Brown Grass Ahead?
The subject was the Delta smelt, a perfect enviro-species. Like the California gnatcatcher, a bird the enviros used successfully to halt development on hundreds of thousands of acres in So Cal, the smelt can be deftly handled to halt water deliveries from the Delta. The pumps that move the water southward make fish paste of the smelt, so the little fish casts a big shadow.
Why would someone want to keep folks from getting water? Because, in enviro-think, if you cut off the spiggot, you cut off growth, and for the anti-capitalist, pro-Gaea forces of Green, growth is a bad, bad thing.
The Greenies pushed hard at yesterday's hearing, with their key witness, fish prof Peter Boyle, in the witness box for six hours testifying about how the fish is at imminent risk of extinction. I've heard the words "imminent risk of extinction" cavalierly applied to so many healthy species that to me the words have no more significance than, say, McDonald's Big Mac.
But he pressed on, pushing for the Green scheme of shutting off the pumps for up to 75 percent of the time, since so few smelt remain.
Farm interests, on the other hand, argued that there are millions of Delta smelt, that a plan is in the works to protect them and no dire steps need to be taken prior to its completion, and the pumps should only be shut down less than five percent of the time.
The state came in recommending that the pumps be shut down around 50% of the time -- a huge reduction in water from the Delta.
What's really going on here
We have the Greens pushing hard for a major victory, and he have the state pushing hard for a train wreck.
The Gov has a massive water bond proposal in the works, and it's not another one of those bonds that fritters good money away on bad programs. This one would resurrect the peripheral canal, bringing No Cal water south by skirting the Delta entirely, protecting the fish and supplying the thirsty South.
The last time it was tried, mega-farmer JG Boswell stopped it in its tracks, spending millions in No Cal to gather votes against it. This time, he realizes he was mistaken and is supportive of the measure.
Schwarzenegger wants the train to crash over the smelt. He wants brown lawns, layoffs, mandatory water rationing and economic ickiness, so he can build a healthy margin for his canal bonds and avoid the defeat suffered by the earlier effort.
Trouble is, even if the bonds pass, it'll take a decade at least to build the canal -- and if we're looking at a trickling faucet the entire time, then the Greenies will gleefully watch as the So Cal economy, the largest in the nation, suffers through a long, long drought.