You may have spent your whole life in Northern California or even Sacramento and not been aware of the Sacramento Delta. Like its more famous counterpart in Louisiana, where they celebrate their delta and its rich cultural and culinary history, our delta is less well known except to fishermen, boaters and the farmers of this rich bottom land.
The delta as we know it was formed when levees were built to channel water instead of letting it flood and evaporate away, and this created some of the richest farmlands in the world and the second biggest fishery on the West Coast, after the Columbia. The California aqueduct was built in the early 1960s (fronted by Gov. Pat Brown who was from Los Angeles) to take water from the delta and send it to Los Angeles and the dry wastelands of the San w Valley. At that time, the fish population in the delta was estimated at 17 million. After 50 years of pumping fish habitat south, the fish population is now estimated at 4 million.
Now comes the horrifically named Bay Delta Conservation Plan, whose primary duty is to send even more water south. Its plan is to take almost the total flow of the Sacramento River, south of Sacramento so it’s not so visible and duct it through 35 miles of tunnels (two tunnels each 40 feet in diameter, larger than the “Chunnel” connecting France and England) to the Tracy pumps from which it will be sent to Los Angeles.
Southern California developers and the corporate farmers of the west San Joaquin have decided that rain that falls on our heads in Northern California belongs to them. With their wealth, they have bought the politicians who spearheaded this theft. Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles has done this before at Owens Lake, where they drained the entire lake and turned the whole area into a windblown wasteland. Remember the movie “Chinatown?” Well it’s happening again, but this time it’s our magnificent delta they plan to destroy.
Water in California is worth more than gold. The water that falls on our heads and supports the delta and bay is being stolen by Southern California interests. We will be subsidizing L.A. developers and corporate farms to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars of water over the years, and what does Northern California get back in return? A ruined ecosystem, a decimated fishery, a bay turned into a saltwater estuary and rich farmland ruined by saltwater intrusion far inland! A bad deal for everybody but the fat cats.
The BDCP is going to rape Northern California environmentally for the profits of those who want to build out their cheap arid land in Southern California. It is pushed by their money and a governor who sees his father’s legacy in the outcome. It must be stopped for the sake of the environment, for the sake of fish, for putting an end to water exploitation and geographic chauvinism. Please call your Congressmen at the state and federal level and tell them you are against the BDCP plan.
Roger Thibault lives in West Sacramento.