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Environmental perfectionism can kill people
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Editor’s note: Dennis Wyatt is on vacation. This column first appeared Feb. 16, 2005 in the Manteca Bulletin.

Arboga is a sleepy Yuba County farming community.
Peach trees are the preferred crop of farmers, although healthy sprinklings of dairies also bolster the local economy.
The countryside is dotted with five-acre parcels, many owned by retirees and young families living in pockets amid sweet smelling orchards and the open pastureland typical of the eastern Sacramento Valley.
 Claire Royal, Marion Anderson and Winston Nakagawa were typical of the residents who called Arboga home. They could see the Sutter Buttes to the north rising above the banks of the Feather River.
 The Arboga trio — a retired school teacher, grandmother and World War II veteran — were “murdered” by bureaucratic red tape on Jan. 2, 1997.
Their lives were sacrificed to save a beetle.
It’s only by sheer luck that the victims of the end result of environmental zealots were Arboga residents instead of three Manteca residents.
The lives of Royal, Anderson and Nakagawa were officially attributed to drowning when the levees of the Feather River collapsed to flood more than 60 square miles and sent 32,000 people fleeing their homes.
The real culprits are those who have thrown roadblock up after roadblock to allow the fragile system of levees protecting property and lives to remain intact.
The Army Corps of Engineers in 1990 reported, “Loss of life is expected under existing conditions, without remedial repairs for major flood events.” Levee repairs were critical, the report emphasized.
Not as critical as forcing Yuba County agencies as well as the State of California to chase non-existent valley elderberry longhorn beetles.
The three Arboga residents had the unfortunate luck of living near a deteriorating section of levee home to 37 elderberry bushes.
The bushes are known to shelter the beetles.
No one — including those pressing the environmental issues — had ever seen one of the threatened elderberry beetles in the vicinity.
That, though, didn’t stop the environmental zealots from forcing nine years of studies that cost in excess of $2 million. The environmental perfection movement is more than willing to sacrifice human lives in its pursuit of questionable objectives.
Common good as well as health and safety concerns take a back seat to the environmental movement that lays its claim mostly to power conferred onto it by judges acting as legislators. And nowhere in America will environmental extremists find more judicial comfort than in the 9th District Court of Appeals based in San Francisco.
 Arboga, as well as Manteca, falls within the 9th District Court of Appeals.  This should be of little comfort to the 3,000 rural Manteca and Tracy residents who were forced to flee their homes when breaks in the San Joaquin and Stanislaus river levees flooded 70 square miles.
Manteca lucked out. No one was killed.
Next time, though, it may be our turn to suffer the same losses Arboga did.
Arboga isn’t an isolated case. It is the norm.
Farmers on Roberts Island to the west of Lathrop can tell you how long it takes for the state to process an emergency levee repair permit — over three years. That’s because any vegetation growing along a levee is covered under wildlife conservation statutes. What should take a simple, quick look to determine if there is a serious environmental concern, is turned into a massive overkill in “studies.”
The environmental perfection movement went as far as to block efforts to remove silt build-up in the cement-lined Los Angeles River five years ago. The reason? The silt-build-up on the concrete river had created little islands that were host to vegetation. Under state and federal law, the disturbance of any vegetation on a waterway requires a study and an environmental determination.
 There are a handful of obvious — and long recommended — solutions to ease the perennial flood threat to South San Joaquin County.
The state believes farmers and others “could be correct” in their assessment dredging is the answer as silt- build-up since the 1950s between Vernalis near the confluence of the San Joaquin and Stanislaus rivers and Mossdale has raised the bottom of the San Joaquin River by at least seven feet.
Sixth-grade science projects involving the impact flowing water has on erosion and the moving of debris through a model delta in a cake pan filled with dirt and sand offer proof that such phenomenal exists in nature.
 But do something about it without studying — and putting people — to death? Not in environmental perfectionist California.
 It will be a true miracle if California doesn’t one day collapse under the weight of extreme environmentalism.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.