Delta with their irrigated farms.
Hetch Hetchy -- the twin to Yosemite Valley -- should have been restored decades ago, say many environmental groups, including the Sierra Club.
But the only way the dam falls is if a federal judge orders it. And no environmental group will sue. Why?
They say it's better handled with cooperation and education. My explanation is simpler: it's because the dam holds some of the best drinking water on earth -- granite-filtered water reserved mostly for the allegedly environmentally conscious folks of San Francisco and other Bay Area cities.
Amazing, isn't it?
Environmentalists sue to restore the Owens River and Mono Lake. Environmentalists sue to restore the San Joaquin River and bring back its salmon run.
But they won't unleash their lawyers on Hetch Hetchy, one of the world's great wonders, or demand that San Francisco surrender its drinking water so that the Tuolumne River can teem with salmon again.
Can I prove that environmental groups are picking other battles to avoid a backlash among their Bay Area supporters? No. But it sure looks that way.
Here in the Valley, east-side farmers are giving up, on average, 170,000 acre-feet of water each year for the reintroduction of salmon into the San Joaquin.
Shouldn't Bay Area residents forfeit a similar amount -- about half of Hetch Hetchy's storage capacity -- to recharge the Tuolumne, the San Joaquin and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta with cold Yosemite water?
Shouldn't we enjoy Hetch Hetchy Valley, as it was before powerful San Francisco interests stole Tuolumne water rights -- and broke John Muir's heart -- in the early 1900s?
San Franciscans beg to differ. They claim that the dam has created a beautiful lake and Hetch Hetchy Valley was overrated -- its spectacular vistas mere figments of Muir's imagination. Two of the loudest opponents against restoring Hetch Hetchy are Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Three years of drought and the dramatic degradation of the Delta are hog-tying west-side farmers. They are trying to survive with a fraction of their usual water deliveries.
What are San Franciscans giving up? Not their precious Hetch Hetchy tap water.
Let's give the San Francisco greenies a dose of aggressive environmentalism. Let's sue to restore Hetch Hetchy.
The California office of the Endangered Species Coalition prepared for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's water fact-finding meeting in Fresno, scheduled for 2:30 p.m at the CSU Fresno Satellite Student Union, a brief fact sheet. Carter will have it in mind when he meets with McEwen on Monday.
Drought and the San Joaquin Valley
Is it really “fish vs. people” as the Governor and Representative Nunes say? To listen to all the rhetoric these days you’d think that people are suffering only because a federal judge and the federal wildlife agencies decided to protect fish. Representative Nunes and our Governor are calling it a regulatory drought and families are suffering as a result. Articles in the L.A. Times and many other papers in California have picked up the story without really checking on data available from the state Employment Development Department records. Here is a link that shows the data pretty clearly: http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/?pageid=133
However, the raw data doesn’t tell the story unless you dig into it. So, here are some of the facts from the data that brings some clarity to the issue. Make no mistake; unemployment is a problem in Mendota and Fresno County. However, it is a problem in almost all of California’s agricultural counties, and Fresno is by far not the worst. If you take the numbers as given for all counties in California for May 2009, and then look at the 9 previous years as well it is quite revealing.
For Mendota (the town given as the worst and where the governor has visited twice to rile against the Endangered Species Act and his claim of regulation caused unemployment) it shows 38.8% unemployment for May 2009.
For Mendota, the 9 year previous average is 28.1%. Mendota has led Fresno County in unemployment for the past 10 years...
Fresno County ... shows 15.4% unemployment for May 2009, with a 9 year average of 10.5%.
Of the 18 most agriculture dependent counties in California the average unemployment rate is 15.6% for May 2009. Seven other counties have worse unemployment than Fresno (Imperial, Sutter, Alpine, Colusa, Merced, Yuba and Stanislaus), with the highest in Imperial County in the Southern California desert at 26.8%.
Six of the seven with greater unemployment than Fresno are not heavily affected by the Central Valley Project water cutbacks, and many are able to compensate via groundwater and use cutbacks.
Lastly, when looking at the 2008 unemployment figures and averages, Fresno county has the eighth highest increase in unemployment (2008 to May 2009), meaning seven other counties have a greater increase in unemployment over the last year than Fresno ( Imperial, Colusa, Merced, Sutter, Yuba, Stanislaus, Tulare). Six of these have limited impact from Central Valley Project reductions or are not affected at all by them.
What this data clearly shows is that unemployment is chronic in Mendota (28.1% average), worsened by the drought, as with all other agriculture dependent counties The owners of the big farms there are certainly not sharing their profits well with the labor community that serves them. There is much to be done to improve their plight, and it should not include disaster relief from the tax payers (as requested by the Governor and our Senators).
DWR director Lester Snow testified before Congress nearly two months ago essentially saying if there was no court order to protect fish, there would only be a 5% increase in CVP water to the San Joaquin Valley. This shortage is drought caused, not regulation caused.
An interesting side note regarding subsidies to these farms. In 1978 the taxpayer subsidy to the Federal San Luis Unit of the CVP (which supplies water to the west side San Joaquin) was estimated at $770 million or about $1,540.00 per acre (United States Bureau of Reclamation figures). Today that value would be about $5,227.00 per acre using the Cost of Living Calculator for 2007. Another interesting fact is that people in Madera, Merced and Fresno Counties received about $132 million in farm subsidies in 2006. People in Trinity County, where the water for the Western San Joaquin Valley comes from, received $585.00 ( United States Department of Agriculture figures on the Environmental Working Group’s Website Feb 16, 2009).
Who really gets left holding the proverbial bag? Of course it is the federal taxpayer and the public trust. It is time agri-business took more responsibility for the problem and started to work for a solution, not for the drought but to help the farm workers they sometimes employ. This isn’t “fish vs. people”, it is “fish and people.” Both are suffering in this is the third consecutive low water year.#