‘Shock and awe’ not right for San Joaquin Valley water fight
The farmers of the Central Valley have for years argued that they get little sympathy from state water bureaucrats despite their huge importance to California’s economy in arguably the world’s most fertile agricultural region.
Given the political influence of Golden State environmentalists – some of whom consider “Big Ag” one of the worst aspects of “modern civilization” – these farmers have reason to worry about fair treatment. It’s why last Monday hundreds of them gathered at the state Capitol in Sacramento to protest a plan being considered by the California State Water Resources Control Board to divert some water supplies from farmers to the lower San Joaquin River and three of its tributaries from February to June to try to boost the declining population
But instead of considering the vast number of variables in the water debate and carefully crafting a new approach, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to come up with farreaching changes on short notice. On Aug. 17, Zinke issued a memo to his staff ordering the creation within 15 days of a plan to force federal and state officials to maximize water supplies to the Central Valley and to streamline how his department interprets relevant environmental laws, starting with the
Endangered Species Act.
This seems much more like an invitation to protracted litigation than a constructive approach to effecting change. Dramatic “shock and awe” tactics may work for military attacks, but seem less likely to be successful in public policy debates.
The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board won’t judge Zinke’s initiative until its specifics are issued. But our hopes are not high.