Extreme Makeover: San Joaquin River | Citizens Against Government Waste

Extreme Makeover: San Joaquin River

The WasteWatcher

How much should it cost to restore salmon to a river?  Try $22 million per salmon under legislation that is moving through Congress. 

The salmon saga began 75 years ago, when the state of California decided to divert water from the San Joaquin River and use it for agricultural purposes.  Twenty years ago, a lawsuit was brought to attempt to restore the flow to the dried up section of the river, including a provision to restore wild Chinook salmon. 

The activist federal judge who decided in favor of restoring the river is the same judge who decided that the words “Under God” should not be in the Pledge of Allegiance.  He included provisions in the final judgment that required a bill to be passed by Congress in order for the restoration to proceed.  The legislation would require construction to begin without the usual feasibility study or any other review.  

A local member of Congress, Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is opposed to the House bill, H.R. 4074, which was approved on May 13 in a party-line vote by the House Interior Committee over the objections of the minority.  The Senate version of the bill, S. 27, was approved on May 7 by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and may be added to a larger water projects bill.  In both the House and the Senate, the individual legislation would bypass floor consideration, making it difficult for opponents to amend the bill to remove the San Joaquin River project. 

The estimated cost of restoring the river could reach $1.1 billion, and two studies estimate the impact on the local economy by re-directing the water away from local agriculture could cost $10 billion.  This is all in the name of restoring 500 salmon; hence the cost of $22 million each.  The work, if it is to be done at all, should be performed at the expense of California taxpayers, since the state originally decided to stop the flow of the river 75 years ago. 

 Watch your wallets and the salmon.

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