Our Klamath Basin
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
1/3/2006 Capital Press
Price for water-for-salmon tradeoff too
Deal will cost too much to restore runs to
a river thatís been dry 50 years
Somebody has to say it. Salmon simply aren't
worth the $800 million price tag for the
restoration of the waterway that will allow
the fish to spawn in the San Joaquin River.
Perhaps even more outrageous is the value and
benefits of water that farmers in the San
Joaquin Valley must sacrifice from their
irrigation allotments to provide upstream
spawning grounds for the fish.
Environmentalists, who seem to become less
practical, more idealistic and increasingly
demanding by the day, argue that more than
salmon spawning is gained by restoration of
the river bed that has been dried up for more
than 50 years.
OK, add some greenery to hold the banks, maybe
a bridge here and there and occasional
recreational access and the price is still
The defenders of the decision to turn
significantly more water down the river
instead of storing it behind Friant Dam in
Fresno County will say the $800 million is the
high estimate for what they call improvements.
The low estimate is $250 million. Salmon
aren't worth that amount either.
Realistically the $800 million is likely to be
overrun multiple times before the mammoth
project is completed. Because work is not
scheduled to start until several agreements
are reached regarding property and rights the
cost estimates, high, low or in between, might
double even before the project begins.
Representatives of farmers in the complex
water world of California say the elements of
the stream restoration project are a
compromise. If they had not negotiated with
environmentalists, the loss of water would
have been infinitely greater.
The order to negotiate was issued by federal
Judge Lawrence Karlton in Sacramento, who
heard the suit brought against farmers, water
storage and flood control in behalf of the
salmon. The judge established himself as a
Before Friant Dam was built in the 1940s
floods of disastrous proportions plagued
Fresno and adjacent areas in heavy rain years.
Some of the water came from overflows of the
Kings River in addition to water flowing
unchecked in the San Joaquin River.
Extreme environmentalists detest dams wherever
they find them, for whatever purposes they
were constructed. They have proposed
destruction of Friant Dam. Those who were
flooded in the pre-Friant days are now joined
by multiple thousands who occupy residential
areas considered floodplains before the dams
were built at Friant and at Pine Flat on the
Farmers, as stewards of the land, used to
consider themselves the original
environmentalists. Now they can only be
dismayed by the actions of today's
environmentalism run amok. They may be among
the first to see in unbridled environmentalism
the seeds of a fascism, hungry for control,
not just of rivers, but of life itself.
While fish spawning has been the focal point
of the San Joaquin River restoration debate,
it's possible that reconstruction of the river
is helping spawn something else - rampant, out
of control, power hungry environmental
Even the highest estimates of the cost of
river reconstruction pale by comparison with
the value of rights by local citizens and
their key industries to make wise decisions
about their resources without interference by
elitist outsiders and biased judges.
Who knows; the next liberal environmentalist
crusade might be a call for voter registration
- for the fish.
Don Curlee is a veteran ag publications editor
and ag freelancer who writes on a variety of
farm-related topics from Clovis, Calif.
Monday November 07, 2011 02:39 AM Pacific
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