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Investor’s Business Daily says I live in Zimbabwe:

Yet far from being a paradise, Fresno is starting to resemble Zimbabwe or 1930s Ukraine, a victim of a famine machine that is entirely man-made, not by red communists this time, but by greens.

State and federal officials, driven by the agenda of environmental extremists, have made it extremely difficult for the valley’s farms, introducing costly environmental regulations and cutting off critical water supplies to save the Delta smelt, a bait fish. It’s all driving the economy to collapse.

In the southwest part of the Central Valley, water allotments as low as 10% of normal have created a visible dust bowl. The knock-on effect can be seen in cities like Fresno, where November’s unemployment among the packers, cannery workers and professional fields that make agriculture productive stands at 16.9%.

Other Central Valley cities such as Hanford-Corcoran, Merced, Modesto, Stockton and Visalia-Porterville have similar jobless numbers, the highest in the country. The Wal-Mart Foundation notes that “24.1% of families in this community (Fresno) cannot afford regular meals compared to a national average of 9.2%.”

I live in Merced, one hour north of Fresno. The city and county of Merced get their names from the Merced River. That river was originally named El Rio De La Nuestra Senora De La Merced (The River of Our Lady of Mercy) by some Spanish explorers who were dying of thirst until they found the stream of agua fria that originates from Yosemite.

The climate around here is called “semi-arid.” We get plenty of precipitation, the problem is 90%+ comes between November and March. Some drops on our heads and the rest ends up as snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas.

Back in the old days the Central Valley was an impassable swamp during the Winter and Spring and a dusty desert in the Summer and Fall. Then dams and irrigation canals were installed.

We have great soil for growing stuff and good weather too. With hydroengineering we became an agricultural powerhouse. Like most agricultural areas that never translated to a high standard of living but we did okay.

Lately things haven’t been quite so rosy, but the reason isn’t the Delta Smelt. We have two main problems. The first is human population, here and down south. Too much of our water is wasted creating green oasis with manicured lawns, flower gardens and swimming pools, here and in Los Angeles.

But the biggest problem is persistent drought. When I was a kid we had an occasional dry year between the normal wet years. Letely we get an occasional wet year in between dry years. The general consensus is the cause of this increasingly arid climate is a thing called “global warming.”

I’d say the environmentalists have won this round.

BTW – Investor’s Business Daily should have thought twice about running this story when Sierra snowpack is 200% of average and we’re dealing with flooding. It might have given them a little more credibility.

Delta Mendota Canal

33 Responses

  1. vVctor Davis Hanson did an interesting column on the two californias you might find interesting, regardless of his politics. I live due west of you and we have had a fair amount of rain, but because of the city’s fathers’and mothers’ shortsightedness and population manipulation, we are now facing desal as a water source.

    Also, you might want to check the average daily water consumption of So Cal. It is pretty good. Gone are the days of the kids being taught that there is nothing but swimming pools down there wasting water. My family lived in S. Orange County and they were so far ahead of building the infrastructure (purple plastic pipes for those you you who might have seen it elsewhere) for utilizing recycled water for their lush landscaping uses of public open spaces.

    I work with a guy who was complaining about “our water” in reference to Northern California/Sierra being transported to Southern California. As I said before, we are in coastal California. I said to him “what do you mean OUR water? It needs to be transported east/west hundreds of miles instead of the north/south transport to southern California. So what makes it OUR water?” Made him think about it. California is a funny place, isn’t it, myiq2xu? I think it is ungovernable.

    • Six or seven regions with their own individual environment and personality.

      SoCal (LA to SD), Desert, Central Valley, Central Coast, SF Bay Area, Sierra Nevada and NorCal. Eight if you count Owens Valley separate.

      Piece of cake to govern.

      • Oh yeah, I saw the VDH piece.

        He was longing for the days when liberals ruled California.

      • Many conversations have been held by northern Californians about dividing CA in half and cutting S. CA off.
        They use all “our water” and there are too many of them and they are mostly republicans anyway.

    • When I lived in Santa Cruz the water from the tap still smelled and tasted like sewage water. Apparently, the earthquake blended the two and they never really resolved it.

      I guess the fresh water was supposed to clean the pipes.

      You would think a bunch of hippies might get on the case of awful water, but no.

      • karma, that is untrue. Please don’t spread these kinds of false stories. The water here is good and is frequently tested to Ca Dept. of Health standards. Some wells do have problems with high nitrates from animal runoff and septic systems, but public wells are highly monitored. I will say that the water in Southern California (LA county) smelled like whiffs of tar/asphalt. but, there were no deleterious substances in it and it far exceeded all requirements.

        • The worst drinking water I ever saw was at my aunt and uncle’s in Barstow. They lived on the west side of town, about a mile from Hinkley. You may have heard of Hinkley.

          It was the town featured in Erin Brockovich

        • It isn’t a false story. Sewage water must have backed up into the house lines, the residents all around made the same claim. Or maybe it was untreated and made it to their houses from the treatment plant, but people notice when the water comes out brown after a huge earthquake that almost condemns their homes. It is something people remember.

          And to add a bit more to their claims, there was a distinct smell and taste when I lived there a few years later.

          You can pretend it didn’t smell but I lived there years before the quake….no smelly water…and then after the quake….smelly water and lots of places to buy filtered water.

          • In 1989 I lived on Gilda Way in San Jose.

            That is 10-12 miles from the epicenter at Loma Prieta.

          • That must have been quite the ride to be so close. Were you home that day or did you have to try and commute home after the quake?

          • I was home and had the WS pregame on the TV and was cooking dinner. I lived in an upstairs apartment.

            There wasn’t much damage in Santa Clara county. My then-wife was driving home and made it without incident. Our power was off for a little while and we had some broken dishes to clean up but other than that it was it was just a good scare.

            The aftershocks were fun too.

            Then the power came back on we started seeing the real damage. The Cypress collapse would have killed thousands if everyone hadn’t gone home early to watch the game.

          • Wow…that must have been something to have a bit more than usual damage with broken dishes and no power. To then see the rest of the bay area.

            Without a doubt, the WS saved lives. It would have been a parking lot in and on the Cypress without the ball game.

          • I remember thinking “I lived through the Big One!”

            Then they told us it wasn’t the Big One.

            I moved back to the Central Valley after that.

          • I was at work in Fremont. All of these out-of-state people we worked with were staggering around the office, with bugged-eyes, while a few held on to building supports like they were hugging trees. None of them stood in doorways. Though we tried to get to them to, since it was the first time any of us Californians decided this was the one quake where it might be important.

            The manufacturing (we did software) dept all ran towards these huge, plate glass windows in our building, causing the manager to scream at them to get away. Then they ran outside, which was safer, but he was still worried about light poles and such. He said it took a few years off of his life watching all of those people run for windows that looked like they were going to shatter. They bowed in and out and then just shook violently.

            All I tried to remember is which was the door opened if we had to bolt. The front door opened opposite of logic. Normally, everyone failed opening the door and we all worked there. But it was next to one of those huge windows so going over and checking wasn’t going to happen. And of course, the out of state people needed our attention even if they didn’t listen.

            None of us had been with so many out of state people in a big quake. So it was view through their eyes.

        • They didn’t ask residents to boil water because everything was peachy with the system. Lots of water and sewage lines broke.



          Damage to the water supply appeared to hit hardest at outlying cities in the San Francisco Bay Area located closer to the quake’s epicenter. In the Santa Cruz area, officials advised residents Tuesday evening to boil all water because of concerns about broken water and sewer lines. “

          • “concerns.” While sewer and water lines were compromised, along with gas lines and buildings knocked off of their foundations, people were not drinking sewage contaminated water. The L.A. Times article you link to was written 3 days after the quake. As you know, the county was pretty isolated due to a downed freeway, cracks and “concerns” over hwy. 17 . The winter storms and high tidal surges have done more damage to sewers in the area over the years than the L.P. earthquake. I was in the midst of it working on the emergency. And no, I don’t work for the disliked FEMA.

          • A review of a hotel in Santa Cruz from 2005.


            “The water smells and tastes disgusting (an egg-y, sulphur-y smell hits you the moment you turn on the tap)”

  2. well, we are certainly not a dust bowl this year… underground aquifers should be filled to capacity in addition to the Sierra snowpack…

    here in the midst of the desert, we got 18″ of rain in that last big storm… (doesn’t hurt I am glued to the side of a mountain)

  3. IBD is a fascist newspaper. It has good information about stocks, but that’s it. Stay away from its editorials because it has its head way inside where the sun don’t shine.


  4. There are drought conditions all around too. I live in a temperate rainforest, but it has had drought the majority of years for the last couple of decades. It’s all relative as there is enough water to sustain the farms and population, but we’re used to a lot more. If the trend continues, who knows.

  5. Here are a couple of very interesting posts from a buddy of mine. First, there’s the relatively untold story of the Delta levee system. Second, diversions to SoCal? You might be surprised.

    As for the future, no one in CA is going to take water from other regions outside of established water rights. We’ll reuse a lot of waste water, and purify more. The nonsense about farmers getting screwed? They should drop the Yosemite Sam act.

  6. Oh, driving the length of I-5 is an education. It seems like 99% of un-farmed parcels have identical signs that say, “Congress-created dust bowl.” Kind of a Birchite aesthetic. Very organized, very US Chamber, Rush Limbaugh-like operation.

    And which industry is the largest in the CA economy? Energy? High tech? Aerospace? Manufacturing?

    Nope. Ag. They control the CA GOP, and the CA Congressional delegation. That’s why we’ll always have a border open to undocumented labor, and why the GOP will always keep the base fired up with an issue they have no interest in resolving.

    • California farming has never been 40 acres and a mule. It’s “Agribusiness.” Big corporate farms.

      • Farming does seem to be done under banners more worthy of a distopian flick rather than under actual family names. But big CA family farms do exist too, run mostly by families going back roughly 130 years. I like to say they go back to when their ancestors killed off the Indians. That always draws chuckles from non-farmers. Not so much from the decedents of the initial Anglo farmers who, well, you know.

      • History just might record that the moment when the USA started to go to hell was when farming turned into “agribusiness”.

        Big Ag has given us the capitalist equivalent of the old Soviet collective farms, although at least they work better than the Soviet CFs–so far.

        • IMO, soon enough petroleum will become too expensive for Agribusiness to exist. Growing strawberries in Chile and shipping to CA in January will be an amazing fairy tale when people in 2050 look back at 2010.
          Petroleum fertilizers are actually stripping the fertility from soils. The concentrations of irrigated water is adding to soil salinity.
          Big Agri farming is a short term prospect. Another 100 years and it will not exist.

  7. Great…Hillary can’t cry but 2010 has been the year of the man tear.


    Not that there is anything wrong with a man showing emotion except they flipped out when Hillary shed a tear over the entire country.

    And at the bottom of the article, women still aren’t allowed to cry.

    • Actor David Arquette told Howard Stern on the radio in October he had cried in the aftermath of having sex with another woman after his split with Courteney Cox. He lamented the loss of intimacy with the “Cougar Town” star; he didn’t comment on his new partner’s post-coital emotional state.


  8. myiq, I’m originally from the Central Valley (i.e. Mendota), and I do think the environmental legislation protecting the smelt has delivered a devastating blow to the farmers there. Sure, there has always been drought in the CV and N-S water politics has always come into play, but I can’t help but think that this draconian environmental law is an attempt to bankrupt CA agri-business and shift this industry to Brazil (the future food basket of the world). Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chinese (or other nations) start buying up bankrupted farms/ranches in the CV. They’re already buying up water supplies in this country (if Jesse Ventura is correct), so why not land used for agriculture? I just don’t think it’s all about the usual drought in the Central Valley; global economics and politics are at play here, IMHO.

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