Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stockholm Syndrome in the San Joaquin Valley?


Yesterday, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its preliminary report evaluating the science used to justify pumping restrictions on the Delta.

The study, originally requested by Senator Dianne Feinstein and valley Democrats, was sold as proof that Congress cares about San Joaquin Valley communities. At the time it was originally announced, agriculture lobbyists and water managers hailed the study as progress. So too did radicals in the environmental movement.

Indeed, a release dated October 16, 2009 by the Environmental Defense Fund stated, “We applaud the Obama Administration for its commitment to scientifically rigorous and balanced approach.” And why shouldn’t the environmentalists support such a study? As I will now explain, turning our fate over to science represents a dangerous concession.

Farmers and water users should never have accepted the NAS study as evidence of help by Congress or the Administration. Simply put, it was not help. If anything, it was a delaying tactic that has resulted in more pain for our region, not less. Waiting on the NAS for Congress to act has meant another year and billions of gallons of lost water.

The danger associated with the NAS study is more than the delay in action it is used to justify. The very idea of conducting a study concedes that two inch smelt are rightfully preserved at the expense of San Joaquin Valley communities. I and others reject this premise and the backwards ideology that defends it.

The representatives of California’s agriculture and water interests who applauded the commissioning of an NAS study appear to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. They don’t understand that they have made a concession that will ultimately lead to their own destruction.

I have come to think of these groups as hostages. Though well intended, they have lost perspective due to their captivity. They have even begun to see their jailors as advocates. The first major concession came in 1992 with the Miller-Bradley bill, which diverted a million acre feet of water away from San Joaquin Valley communities. At the time, residents were promised that this enormous water diversion would be the last and that future water deliveries would be secure.

Of course, history demonstrates otherwise. Lawsuits, legislation and regulation have continued to attack San Joaquin Valley water supplies. In 2009, Democrats enacted the San Joaquin River settlement. This bill passed with the support of most of the hostages, Friant water districts, based on the commitment of Democratic Congressional leaders that water used to restore the river would be recirculated. It didn’t take long to uncover the truth. Water will not be recirculated. In fact, as much as 250,000 acre feet of water will be lost on an annual basis. Worse, the legislation sets up farmers on the east side of the valley for lawsuits and future water losses.

Let me be clear. Those hailing the NAS study make a dangerous concession. Congress, not God, created the Endangered Species Act. Americans can never accept the premise that the government’s responsibility to wildlife supersedes its responsibility to the people. This bizarre view is what has helped to transform the Endangered Species Act from a law seeking to ensure the conservation and responsible management of our resources to one that commands the unnatural preservation of nature.

Recent history shows us that the radicals in the environmental movement are fighting a war of attrition. They have patiently fought to remake California in their own image—a green utopia where communal gardens feed villages, windmills power homes, and commutes take place on bike trails and sidewalks. At the core of this neo-Marxist ideology is anti-capitalism and a loathing of the individual freedoms that have made America great.

To achieve their warped view of a sustainable society, radical environmentalists have been attacking rural California for years. In the 1990’s, they devastated the state’s timber industry. A total of 84 wood products mills and factories were closed. The diversion of water from rural communities and farms, as previewed by the destruction of the Klamath Basin in 2001, represents the tipping point. Without water, the culture and communities we built in the San Joaquin Valley will wither and die.

If we are going to save the San Joaquin Valley from those who want to restore it to a natural state—one that is characterized by dry land and tumbleweeds—we will have to begin to force our representatives to fight. Not just our elected representatives in Congress, but the many advocates who claim to serve the interests of rural communities, farmers and water users in our region. Stockholm syndrome is real. And if we don’t wake up and begin to fight, we will lose more than our water.