It is doubtful that the authors of the Endangered Species Act envisioned their efforts would cause families to go hungry, but that is the result of environmental groups using the courts to block exports of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, according to Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition.
“No one wants to destroy the environment but radical environmental groups are using the law to forge a wedge between the basic necessities of life and fish that are classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act,” insisted Wade. “It is difficult for parents to tell their children there is not enough food to eat because of a tiny fish that lives hundreds of miles away.”
Water users south of the delta saw their supplies cut by up to 33 percent last year and as a result farmers were forced to both abandon crops already in the ground and reduce their planted acreage in the San Joaquin Valley.
Further south in San Diego County farmers cut back or “stumped” their avocado trees because of the reduced water supplies. Even farmers in the Sacramento Valley saw their deliveries curtailed.
“When water does not flow to farms, that means less acreage is harvested and people lose jobs,” Wade said. “Food bank officials in the San Joaquin Valley point to the water cutbacks as a direct link to the doubling in the demand for their services in 2008 from the prior year.
“This week’s biological opinion by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that governs the water exports from the Delta will cause the demand for food assistance to further increase in the coming year.”
A court ruling that was first issued in August 2007 set down interim rules for operations of the pumps that send water south from the Delta.
The interim rules required the federal agency to develop a revised biological opinion. The opinion incorporates the interim rules and also places a greater threat to water supplies by adding additional restrictions on water exports in the fall.
“The fall restrictions will require water to be released from our reservoirs that would normally be held in storage,” Wade added. “Reducing the water held in reservoirs creates an insurmountable threat to the following year’s deliveries if a drought occurs, as is happening now.”
The two main water delivery systems in the state – the California State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project – were built 50 years ago when the state’s population was only 16 million.
“If the people of California are going to continually lose water to these environmental actions then we must rebuild the water system that is no longer able to serve all of our needs,” Wade said. “To do otherwise would continue a hardship that will affect not only our families but also the State’s economy.”