Friday, October 2, 2009

Jon Stewart and I

Jon Stewart and I both had two things on our mind this week: California's Bay-Delta and global warming. The clip from the Daily Show is below. Presumably, he thought about some other stuff too, but I haven't really.

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in the company of some West Coasters who were in Washington DC to highlight how severe an impact the ecological collapse of the Delta is having on people. While industrial irrigators and other opponents have been trying to portray the issue as being hungry farm works suffering because of protections for the Delta Smelt, the issue is much more complex and directly impacts people up and down the West Coast.

The folks I spent the week with include Laura, who operates a restaurant and fish market on the coast in central Oregon. Her business also used to feature a fish wholesale market, with annual revenues close to $1 million. But, 75% of that wholesale business was locally caught salmon. The Bay-Delta was the second largest salmon source on the West Coast outside of Alaska. Salmon from the Delta made up 60% or more of the salmon caught off the Oregon coast. But no more. This is the second year of salmon fishing closures due to a lack of salmon. She can barely get enough fish for her restaurant and retail market (which, by the way, together provide 40 jobs in her small coastal town and served over 130,000 people last year).

Two of the others we were with are salmon fisherman from Half Moon Bay, California now in their second year of unemployment. There are not enough fish to catch without jeopardizing the future of the salmon and the salmon industry. They know that you can't kill off the smelt and save the salmon or their jobs. Just like you can't kill off the smelt and protect the farmers that live and work in the Delta.

There are many reasons the Delta is in a state of collapse. Three years of drought has made it worse and has resulted in some water users - those with junior (i.e. non-guaranteed) water rights - not getting as much water as they would in wet years. They'd have you believe if you just let the smelt go extinct and disappear forever, everything would be fine. Well, you can't squeeze water from a fish. We need to all be working together to implement the solutions that will restore the health of the whole Delta and enable water to continue to be used elsewhere. Fortunately, the Interior Department and National Marine Fisheries Service have been standing up to heavy political pressure, defending their sound science and seeking real solutions.

As for global warming, you've likely heard that Senators Kerry and Boxer have released a draft of new legislation aimed at reducing global warming pollution. It contains many of the improvements we were seeking over the House legislation. It still needs work, but it is a positive step forward. More details on that to come.

Jon Steward missed just one thing I wish he would have pointed out. During this clip, you'll see Sean Hannity and Paul Rodriguez chanting to "turn the water on." Just one problem with their request: the pumps have been on full blast for three months now.


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