The hellish drought in California has casualties. It tried to destroy farmers, and has in some cases, but guess what it really destroyed? The Delta Smelt. The much admired - or reviled - species depending on your perspective has declined beyond the point of organic regeneration. This would hardly be newsworthy, were it not for the fact that environmentalists and their supporters in government have redistributed the dwindling baitfish's suffering to human beings within and beyond the borders of California.
Like it or not, California feeds the world with her produce and dairy. This task has been made considerably harder when a series of court decisions and overzealous regulators began restricting the water that is the lifeblood of agriculture. Consumers, and the jobs they support, have borne the brunt of the consequences. With that said of the wounded, what of the dead and dying?
According to the Sacramento Bee, "A key index measuring the "relative abundance" of the troubled Delta smelt registered zero in the latest survey by state scientists, the first time that's happened since the survey began in 1959." The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported finding a sample of nine Delta Smelt in 2014, compared to its peak of 1,673 in 1970. Whether it's just the drought or the infrastructure that should be blamed, the current policy of restricting water usage has failed to halt the species' decline.
Before you shed a tear for the death of the species, you should consider two things.
First, the fish is being preserved in various fisheries, including one at the University of California Davis, though they could release them to their imminent demise.
Second, while environmentalists wring their hands about a species they did not create, and therefore, cannot save, an estimated 560,000 acres remain fallow for want of water. The only thing they have successfully engineered is scarcity itself.
Not only scarcity of the very species they yearned to protect, but of the produce that employs their neighbors and feeds the world. Instead of flushing 1.4 trillion gallons of water since 2008 to save what the ecosystem will not, why not flush the policy that is failing people? People who used to matter more than fish.
Congress has a duty to render justice where the federal courts failed; this can be done by restricting funds under the Clean Water Act from being used to continue in this failed experiment.
Cutting the federal chains undermines the state of California's institutionalized apathy to the plight of farmers and consumers, and begins the process of restoring damage from such a misguided policy.
El Niño's wet weather pattern will reportedly bring relief to California's drought conditions in the coming winter, but it is uncertain to what extent; even when water was plentiful before the drought, the government only allowed 80 percent of the normal water allotment to be used. What is certain is that through inaction, Congress is complicit in neglecting tens of thousands of Californians dependent on the agricultural sector, of which 35,000 were unemployed at the height of the recession.
Consumers and farmers deserve justice; not failed policy from environmentalists that can no more control the destiny of a species than they can the weather. Regardless of what environmentalists think, our obligation is to put people first.
Dustin Howard is the social media manager of Americans for Limited Government.