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Contrary to what LA may think we get it in the 209
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“We” — referring to those of us that live, work and play in the Northern San Joaquin Valley — supposedly don’t get it when it comes to the importance of the environment.
This nugget of wisdom was offered by pundits in reaction to how many of us in the 209 believe the myopic plan to ratchet up unimpaired flows from February to June on the Stanislaus, Merced and Tuolumne rivers will do fish little if any good while causing severe damage to farming, urban water users in the three counties, body slam the regional economy, and even hurt the environment away from the three previously mention rivers.
I’m not too sure what “we” don’t get.
I hike in the high Sierra, not the Hollywood Hills. I eat almonds grown in the San Joaquin Valley, not the San Fernando Valley. My neighbor fishes the Tuolumne River, not the Los Angeles River. The kids down the street raft down the Stanislaus River, not the Santa Ana River.
And if the self-proclaimed defenders of nature on Wilshire Boulevard or at 202 West First Street in LA are really concerned about protecting fragile river systems and precarious “natural” fish populations they might want to direct some of their indignity at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and demand unimpaired flows into Mono Lake and Owens Lake be ratcheted up as well.
There are few things in California that are as nature intended. Los Angeles circa 2017 is about as far away from the natural order of things as Van Halen is from being a Perry Como-style crooner.
If anyone thinks the Stanislaus and its sister rivers that flow through the 209 consists of fish that have lived 100 percent as intended by nature with no help from hatcheries they also probably think Mother Nature laid down concrete for steelhead to spawn in centuries ago on the Los Angeles River.
California is what it is — not what it was.
Ninety-six percent of the old growth coastal redwoods have been logged. They didn’t end up being used as lumber on valley farms. Most of it went to build homes and such in coastal cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Ninety-seven percent of the San Joaquin Valley’s riparian oak woodlands are gone. They were cleared not to feed those living on the land, but the stomachs of those in urban centers.
Yes we’ve killed off the California grizzly bear. But before saying some gun nut in Fresno County in 1922 killed the last known California grizzly bear let’s not forget they once roamed not more than a century or so ago in great numbers from what is now the Marina del Rey beach to the foothills east of Irvine in Orange County.
Much of the destruction of natural California was done for the expressed benefit of Los Angeles and San Francisco. It might surprise the folks who wash their cars with water diverted from the Sacramento River watershed or hose out garbage cans with water diverted from the creeks that feed Mono Lake that people in the Northern San Joaquin Valley don’t want this region to become Los Angeles 2.0.
In fact the three watersheds they are so worried about when it comes to the welfare of fish — the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced — have been maintained as fairly decent habitats for fish because local irrigation districts have operated the rivers with respect and not with a rip-off of the “LA first strategy.”
LA has severely altered and created substantial ecological damage to rivers and water basins so growth that couldn’t be sustained by water sources within the LA Basin could continue at the expense of the rest of California.
By the way, “we” do get the fact that we are Californians. That doesn’t mean since we understand the diversity of this state’s various regions coming together is what makes us vibrant as a place to live and as an economy means we are willing to be abused for the common good as defined by Los Angeles.
 The task at hand now is to fashion a balanced use of all developed water sources while finding new ways to conserve and manage water. Both Los Angeles and farmers have significantly reduced water consumption per capita and per acre over the past 30 years.
We need to better manage what storage and conveyance systems we have in place now and not do so simply on a snapshot from February to June focused solely on one region of the state.
Anyone that benefits from a drop of Stanislaus River water — even if it is indirectly to replace flows reduced because they have taken water from another watershed — should share in water cutbacks to help fish.
LA boosters have spent more than a century culling the herd to prey on politically weaker watersheds.
It’s time we act — when it comes to water — as if that there are 39.5 million Californians and not just the 19 million served by the Metropolitan Water District.