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An Op Ed by Dan Bacher

Schwarzenegger Still Pimping Peripheral Canal as He Declares "Fiscal Emergency"

by Dan Bacher, editor of the FishSniffer
December 19, 2008 -- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, after being given the "Outdoor Villain of the Year" award by Field and Stream magazine in September, continues to pimp the outdated concept of a enormously expensive and environmentally devastating peripheral canal as he declares a "fiscal emergency" because of the state's $11.2 billion revenue shortfall.

"Without immediate action our state is headed for a fiscal disaster and that is why with more than two dozen new legislators sworn in today - I am wasting no time in calling a fiscal emergency special session," said Governor Schwarzenegger on Thursday, December 18. "We must act now to address the current year revenue shortfall of $11.2 billion and we must implement an economic stimulus package to help retain and create jobs, keep Californians in their homes and fix the state's Unemployment Insurance Fund."

On the following day, Schwarzenegger issued an executive order to "prepare state government and its employees for the worsening state budget crisis. Without action to address the fiscal crisis, the Controller, Treasurer and Department of Finance expect the state to run out of cash in February," according to a statement from the Governor's office.

In order to prepare for this potential scenario, Schwarzenegger directed the Department of Personnel Administration to adopt a plan that would go into effect in February to implement a furlough of state employees and supervisors for two days per month. He also directed the Department to work with state agencies and departments to initiate layoffs and other position reduction and program efficiency measures to achieve General Fund savings of up to 10 percent.

"Every California family and business has been forced to cut back during these difficult economic times and state government cannot be exempt from similar belt tightening," Schwarzenegger stated. "In the state's 2008-2009 budget, we achieved reductions of $9.7 billion, but as a result of the national economic downturn, the deficit for this fiscal year has since grown to $15 billion. A mix of real revenues balanced with real long term cuts, along with economic stimulus and mortgage relief, is necessary to address the state's rising deficit, which without effective action is estimated to grow to a $42 billion General Fund budget shortfall over the next 18 months."

However, during the same week that Schwarzenegger declared a "fiscal emergency" and issued an executive order slashing the state's payroll, his hand-picked Blue Ribbon Delta Vision Task Force, against the advice of many of the members of its stakeholders group, announced its support for the construction of a peripheral canal around the Delta in its final meeting Tuesday. The peripheral canal would create the infrastructure to export more water out of the Delta to subsidized agribusiness and southern California, even though the report the task force unveiled in November called for less exports and water conservation to save imperiled fish populations.

The canal and two new reservoirs in the Central Valley, opposed vigorously by environmental justice advocates, would be part of a water bond estimated to cost anywhere from $12 to $24 billion - at at time when the state is in a severe financial crisis!

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta, pointed out this contradiction out in the organization's latest newsletter, "Delta Flows."

"Yesterday, the Governor released a statement with his advisors that the state needs a new water strategy with a new canal," said Parrilla. "With a $45 billion deficit looming over the state - which the Governor has yet to solve - it is unbelievable that the Governor and his advisors could be out touting a $12 to $24 billion water plan in order to benefit irrigating selenium loaded agricultural lands that do not drain properly."

She blasted the canal, touted by the Delta Vision panel and Schwarzenegger's staff as the "solution" to restoring the imperiled California Delta, for being a thinly veiled attempt by corporate agribusiness in the southern San Joaquin Valley to take northern California water.

"As in the past, his statement dresses the canal as the answer to the Delta's environmental crisis," emphasized Parrilla. "But as reported by friends close to Restore the Delta, representatives associated with agricultural water agencies in the Central Valley have stated in public that they are willing to pay for a canal, but are not willing to take less water in exchange for a reliable supply. In other words, as we have asserted for the last two years, the peripheral canal is seen by corporate agricultural interests in the southern part of the state as the efficient means to ship fresh water from north to south, all at the expense of Delta fisheries, Delta communities, and farmers in the northern part of the state."

As the Schwarzenegger administration makes plans to build a canal at the expense of the Delta, the "green governor" image that his public relations staff have tried to cultivate is increasingly being exposed for the fraud that it is. In its September edition, the editorial staff of Field and Stream magazine gave Schwarzenegger the "Outdoor Villain" of the year award for his role in the destruction of California's salmon and steelhead fisheries.

"Playing the rake is not new for Gov. Schwarzenegger, whose first turn as the Terminator saw him working to destroy the world instead of saving it," the magazine said. "And the governor's win will not come as any surprise to fishermen in the Golden State, where funding for salmon and steelhead restoration has been dramatically cut despite sharply declining populations for years. During the governor's tenure, the Chinook salmon fishery in California collapsed, and on May 1, 2008, commercial and recreational salmon fishing were both banned along the West Coast in California and much of Oregon."

The Governor is Consistent - in His War on Fish and the Environment!

According to Michael Gardner of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Sacramento Bureau, Schwarzenegger is expected to "lay out his priorities," including the water bond and peripheral canal, as part of his annual State of the State address in early January.

"We've been consistent," said Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman. "Now we're putting the meat on the bones. Our sense is we're on track with what he's recommending."

This is one of the few times that I've agreed with Chrisman. He's absolutely right that the Governor's office has been "consistent" - "consistent" in pursuing its war on the fish and the environment! While Chrisman and Schwarzenegger have been promoting their water bond to build more dams and the peripheral canal, salmon fishing has been closed in ocean waters off California and Oregon due to the collapse of the Sacramento River fall chinook salmon population. Meanwhile, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, threadfin shad, American shad, juvenile striped bass and other species have declined to record low levels.

Record water exports out of the California Delta and declining water quality are the primary factors in the collapse of these fish populations, although invasive species and other factors also play a role. Yet Schwarzenegger and Chrisman persist in their campaign to build the infrastructure to export more water, resulting in the further degradation of water quality.

The "scientific" justification for the Governor's canal includes the controversial PPIC report that recommended the building of a peripheral canal, in spite of all of the facts to the contrary - and the inclusion of fabricated economic data. Fortunately, Dr. Jeffrey A. Michael, Associate Professor and Director of the Business Forecasting Center at the Eberhardt School of Business at the University of the Pacific, has expanded and revised his earlier paper, "The Economics of Ending Delta Water Exports Versus the Peripheral Canal: Checking the Data of the PPIC," that lambastes the supposedly "scientific" report for its many inaccuracies. In this new version, Dr. Michael addresses the inaccuracies found in the limited rebuttal provided by the authors of the PPIC report.

"It is worth noting that the authors of the PPIC report will not publish, or allow Dr. Michael to publish, their rebuttal in full," said Parrilla. "Moreover, the authors of the PPIC report do not address the low value that they place on protecting the Delta's environment, including Delta fisheries."

The Delta Vision "plan" will be submitted to the Legislature this coming year - and you can be sure that Schwarzenegger, Chrisman and the Governor's staff will be doing everything they can to build "Arnold's Big Ditch" and more dams in order to bail out corporate agribusiness - in spite of the enormous cost to the taxpayer and our fisheries as the California economy collapses.

To read Dr. Jeffrey A. Michael's report, go to http://forecast.pacific.edu/articles/peripheral%20canal%20PPIC%20review.pdf

For more information about Restore the Delta, go to http://www.restorethedelta.org