On a recent trip home from Southern California, we decided to take an alternate route due to possible bad weather on The Grapevine. The route we chose took us up the mostly rural Highway 33. Also known as The Maricopa Highway, it’s a Depression era project that is literally in the middle of nowhere.
I hadn’t traveled that route for many years. Oil is big business out here, with every well in sight pumping away. My mind drifted back to a time not long ago when America was more self sufficient. The oil towns of Maricopa & Taft were still much the same as I remembered, but as we wound our way further North, we saw just how much the lack of water had changed the landscape forever.
I’ve made the North/South trip many times on I-5 since the water was turned off to the farmers several years ago. I guess I got used to seeing the same dry & dead fields. But this trip off the beaten path showed me that the devastation caused to California’s Heartland is much more widespread than I had previously been led to believe.
We drove for miles & miles on The Maricopa Highway this day and saw nothing but acre upon acre of what were once green, fertile fields & orchards now returned to a dry, dusty desert. All for a lack of water. It truly is the……..
“End Of The California Dream”
“Ma, look what they done to our Valley!”
Since 2006, water has been shut off to farmers in California’s Central Valley. This was done in an effort to “save” the so-called endangered Delta smelt. Experts in the field warned that the tiny 2-inch fish was getting sucked into the water projects massive pumps, the vital fish possibly on the verge of extinction.
The Delta smelt was afforded protection in the Endangered Species Act of 1973 which puts animal & marine life above that of human life. Most of these restrictions were implemented in 1993. In 2006, the extraction of water from both the San Joaquin & Sacramento Rivers was halted. California’s nightmare, the death of The Great Valley, had begun.
The cuts implemented were also attributed to the ongoing “drought” in California. Our rainfall amounts here always fluctuate from year to year. At this time we don’t have a drought in California, but don’t tell all the “experts”.
California used to save it’s water surplus from overly wet years in dams, but due to lawsuits and the politics of environmentalists, much of our excess water now simply flows out into the ocean rather than being stored for later use. Does this make a lot of sense when California always seems to be in a perpetual drought?
Just like during the Gold Rush, water is money. And he who controls the water, controls everything. No surprise that the Obama administration wants a hand in deciding the future of California’s water.
The economic impact to the Central Valley has been devastating. These past delivery cuts have resulted in a decrease in the production of fruits, nuts & legumes in the San Joaquin Valley and as a result, the unemployment rate among farmers & farm laborers is as high as 40% in some areas. Job losses are estimated as high as 60,000, possibly higher, with as much as $2.2 billion dollars in lost revenue. Idle farm equipment can be seen throughout the area.
Fields have been left fallow. Crops & orchards have been abandoned. What really stuck a nerve with me was seeing these huge piles of mulch all along the highway – the result of farmers shredding their dead fruit & nut trees. It’s just so hard to believe.
This coming year, between 300,000 & 800,000 acres of of fertile Central Valley farmland will not be planted again due to the lack of water from this regulatory “drought”. Vegetables, fruits & nuts may not be as available as in years past or may be available, but at a higher price.
This is not a disaster just for California, but for the rest of the United States and even the world. California’s Central Valley produces 25% of our country’s food supply as well as exporting food to numerous countries around the world. The effects of The Great Valley’s demise will be catastrophic, possibly leading to food shortages in the near future.
For the latest on California’s water crisis, visit: Water For All