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Valley keeps getting short end of stick

POSTED August 17, 2012 3:57 p.m.

What did the San Joaquin Valley do wrong?
First, Congress commissions a report that calls the Valley the New Appalachia. Congress responds by "helping" by unleashing the Environmental Protection Agency that pushes for new air quality standards that can't be met even if everyone in the Valley gave up their vehicles and walked barefoot to work, school, and the store.
The high-speed rail folks come up with a plan that basically replicates Sherman's March to the Sea taking out businesses, homes, farms, and even a high school just so those who can afford a $100 one-way ticket between Los Angeles and San Francisco can zip through at 220 mph.
Then the governor rolls out the 37-mile-long twin Brown Bores to carry Sacramento River water under the Delta. It would essentially shift the burden for meeting court-mandated Delta water quality to the San Joaquin River and its tributaries that are the lifeblood of the valley's No. 1 employer - agriculture.
Now a report comes out to turn up the heat even more on the Valley's economy.
The experts are saying climate change will up the temperature 2.7 degrees on average over the next 50 years from Bakersfield to Redding - two hot spots if there ever were ones - to further stress farming and devastate the Valley economy.
Granted, it may not occur. After all how many times since 1960 have the experts said that global starvation will happen due to overpopulation? Technology and more effective farming have proven them wrong time and time again. The book "Silent Spring" was a solid wakeup call but it didn't exactly correctly project the future.
Toss all of that together and one would have to wonder why the governor - who isn't exactly a skeptic on global warming, toiled with Mother Teresa in helping poor people, and seems to have a grasp on the importance of water - is sacrificing the Valley's poor for the state's rich.
Let's face it. It is doubtful that 99 percent of the San Joaquin Valley population will ever ride a bullet train basically because most of the population couldn't afford such a luxury. The high-speed train is for affluent Californians.
The weather pattern clears out the pollution created by the wealthy enclaves around San Francisco Bay and sends it eastward through the Delta, Altamont Pass, and Pacheco Pass to settle in our Valley. Studies have shown that depending upon where you are in the Valley the pollution blown in from the Bay Area accounts for between 8 and 24 percent of the Valley's air quality problem.
And if water is going to become an even scarcer commodity due to climate change, why put in motion twin tunnels to bypass water around the Delta that will ultimately rob the San Joaquin Valley of a good share of its most precious economic resource? Wouldn't investing in desalination plans make more sense? Los Angeles will eventually do that, of course, after they've commandeered all of the water from elsewhere in the state. Unfortunately with dropping water tables and already overcommitted water the San Joaquin Valley has no other options to secure water as we can't build desalination plants since there is no nearby ocean.
Just so you understand what is happening here, the San Joaquin Valley gets dirty Bay Area air while Los Angeles and the Bay Area get clean water. That's a fair trade? It gets better. The well-to-do in San Francisco and Los Angeles can save time at the airport or in cars by whisking through the Valley at 220 mph so they can go about their business and not waste time. Meanwhile, the high-speed train destroys Valley businesses and disrupts farming costing people in the Valley both time and money.
That means the Valley incurs costs of added travel to get around high-speed rail lines thanks to farms being chopped in half which in turn creates more local air pollution while urban dwellers that travel between the Bay Area and L.A. reduce their time spent traveling by riding subsidized high-speed rail.
It is becoming clearer with each passing day that the legacy that Brown says he wants to leave California will mean the poorest region of this state will pay the biggest price and get no benefit.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

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