Yesterday, the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) filed a petition to eliminate environmental protections for California's salmon and other endangered fish. PLF and some water users are trying to perpetuate a myth that Californians must choose between people and fish.
Only one small problem - it's a myth.
As George Skelton points out in the LA Times today, the "people versus fish" myth ignores the thousands of jobs in fishing businesses across California that depend on what happens in the Delta and our rivers. Mike Hudson, a commercial salmon fishermen, wrote a compelling rebuttal to PLF's petition yesterday, explaining how the Endangered Species Act protects fishing jobs, and how the closure of the salmon fishery for the past two years is causing job losses and economic pain that's rippling through coastal communities. Mike's piece is online at http://www.onearth.org/node/1340.
As California has demonstrated time and time again, protecting the environment protects California's jobs, our economy, and our quality of life.
Communities across the state are struggling because of three years of drought, from El Centro in the Imperial Valley (which has the highest metro area unemployment in the U.S.) to Mendocino County, from the coast to the San Joaquin Valley. The recession, drops in dairy and some crop prices, the foreclosure crises, and numerous other economic factors are playing a huge role in causing unemployment across the State.
But those communities that have a diverse portfolio of water sources, including alternative water supplies, have done the best job of weathering the past few dry years, and they will be best positioned to deal with the effects of climate change. Ultimately, reducing reliance on the Delta for water supply, and developing regional water solutions that invest in alternative water supplies like water recycling and the other water supply tools in the "Virtual River," is the best solution to meet the water needs of farmers, businesses, residents, fishermen, and the environment, as the Governor's Delta Vision Strategic Plan recommends.
Fallowed fields, closed fisheries, and the collapse of native fish populations like salmon are all symptoms of California's water woes. California can choose to reduce reliance on the Delta and invest in alternative water supplies so that we can restore and sustain salmon and try to restore a healthy Delta estuary for future generations, or we can throw away our natural heritage, fishing jobs, and the Delta farmers and fishermen that depend on these protections -- and end up having to make these same investments in alternative water supplies a couple of years later, having squandered our environmental legacy.
California needs water solutions that benefit all Californians and protect our shared environmental heritage -- not more rhetoric.