Water Sanity For Central California
Investors Business Daily
Water has dried to a trickle due to man-made drought conditions.
Published May 20, 2010
Law: A federal judge has struck a blow for California's water-deprived Central Valley, ruling that draconian federal water cutbacks violate human rights because - surprise! - people also belong in the ecosystem.
Next time a concept like, say "death panels" from the federal government seems far-fetched, consider the ordeal California's Central Valley has endured for the past two years.
Based on a judicial ruling, some of the most prized and productive agricultural land in the country was turned into a wasteland after its water was shut off.
The ruling was derived from an 800-page "biological opinion" put out by regulators enforcing the National Environmental Policy Act, ostensibly to protect a finger-sized fish called the delta smelt and some other wildlife. Regulators complained that smelt were getting ground up in pumping stations that brought river water from California's north to its south, so the water had to stop.
Even the judge was appalled at being forced into the ruling but had no choice, given the law, and tried to cushion the impact.
Tuesday, that same judge, District Judge Oliver Wanger declared to federal regulators that they must consider the impact of their "draconian" actions on human communities, something they've never done up until now.
"Federal defendants completely abdicated their responsibility to consider alternative remedies," Wanger wrote.
He also ripped into the environmental regulators for their junk science "guesstimates," stating that their shut-off "lacked factual and scientific justification, while effectively ignoring the irreparable harm (their regulations) have inflicted on humans and the human environment," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
It's a landmark ruling that makes a superb use of checks and balances on power, given that up until now, these bureaucrats have never been held accountable for their actions.
It also has a nice symmetry with current laws, given that businesses must examine at great cost the environmental impact of their actions on even the smallest changes to their businesses for the sake of regulators. Now environmentalists are on notice that they'd better start looking at what they do to communities next time they insist on protecting a fly or a fish.
It can't happen too soon. The water shut-off has been a nightmare for California.
Huge farms growing the world's finest grapes, peaches, almonds, pistachios,
plums and walnuts - as well as cotton, carrots, cantaloupe and the other lush
truck crops that come out of California's temperate weather and rich soil -
have gone fallow.
Adding insult to injury, water has increasingly been turned into a bargaining chit, with Washington using access to it as political leverage to force local congressmen to vote for unpopular bills like health care reform.
But the worst part of these decisions is the high human cost. California's communities have suffered terrible disruption, with unemployment as high as 45% in some towns and farm workers forced to stand in food lines for bags of Chinese-grown carrots near fields they once harvested.
Socialists of all stripes have an awful record on land issues.
From communist China's harsh uprootings of population to build the massive Three Gorges Dam to Hugo Chavez's expropriations of farms in Yaracuy, Venezuela, there are always great costs from bureaucrats who claim good intentions for their environmental schemes. Even so, it boggles the mind that such disruptions could happen here. But they have.
Fortunately America's democracy, with its separation of powers, has now broken up the environmental regulators' monopoly.
Judge Wanger is a hero for ruling that federal water regulators must consider the impact of their rulings on human communities along with the fish they seek to protect. Americans' rights have been trampled by out-of-control environmentalism, which at times seems to grant more rights to fish and other creatures than humans.
No community should have to bear the entire brunt of a man-made water shortage because of heartless, ignorant bureaucrats.
The judge's ruling has restored some sanity into what has up until now been an atrocious out-of-control bureaucracy.