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Arnold’s Environmental Legacy

An Associated Press report on Tuesday, August 9 revealed that Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Governor from November 2003 through 2010, could face legal action for recently smoking a cigar at Salzburg Airport in Austria.

“Was it lit or was it cold?” the article asked. “The status of a cigar in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mouth at an Austrian airport could decide whether or not he faces legal action.”

“Smoking at airports is banned in Austria and an anti-smoking lobby said Tuesday it plans to launch a suit against the former California governor for puffing on a stogie after arriving in June at Salzburg Airport,” AP continued.

It is doubtful whether anything will come of this latest episode of the long, sordid saga of the “Governator,” arguably the worst Governor in California history for fish, fishing communities and the environment.

“Salzburg municipal legal expert Josef Goldberger told state broadcaster ORF that Arnie can ignore any requests from authorities in his homeland to respond since the charge is not covered by treaties,” AP noted.

Mainstream media refused to cover Schwarzenegger regime’s biggest scandal

While the mainstream media makes a big deal out of this latest “scandal” about Schwarzenegger and the covert relationship with his maid that resulted in the birth of a son, AP and others persistently neglected to cover the much more newsworthy and scandalous war that Schwarzenegger waged against Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations, fishing communities and Indian Tribes during his regime.

Instead, the mainstream media and corporate environmental NGOs falsely portrayed Schwarzenegger as the “Green Governor,” greenwashing his abysmal environmental policies that violated numerous state, federal and international laws.

Schwarzenegger in 2010 received awards for his “green” leadership from NRDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the “Beautiful Earth Group,” and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, and others in a carefully orchestrated campaign to greenwash his legacy before he left office.

In spite of the claims of his collaborators, Schwarzenegger’s true legacy is the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, threadfin shad, young striped bass, Sacramento splittail and other fish populations spurred by record water exports out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta from 2003 to 2006.

Rather than taking the necessary measures to restore these imperiled fish populations, Schwarzenegger tried to make things even worse by attacking the biological opinion protecting Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River spring and winter run chinook salmon, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales, along with the biological opinion protecting the endangered Delta smelt.

He relentlessly campaigned for a peripheral canal through the Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) processes and the November 2009 water bond/water policy package. Meanwhile, he fast-tracked a corrupt Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative that does nothing to “protect” the ocean from water pollution, oil drilling and spills, military testing, corporate aquaculture, habitat destruction and other human uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

When Schwarzenegger left office on January 2, 2011 after waging an unprecedented war on California fish populations and fishing communities, millions celebrated his departures.

Arnold’s true environmental record exposed

Schwarzenegger’s real environmental legacy is much different from how Schwarzenegger and his collaborators portray it. What was his actual environmental record?

• Schwarzenegger allowed the Department of Water Resources to pump record levels of water out of the Delta from 2003 to 2007, resulting in the Central Valley salmon and California Delta pelagic species collapses.The largest annual water export levels in history occurred in 2003 (6.3 million acre feet), 2004 (6.1 MAF), 2005 (6.5 MAF) and 2006 (6.3 MAF). Exports averaged 4.6 MAF annually between 1990 and 1999 and increasing to an average of 6 MAF between 2000 and 2007, a rise of almost 30 percent, according to the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

• He constantly attacked two federal biological opinions, released in 2009, protecting Delta smelt, Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales.

• His administration did nothing while tens of thousands of striped bass, Sacramento blackfish, Sacramento splittail and other species perished during a levee repair project at Prospect Island in the California Delta in November 2007.

• He vetoed numerous environmental bills, including vetoing a badly needed bill sponsored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) in 2008 that would provide for emergency fish rescue plans on the Delta.

• He consistently slashed funding for game wardens in the field while California has the lowest ratio of wardens to residents of any state in the nation.

• His administration directed the Central Valley Regional Water Control Board to continue to grant waivers to agricultural polluters, in spite of the dire condition of Delta fisheries.

• Since 2004, he fast-tracked the controversial, privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, a fiasco ridden with conflicts of interest, institutional racism and corruption. Rather than creating marine protected areas that truly protect the ocean, this initiative kicks sustainable fishermen and gatherers off the water while refusing to deal with pollution, coastal development, military testing, wave energy projects and other human uses of the ocean that imperil marine life and ecosystems.

• As Schwarzenegger fast-tracked the privately-funded MLPA fiasco, he twice vetoed two crab pot limit bills needed to preserve California crab fisheries.

• Schwarzenegger introduced a bill that would allow the lame-duck Governor to choose 25 development projects each year that would be exempt from the state’s strict standards under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

• The Governor’s Office of Pesticide Regulation on December 1, 2010 inexplicably approved methyl iodide to replace the soil fumigant methyl bromide, even though methyl iodide is even more toxic to animals, fish and people than methyl bromide.

Schwarzenegger’s water policies led by peripheral canal campaign

However, the “crown jewel” of Schwarzenegger’s water policies was his campaign to build a peripheral canal/canal and new dams through his Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Plan processes. This construction of a canal/tunnel, estimated to cost anywhere from $23 to $53.8 billion, is likely to lead to the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail and other species.

In his zeal to build the canal, Schwarzenegger tried to sabotage the campaign by the Klamath, Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes, fishermen and environmentalists to remove four Klamath River dams by including $250 million for Klamath River dam removal in an unpopular water bond that creates the infrastructure for a peripheral canal and new dams. Because it would have faced certain defeat at the polls last November, Schwarzenegger and the Legislative leadership postponed the water bond until November 2012.

In addition, the Schwarzenegger administration granted agribusiness permits to divert water from the Scott and Shasta rivers, resulting in the de-watering of these Klamath River tributaries at tremendous risk to endangered coho salmon. Schwarzenegger’s “scorched earth” policy towards the Scott and Shasta forced Earthjustice to file a lawsuit against the Department of Fish and Game on behalf of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Klamath Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, the Quartz Valley Indian Tribe, Northcoast Environmental Center and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC).

While his record regarding fishery and water issues is arguably the worst of any Governor in California history, Schwarzenegger’s portrayal by the mainstream media and corporate environmental NGOs as a relentless advocate for “clean energy” is also very deceptive. Former Senator Sheila Kuel eloquently exposed the myth of the “Jolly Green Giant” in her article, “A Lame Duck Governor Fabricates A Hoped-For Legacy,” in the California Progress Report on July 29, 2010.

Brown administration continues Arnold’s policies

Unfortunately, Governor Jerry Brown and Natural Resources Secretary John Laird are forging ahead with the three most notorious environmental policies of the Schwarzenegger regime – the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build a peripheral canal, the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create questionable “marine protected areas,” and the massive export of northern California water to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies that has resulted in record numbers of Sacramento splittail and other fish species perishing at the state and federal water project Delta pumping facilities this year.

An astounding 8,966,976 splittail, 35,556 chinook salmon, 430,289 striped bass, 54,412 largemouth bass, 69,383 bluegill, 76,570 white catfish, 28,301 channel catfish, 233,174 threadfin shad, 264,171 American shad, 1,642 steelhead and 51 Delta smelt were “salvaged” in the state and federal water export facilities from January 1 to August 2, 2011, according to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) data.

The staggering losses of Sacramento splittail and other fish species in the death pumps of the state and federal water projects on the California Delta are taking place as the Brown and Obama administrations export record volumes of water to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies, continuing the fish killing legacy of the Schwarzenegger administration.

To read an excellent investigative piece by Patrick Porgans and Lloyd Carter about the legacy of Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown and his two children, current Gov. Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown and Kathleen Brown, and their connection to public bonds, budget deficits, the Bay-Delta Estuary conflict, and the November 2012 water bond measure, go to:http://www.lloydgcarter.com.

Dan Bacher can be reached at: Danielbacher@fishsniffer.com

More articles by:

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

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