Leslie Stahl had a segment on 60 Minutes last night that purported to tell us the truth about the California Water Crisis and the Delta. She talked to Dr. Jeffrey Mount (UC Davis), Schwarzenegger and 2 farmers from the Westlands Water District who are dependent on getting more of the Delta’s Water.
At no time did she talk to anyone who lives in, works in or would be dependent on the health of the Delta as an estuary. That seems to be an unusual omissions… or just call it sloppy journalism.
Of all the clips in the show, the one that was the most impressive was a simulation of how an earthquake could cause massive levee failure and turn the Delta into a salt water containment pond.
Below the fold, you can find the comments posted to the 60 Minutes Site by Lloyd G. Carter, Fresno Lawyer and one time UPI Reporter who went national (60 Minutes / Ed Bradley) with the Kesterson Reservoir story.
As someone who has written about California water issues for 40 years I found Leslie Stahl’s report on California water remarkably naive. She doesn’t have a clue what is going on out here. First of all, she started by misquoting Mark Twain. The quote is not “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting” as she said. It is “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”
A small point but telling.
Not once did she mention the selenium-tainted soils of the Westlands Water District. Drainage water from the Westlands fields contains selenium, which got into the food chain at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge 25 years ago and killed thousands of birds and triggered deformities in bird embryos. Thanks, in part, to an excellent report by 60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley on March 9, 1985, the poisoned evaporation ponds at Kesterson were closed. Sadly, this latest 60 Minutes report on Westlands is far off the mark. Twenty-five years later the estimated cost for providing drainage to the 600 growers who operate on a thousand square miles in Westlands is set at $2.7 billion. Leslie Stahl should have asked the governor what he is doing about the drainage problem. Answer? He’s doing nothing.
For those who want a different view of what’s really going in California water politics, I suggest you visit the
following link to the Golden Gate University Law School Environmental Law Forum:
You will discover that the American taxpayers have showered a billion dollars of subsidies and cheap water on the problem-plagued Westlands. The fundamental problem of San Joaquin Valley agriculture is not lack of water, it is low prices caused by surplus. In the last four years, almonds have dropped from $4 a pound to $1-2 a pound. The San Joaquin Valley now has 650,000 acres of almonds. Do we really need to spend billions of dollars on new dams to grow more almonds? Which the Westlands should never have planted! Stuart Woolf should never have planted his almond orchards. At a congressional subcommittee hearing at Fresno City Hall a couple of years ago, Woolf threatened to take his 25,000-acre “family farm” operation offshore if he was not provided water.
Finally, Stahl failed to mention that big growers like Stuart Resnick, a confidante and major contributor to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, is making tens of millions of dollars re-selling farm water supplies to Southern California development interests so we can grow an ever larger population in the Mojave Desert. This is a prescription for disaster.
I knew Ed Bradley. He interviewed me for the 60 Minutes Kesterson show 25 years ago. Leslie Stahl is no Ed Bradley.