Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, confirming the worst fears of fishing and environmental groups, called for the construction of a peripheral canal around the Delta and the building of more dams at a town meeting in Bakersfield on June 14.
This is the first time that the Governor has publicly announced his support for a peripheral canal. The voters in 1982 turned down a proposition funding a canal, due to the environmental catastrophe it was expected to inflict on the Delta, and each legislative attempt to build it has been defeated because of strong opposition by conservation groups.
The call for building a canal and more storage facilities couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Delta smelt, a small 2 to 3 inch fish that is found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is on the verge of extinction, due to massive increases in water exports by the state and federal governments over the past five years. Other species, including winter run chinook, spring run chinook, longfin smelt and green sturgeon, are expected to follow the smelt over the abyss if the Delta smelt becomes extinct.
Yet Scharzenegger has no concern whatsoever for the Delta smelt and other imperiled fish on the Delta or for following the state and federal and state Endangered Species Acts and other laws that mandate the protection of fish populations. Apparently having no knowledge of existing California dams and reservoirs, Schwarzenegger, as a prelude to his call to build more dams and a peripheral canal, claimed that no dams have been built in California since the late 1970s.
“Do you know that for 20 years well, actually since the late 70s they have not built a dam?” said Schwarzenegger. “I mean, think about that. They have not built a dam.”
In reality, a number of dams and reservoirs have been constructed in California since the late seventies. Sugar Pine Reservoir near Foresthill was constructed in 1981, San Justo Reservoir in Hollister was constructed during 1987 and Los Vaqueros near Livermore was constructed during 1994-1997.
After making this false claim, Schwarzenegger launched into his plea for construction of the peripheral canal and more water storage facilities. “And since the 80s, they have not done any conveyance, built any conveyance that delivers the water,” the Governor continued. “In the meantime, since then, we have gone from a population of 20 million to a population of 37 million.”
“We need more water,” he said. “We need more storage. We need to build more storage, and we have to build conveyance, the canal, all of those kinds of things.”
He also blasted fishing groups and environmentalists for opposing plans to build more dams and a canal, referring to a recent meeting that he had with some selected folks in the environmental community.
“I know the environmentalists don’t like to create and talk even about conveyance,” Schwarzenegger acknowledged. “They donâ t like that. And they don’t like to build more water storage. I understand it when you come from their point of view. They were up there in my office. We were all talking yesterday about it. They want to do another five year study.”
Rejecting any further study of the environmental consequences of a canal that would disrupt the Delta ecosystem even more than it is already, he called for action on building the canal and water storage facilities.
“There is no more study,” he concluded. “We have studied this subject to death. It’ s time for action.”
It appears that Schwarzenegger’s role as the “Terminator” in his movies was a prelude to his real life role as the “Terminator” of the California Delta and its fisheries. There is no doubt in my mind that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the worst-ever Governor for California’s fisheries and environment, as evidenced by his call for a canal and more dams at a time when more water conservation and less water exports are desperately needed to save the Delta.
Note: The California Department of Water Resources, after a temporary halt on pumping at its South Delta facilities after fishery biologists documented the killing of increasing numbers of Delta smelt in its pumps in late May, began exporting water again on Sunday, June 10. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, after reducing water exports down to one pump, opened up two more pumps on Wednesday to deliver water to subsidized agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Dan Bacher is an editor of The Fish Sniffer , described as “The #1 Newspaper in the World Dedicated Entirely to Fishermen”