Merced Sun-Star editorial
...How can we judge if California is taking more water from the delta and its watershed than they can handle?
Consider the evidence: Smelt are at the brink of extinction. Other species, such as salmon, are in serious peril. Federal courts are using the hammer of the Endangered Species Act to deliver a blunt message about the entire ecosystem.
Dry years, when cities and farms suck more from the delta than they do during more rainy times, are especially tough for these species. During wet years, 87 percent of the water entering the delta makes it out to the San Francisco Bay. During dry years, the figure drops to 51 percent.
If California is to have any hope of restoring the delta and avoiding clashes with federal judges, it must develop a water plan that reduces its dependence on this estuary and strives for greater reliability.
What would this plan look like?
To begin with, it must be grounded in reality. Water contracts based on dated premises must be renegotiated, and efficiency should be the law of the land.
Each region of the state -- including Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley -- must find ways to reduce what it takes from the delta and its watershed. And environmental groups must recognize that not every species will be restored to its population predating the Gold Rush...
In about a decade of listening to people in the Northern California environmental movement, I'm pretty sure I never heard anyone talking about restoring pre-Gold Rush populations of fish and wildlife species. Mostly, what I hear and what people are trying to do is to prevent extinction of entire species of fish and wildlife. Blocked by systemic corruption in federal and state resource agencies who have not enforced laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air and Clean water acts, their onlyrecourse has been the courts, whose judges don't talk about restoring fish and wildlife populations to pre-Gold Rush era levels either. Anyone who doubts the wholesale corruption on resource agencies is recommended to read the Collected Works of Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney at http://www.doioig.gov/index.php?menuid=2&viewid=-1&viewtype=REPORT .
This corruption can be seen as bureaucratic, legislative and in some cases judicial enabling of a subsidy to finance, insurance and real estate special interests by means to squandering the legally protected Public Trust. It was particularly prevalent in California and the state's foreclosure rate and unemployment rate is a testament to how prudently these special interests used the subsidy. By the way, this process continues with the expected infusion of massive amounts of public funds for public infrastructureprojects that will further enrich the same special interests by the same means, thesubsidy of the Public Trust. This time, however, taxpayers will pay twice, the first time mainly through inflation, for the privilege of the destruction of their natural resources.
Watching the political, legal and bureaucratic wrangling over the Delta as it dies has been a frontrow seat at some of the worst corruption in the nation on environmental law and regulation. Apparently, we learn now, it was all about digging a new peripheral canal. I don't mean simply bribes or caving to special interest pressure. I mean a lack of will to do the difficult job, a laziness and sloth, a general demoralization caused by lack of any real leadership on the problem. Worst of all may be the expert posturing ofscientists busily colonizing the problem for grants rather than attacking it head on with the sort of declarations the crisis has required for some time. In the end, all the King's horses and all the King's men don't really give a damn about the Delta beyond what they might be able to get out of it for themselves.
If there is no public to defend the Public Trust, the Public Trust will recede back into the dust of Roman law.
The State of California has demonstrated over the last 25 years that it is unable to "fix," "save" or do anything about the Delta but watch it be destroyed. It is the greatest, richest, most diverse and most imperiled ecological region in the state. Nor have federal agencies been able to do their job on the Delta. The reason is the same, and includes some of the same players: human population growth south of the Delta, in the South Bay, the San Joaquin Valley and especially in Southern California. While some sort of settlement might be reached for water use in the South Bay and the combined agricultural and residential use in the Valley, on cannot imagine a resolution is possible in the state of California as now constituted between the north and the south.
However, a beginning of a solution might be found if the state split in two and the antagonistic interests met across the barrier of a state border. Perhaps interstate law, regulation and protocols would provide some legal framework for reaching a sustainable peace in our time on the issue of Delta water. The state Legislature, as presently constituted, cannot achieve it. The north needs to be politically disencumbered in order to begin to protect its riverine natural resources and the south needs to becomepolitically responsible for its population growth. Neither of these things -- necessary policies, not "goals" -- are possible in the present political arrangement. To begin, the state is simply too big to be administered or governed well by the apparatus of one state government. The University of California president was recently burbling along about theglorious days of Gov. Pat Brown, how well our k-14 schools performed, how well UC performed (and he could have added how well the state Legislature performed). What California "leaders" are congenitally unable to say, in these flights of prelapsarian nostalgia and make-believe "historical perspective," is that the state had about half the population then as it has today, and that a lot of Pat Brown's policies established the infrastructure for the constant expansion of what he used to call "This Great Big, NumberOne State of Ours" to its present, gargantuan size and ruinous indebtedness to Wall Street. The State Water Project, for example, over which Brown lavished so much affection for which he gained the affection of southern water users and agribusiness, is the essence of "paper water" in one project. It was over-committed when it started and it still is.
Meanwhile, in another part of California, north of the Delta, public school students, some of whose parents are commercial fishermen who had no salmon season this year, are engaged in a project that makes more sense that all the McClatchy Co. editorials and political posturing on water combined:
Eureka Times Standard
Salmon program officially on track for January...John Driscoll
After suffering a near-death experience, the renowned Salmon in the Classroom program is officially back on.
The California Department of Fish and Game sent a letter to some 33 Humboldt County classrooms recently confirming that the project has been saved due to popular support.
Beginning in January, some 700 students will raise steelhead in aquariums in their classrooms before releasing them into the Mad River, according to the letter from Fisheries Program Manager Steve Turek.
When a position to run the decades-old program was announced by Fish and Game to have been purged in October, the news was met with angst about losing a valuable teaching tool, and anger over the perception that the department's administration of the program made it vulnerable.
But concerned teachers and fisheries experts moved quickly to support Salmon in the Classroom, and worked with Fish and Game and the Humboldt County Office of Education to restore it.
After a few weeks of wrangling and further support from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Green Diamond Resource Co., the program was whipped into shape again.
”The program is rolling,” said retired teacher and biologist Jeff Self, hired as a contractor to oversee the program. “It's really exciting.”
Around the end of January, classrooms will begin to set up their aquariums using water from Mad River Fish Hatchery and ensure consistent operation for at least a week.
Steelhead eggs will be brought in around the beginning of February. They'll take about two to three weeks to hatch, and students will help rear them for another four to six weeks, Self said, when they'll be ready to be released below the hatchery in Blue Lake.
Self hopes that veteran teachers, especially those retiring or moving to other classrooms, can help pass on their skills to other teachers, which may help expand the program in the future.
Ethan Heifitz, who previously ran a salmon program while he was a fourth- and fifth-grade science teacher at Lafayette Elementary School in Eureka, will help other fourth-grade teachers get started. The reason for his efforts: He still has former students approach him to say that raising steelhead was one of their best school experiences.
And it's something that can be used as a means to approach other subjects, he said.
”It's just an amazing springboard for everything else,” Heifitz said.#