Sierra Club Wages Water War With Growers Over Run of Carmel River
By MARIA DINZEO
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A long-running feud between growers and environmentalists in California is now centered at the base of the lush Santa Lucia Mountains, where the Carmel River winds through the Monterey Peninsula. Growers want water to alleviate the harsh days of drought and environmentalists are fighting to protect the flow needed by steelhead trout, whose numbers are dropping sharply.
In a federal lawsuit, the Sierra Club and the Carmel River Steelhead Association claim the California American Water Company's unauthorized diversion of water from the Carmel River is responsible for the steelhead's decline. The groups say that despite their fish-rescue efforts, they cannot "prevent the death of an unknown but presumably large number of juvenile steelhead that perish as flows decline."
Growers say that environmentalists are naïve to blame them for the decreased fish populations.
"Certain environmental groups argue that certain fish species are endangered and that requires a change in the water policy in our state. Their solution is to flush more water out to the ocean and all will be good," says Joel Nelson, president of California Citrus Mutual, a growers' association.
But restricted water flow leads to crop shortages, higher produce prices, fallow land and unemployment, said Nelson, who has been in the agriculture industry for 25 years.
"But most parties are unwilling from the environmental community to connect the dots. I have my biases, but we've always been able to work issues out before, until now. You can't stop watering certain parts of the state and expect the state to survive," he said. Read More
Arguments over water are nothing new. However, the arguments today normally pit farmers and their ability to grow food for people to eat against environmentalists that seem to value things other than people or food production. It’s important to remember that no one in agriculture is advocating letting any type of species go extinct. Obviously that’s not a good option. But neither is forcing farmers from their land and causing food shortages. People need to understand that we have a very limited supply of food on this planet. When land is taken out of production it can’t be replaced somewhere else. The world just has to get by with less available land. There is plenty of water on this planet, we just need to do a better job storing it and prioritizing how it’s used.