Hannity's Central Valley - the Facts that Hannity Forgot

Never mind that drought, not endangered fish species, is what is driving low water allocations for some farmers in the Central Valley, as both the state and federal governments have recognized numerous times. 

Never mind that the State's Senior Meteorologist says that past three years will likely be among the top-10 driest three year stretches in the past 100 years. 

Never mind, as Spreck Rosekrans at Environmental Defense Fund correctly points out in an excellent blog post, that many farmers in the Valley are getting 100 percent of their supplies, despite the past three years of drought, or that California will likely see record tomato crops in 2009.  

Never mind that unemployment in the Valley is a result of the foreclosure crisis that has halted home construction, the recession and financial crisis, the drop in dairy prices, the drought, and other massive economic factors, with environmental protections playing only a small role. 

Never mind that the State announced today that statewide agricultural employment is down 0.4 percent statewide over the past year, compared to a 5 percent decline in nonfarm employment, with an 18.5 percent decline in construction employment.

Never mind that the federal pumps have been running at full capacity since July 1, and that they weren't "turned off" this winter and spring, but were instead turned down when fish were nearby.

Never mind that the Consumer Price Index shows that food prices have risen 0.4 percent  in the last twelve months, after actually dropping in price or showing no increase from February through July.

Never mind that the federal government has lavished billions of dollars in subsidies on farmers in the Central Valley, by exempting them from having to pay interest on the costs of constructing the federal water project, and that without this government program and subsidies, these farms likely could not have existed in such a dry environment in the first place. 

Never mind that thousands of sport and commercial fishermen have suffered through the closure of the salmon fishing season the past two years, resulting in thousands of people losing their jobs, business and individuals losing hundreds of millions of dollars, and devastating entire coastal communities.  Never mind that fishermen, delta farmers, hotels, tackle manufacturers, Tribes, and many others support protecting and revitalizing the Delta, because these environmental laws protect their jobs and livelihoods.

Instead, in Hannity's upside down world where facts are forgotten, we get to hear a member of Congress complain how environmentalists are "radical" for requiring the state and federal water projects to comply with the law, and how they are "without question" "tied closely to the communist party." 

Instead, we get to hear actor/former mayor Alan Autry say that President Obama is supporting acts of "domestic terror" by reducing water pumping to protect the Delta estuary, the jobs of fishermen and delta farmers, and the Delta's fish and wildlife. 

Instead, we get to hear the Governor of California blame activist judges for following the law, rather than taking responsibility for the State's role in the massive pumping increases over the past decade that have now threatened the health of the Delta estuary and the survival of the State's salmon fishery.

In reality -- a place far removed from Hannity's program -- fishermen and farm workers are both suffering from the drought and California's unsustainable water system.  There's a limited amount of water to go around, and that's why NRDC has worked for years to restore balance to the water equation and to ensure wiser use of our scarce water resources and investment in a "Virtual River" of alternative, drought proof, water supplies like water recycling and groundwater banking.  These real solutions represent an untapped source of new water supply for California that far exceeds the amount of water exported from the Delta and that will sustain California's cities, farms, and fishermen over the long term. 

But the heated rhetoric of subsidized farmers and some elected officials calling environmentalists and fishermen communists and terrorists does nothing to advance solutions to California's real water woes.  It's insulting and un-American, and part of a right wing campaign to intimidate us from speaking up in support of environmental protection or the public good.  They may spend millions of dollars on impressive media campaigns and only tell one side of the story, but they won't stop us from exercising our First Amendment rights and from protecting the environment and fishing and farming jobs that depend on environmental laws.

The finger-pointing and blame games only distract from the real problem, and instead, we should be discussing real solutions to make sure there is water for everyone - water for our homes, our farms, our fisherman, and our environment, both now and well into the future.