February 23, 2010

When the stakes are high, the L.A. Times ignores the problem

By When the stakes are high, the L.A. Times ignores the problem

Author: Brandon Middleton

According to the Los Angeles Times, the regulatory drought isn't a crisis worth solving:

Though the west valley's farms are important to the state's economy, they are located in a naturally arid landscape that's unsuited to agriculture . . . .  If cuts in water deliveries make it expensive to farm in such unsustainable places — well, maybe that's as it should be. The region should only get its water allotment if managers deem there is enough surplus to allow it.

As long as some people continue to farm, we apparently need not worry about the west side of the San Joaquin Valley:

Most of the acreage left unplanted was on the valley's west side. But other parts of the valley didn't have water problems.

This is a curious and troubling prescription, made even more so by the fact that the Times has ignored the source of the Valley's disdain. Not once in the two articles cited above did the Times mention the Endangered Species Act.

For all its talk about "competing stakeholders," the Times completely fails to deal with the uncompromising nature of the ESA and how it puts fish and other species well ahead of people. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein has accurately pointed out, the Endangered Species Act is an "inflexible instrument" — there is no bargaining table when it comes to this law.

The story in the San Joaquin Valley is painfully obvious.  The last three years have seen farmland destroyed and families displaced due in large part to environmental restrictions, and yet the federal government continues to take water from farmers and give it to endangered delta smelt and Chinook salmon, despite questionable evidence that hurting the San Joaquin Valley will help the fish.

Instead of voicing the concerns of the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and understanding how draconian the ESA is, the L.A. Times is ignoring the problem. But the Times needs to give credit where credit is due: the ESA is an overbearing, inequitable law that has exacerbated the San Joaquin Valley's catastrophe.

What to read next