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Arnold and the Manufactured Drought

by DAN BACHER

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his relentless desire to destroy the imperiled California Delta and its ecosystem, yesterday used the manufactured “drought” as his excuse to push for his outrageously expensive $9.3 billion water bond.

Nowhere in his statement following the Department of Water Resources’ Drought Summit held Thursday in Sacramento did he mention the real reason for the current “drought” – the draining of Shasta, Folsom, Oroville and other California reservoirs over the past two years to serve the needs of subsidized corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

At the meeting, members of the Schwarzenegger Administration and federal and local water officials “discussed the current drought and ways to alleviate the effects of ongoing dry conditions,” according to the Governor’s office. The Department of Water Resources also announced the creation of the 2009 Drought Water Bank, which will purchase water from “willing sellers” and transfer it to water agencies that are at risk of experiencing water shortages next year due to drought conditions.

“California’s drought is impacting our economy, our agriculture and our families, and an end to these dry conditions is nowhere in sight,” Schwarzenegger said. “We are facing the potential for another dry year in 2009, which is why my Administration is actively planning for an ongoing drought and working to alleviate the effects of the state’s dry conditions. The Water Bank program will help by providing water to communities who need it most.”

Of course, Schwarzenegger’s idea of “providing water to communities” who need it most doesn’t include providing clean drinking water for residents of rural communities in the San Joaquin Valley whose wells are contaminated by pesticides, herbicides and toxic salts and metals resulting from unsustainable corporate agribusiness practices.

Then Schwarzenegger made his push for his “compromise” water bond proposal, an environmentally destructive plan that would build Temperance Flat and Sites reservoirs and lay the groundwork for the constructive of a peripheral canal to ship water around the Delta.

“While we are taking action to address the state’s drought situation, there remains an urgent need for Californians to step up conservation efforts and for the legislature to pass a comprehensive water plan that will ensure California has the water it needs to keep our economy strong and our people working,” Schwarzenegger stated.

On July 10, the Governor and Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed their controversial plan to the legislature to “update California’s water system,” claiming that “it would put the state on the path toward restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, expanding water supplies and promoting conservation efforts that will ensure a clean, reliable water supply for California.”

What Schwarzenegger failed to mention was that 80 to 85 percent of the water from federal and state projects goes to subsidized agribusiness – much of it to drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that should have never been irrigated because of the high concentration of selenium and other toxic salts and minerals found in the soil. Rather than continuing to subsidized the “Hydraulic Brotherhood” while destroying fertile delta farmland and the largest estuary on the West Coast by building a peripheral canal and more dams, Schwarzenegger and Feinstein should be doing everything they can to take drainage impaired land out of production.

In June, the Governor issued an executive order declaring a statewide drought, which directed his state agencies and departments to take immediate action to address the serious drought conditions and water delivery reductions that exist in California. He also proclaimed a “state of emergency” in nine Central Valley counties to address urgent water needs: Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern.

Since then Arnold “the Fish Terminator” Schwarzenegger, while slashing state employee salaries and eliminating 200,000 jobs as the state faces $15.2 billion budget deficit, has campaigned with “Diane the Dammer” Feinstein to indebt the state’s taxpayers with a $ 9.3 billion bond that will result in the destruction of the California Delta. California appears to be a live screen set for a really bad science fiction/horror movie starring Arnold, the “action hero,” and his sidekick, Diane Feinstein, who weave a path of economic and environmental destruction in a parallel universe devoid of logic, sanity and common sense.

Schwarzenegger and Feinstein’s push for dams and a peripheral canal occurs in the context of the collapse of Central Valley chinook salmon and delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass, threadfin shad and other California Delta fish populations. Massive increases in water exports from the California are undoubtedly the number one factor leading to the collapse of these once vibrant and healthy fish populations. The Feinstein/Schwarzenegger water bond boondoggle, by creating the infrastructure to export even more water out of the Delta by building a peripheral canal and more dams, would be the final nail in the coffin of the Delta ecosystem.

DAN BACHER can be reached at: Danielbacher@fishsniffer.com

 

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Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.

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