Fish dying in large numbers.
Crop production on farmland plummeting.
Fragile ecological systems devastated or destroyed.
Drinking water tainted.
Get ready for the more destructive version of Los Angeles water grabs: Owens Valley 2,.0.
But instead of insatiable demand for water projects destroying a lightly populated distant valley on the eastern side of the Sierra, the trademark of Los Angeles’s complete disregard for other water basins will wreck permanent havoc on the Delta as well as Manteca, Lathrop, Tracy, Stockton, and other communities in the region.
What’s not to like to make sure LA can keep growing and protect its own local environment by not turning to desalination?
Why should the Delta smelt and a host of other fish and plant life across 1,000 plus miles of Delta waterways be sacrificed to warmer water and increased salinity so warmer water and increased salinity in close proximity to desalination plants don’t harm fish and the coastal environment in the Los Angeles area.
Los Angeles and its powerful allies that make up billion-dollar corporate farming operations in western Kern County whose “head” farmers reside in Beverly Hills mansions have no qualms with blocking relatively minor environmental destruction in its own backyard while they work 300 miles a way to secure water in a manner that would devastate an entire region.
This is what happens when Sacramento leadership takes a myopic approach to water issues instead of viewing them for what they are — components of an elaborate Rubik’s cube.
And just like a Rubik’s cube, there is a solution. It requires, however for all components to align.
A massive tunnel beneath the Delta that benefits primarily a handful of billionaire farmers such as Steward Resnick of The Wonderful Company in western Kern County and “secures” LA’s water supply is not a solution.
What it does is confer preferred status on a $5 billion nut empire owned by a farmer living on a Beverly Hills estate and sacrifices yet another region of California so the greater LA area can keep growing such as the planned Tejon Ranch project with 35,000 homes.
Yes, we need to weigh the consequences of growth locally but here’s the rub.
Whatever growth occurs here is supported by water with our water basin and we must deal with the consequences of our decisions.
Los Angeles’ continued growth — and the rest of the south state for that matter — are dependent upon siphoning water from non-local basins hundreds of miles away. The damage or opportunity costs, to use business jargon, that is incurred is not on their dime.
Salt water intrusion is a serious issue in the Delta.
That goes for reduced water flows that raise the temperature and reduce dissolved oxygen in the water.
Both can be deadly to a wide variety of fish species.
Increased salinity not only severely reduces crop yield of farmland in the Delta of which most is within San Joaquin County, but it can ultimately render soil sterile.
Add the loss of drinking water for local cities to the deadly mix of what increased salt can do.
During the 1989 drought, salt water was detected in wells as far east as Jack Tone Road. Tracy and Lathrop regularly battle salt issues in their municipal wells.
When water levels in the Delta are lowered due to drought or by some catastrophic event such as diverting Sacramento River water from flowing into the Delta by diverting via a tunnel it will have severe consequences.
Seepage in the Delta is critical to keeping salt water at bay in underground aquifers.
The Metropolitan Water Destruct’s — the mother of all purveyors of water in California — relentless drive for a Delta tunnel is being weighed in a vacuum when it comes to environmental damage.
Desalination plants on the Sothern California coast should be weighed against a Delta tunnel in terms of which one conveys the least amount of environmental damage.
The Poseidon desalination plant near Huntington Beach that was batted down was determined to be bad for the coastal environment.
That’s because the open ocean intakes would be harmful to marine life.
At the same time the plant’s return of salt to the ocean would create extra salty wastewater known as brine.
The brine would pollute local waters in the LA area with the development of dead zones.
They are called dead zones given fish can’t survive in such areas due to the lack of oxygen.
Does that sound familiar?
The big difference with salt water intrusion or increased water temperatures due to lower water flows in the Delta is that instead of just being localized it will impact an entire region.
And unlike the desalination plant rejected in the south state, the Delta has various engendered species whose very existence is at stake.
If the primary fear driving the tunnel project is the potential collapse of levees during an earthquake and the cutback of pumping at the head of the California Aqueduct to protect fish like the endangered Delta smelt, then why not go for a solution that also provides a measure of protection for the Delta?
That could involve upgrading existing levees.
It could also mean looking at a network of saltwater barriers that run the gamut of low permeability subsurface barriers and positive hydraulic barriers to negative hydraulic barriers and mixed barriers.
It may even require some type of lock system to keep port traffic moving to and from Sacramento and Stockton.
Or, better yet, why not analyze the environmental damage of desalination plants in Southern California to secure a minimum water supply in times of a catastrophic event to the damage a tunnel would inflict in the Delta?
The answer is obvious.
Los Angeles is the ultimate land of NIMBYism. They don’t want any environmental damage in their own backyard in order to take care of their water needs.
It is as simple and sinister as that.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org