let's open Californians' eyes to Endangered Species Act reform


In response to an article on the possibility of drought exceptions for the delta pumps, PLF Vice President Dave Stirling wrote the following letter to the editor of the Stockton Record:

The Record's article last Tuesday called "Delta bill rekindles debate on exports" reports that Reps. George Radanovich and Dennis Cardoza have introduced legislation creating a "drought" exception to the Endangered Species Act's harsh species first-people last mandate.

Since the Supreme Court declared that Congress intended the ESA to preserve species "whatever the cost" (TVA v. Hill, 1978), lower federal courts have treated it as a "superstatute," enabling species preservation to trump human interests in nearly all circumstances. As a result, environmentalists' lawsuits to preserve species are nearly always successful, while people's health and safety, jobs and businesses, and property rights are nearly always losers.

In December 2007, a federal court ordered the federal and state pumps near Tracy that propel Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water to the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California shut down when young Delta smelt were near the pumps. This reduced water deliveries 30 percent in 2008. With less precipitation expected in 2009, deliveries could drop 90 percent.

So here's the choice. On one hand, Delta smelt have been declining for more than 35 years and will likely become extinct from multiple causes regardless of how much effort or funds are expended to preserve them. On the other hand, a potential 90 percent reduction of water to 25 million people for household and business purposes, and for irrigation to California's $32 billion-a-year agricultural industry could lead to unimaginable health, economic and social consequences.

Maybe this horrendous impact will finally open Californians' eyes to reforming the Endangered Species Act.