To Comfort a Fish, Government Destroys Farms

As Congressmen and Senators stumble through the political process writing, negotiating, horse-trading and re-writing the thousands of pages that will empower government with dramatically increased authority over every American’s access to medical services, we should contemplate the experiences of others who have, in good faith, placed themselves at the mercy of the same political processes.Dust_Bowl

Consider the farmers of California’s Central Valley.  The Central Valley has been called the most fertile farmland in the world and the breadbasket of the America.    But for much of the valley, farming depends on the transfer of water from the north, where it is  more plentiful.  To accomplish this transfer the federal government built the Central Valley Water Project a system of dams and canals.  Construction began in the 1930s and was completed in the early 1950s.

For decades Central Valley farmers made major investments in their land and hired tens of thousands of workers based on a promise from the Federal Government that water would always be delivered through the Central Valley Project, subject to reductions in drought years.

This year, farmers on the Western side of the valley are suffering a one-two punch.  First, there is  a drought that likely would have reduced water allotments by as much as 25%.460x307-smelt__22_

But the worst hit results from a maniacal policy of The Obama Administration, through the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to cut allotments to Central Valley farms by 90% in order to divert more water into the Sacramento Delta, from where it then flows into the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

According to Administration officials this action is necessary to provide more water for the “Delta Smelt” a tiny fish that was listed as “threatened”  under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1992.

Almost 2,000 species are registered under the ESA, an act that exceeds the government’s Constitutional authority but which was passed and is enforced anyway.  Each species registration results in measures to “protect critical habitat.”  Over the past four decades incalculable damage has been done to American individuals and businesses and the economy in general by restrictions placed on the uses of public and private property in order to “protect critical habitat.”  The latest victims are the Central Valley farmers and their employees.

Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act provides no compensation to citizens who are harmed by it’s enforcement.  Because the government shut off the water  thousands of workers have lost their jobs and tens of thousands more will soon become unemployed.  The farm owners have lost or will lose their investments.

Today, the farmers and their employees are reduced to begging indifferent politicians and bureaucrats to restore the water flows they were promised.

The same Congress that created the ESA could correct this outrageous injustice

Congress could enact a one page bill that would override the Fish and Wildlife Service’s administrative orders to shut off the water to Central Valley farms.  The bill could be written, voted upon and sent to the President within 24 hours.  But, this Congress, that has voted on thousand page bills without reading them, in an atmosphere of contrived emergency, can’t seem to develop a sense of urgency around turning the water back on in the Central Valley.

Last Week Fox News originated the Sean Hannity program from one of the dry, dusty farms that was forced to stop growing food due to lack of water.  Hannity was surrounded by hundreds of desperate farmers, unemployed farm workers and their families.  But without sustained pressure it’s unlikely the political establishment will react favorably.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is suing on behalf of the farmers to force the Fish and Wild Life Service to turn the water back on.  According to documents filed with the court the Fish And Wild Life Service violated the law and it’s own procedures by ordering the water to be shut off without considering several factors including the economic impact on the farmers and their employees.  Of course law suits take many months or even years.

The lesson for the rest of us is that a promise from politicians is good only until the next special interest pressure group, in this case the avaricious  environmental lobby, can harness the power of government to force its agenda upon all of us, regardless of the consequences to innocent victims.wrench-blog-ad

1 Comment so far

  1. Drew on September 21st, 2009

    The natural reaction from lefties will be to support “the environment,” whatever that is, at all costs.

    The issue you raise is absolutely crucial to understanding why the policies of the left are job and industry killers. You said the magic word: “uncertainty.”

    Its not as if leftist politicians write a bill that says “kill jobs.” But when a businessman is uncertain as to whether his investment might be destroyed by indiscriminant policy guess what……he or she doesn’t make the investment. Its truley chilling. So be it taxes, regulation, torts or environmental whims, its a job killer.

    So while lefties pat themselves on the back about “Delta smelt,” “snail darters” or whatever, and feel of-so-good about themselves……..know that there are unemployed people out there with sad, empty eyes looking at you and asking “why are you so delighted at my pain, for the benefit of some sardine?”