Tuesday’s column (Beauty and the smelt)

I spent much of the past four days driving around California.

It felt like I was living that old Hank Snow song:

I’ve been everywhere man

I’ve breathed the mountain air, man

Crossed the deserts bare

Travel … I’ve had my share, man

I’ve been everywhere

I’ve been to:

San Jose, Saratoga, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, Los Gatos, Davenport, Buttonwillow, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Stockton, Lodi, Fresno.

Well, maybe not Fresno …

If there was anything to take away from the trip, it was the feeling that we live in a beautiful state, which is a reason to be a proud.

The thought has occurred to me often, but most of those instances were during good economic times.

(Sigh).

Even though it’s beautiful, California is also broken.

I think I saw some proof of that in the Central Valley Thursday. On the 5 Freeway just south of Los Banos what looked like thousands of campesinos marched alongside the California Aqueduct. Many held signs that said “Agua = Vida.”

After stopping to watch from a vista point and then reading more about it in the Fresno Bee, I learned the marchers are angry that water deliveries from the Sacramento Delta will be cut off to tons of farms in the western San Joaquin Valley.

All because of a tiny fish known as the delta smelt. This little beast, that’s apparently endangered, has already wrecked its share of havoc here in the Southland. Because of environmental protections, we will have to reduce our usage by 10percent and pay more for it this summer.

A federal judge ordered the protection. Californians are powerless to stop it.

In the Central Valley, protection of the smelt will result in thousands of acres going fallow and hundreds of layoffs. That means farms which provide food to much of the nation will be producing less fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Which in turn means we’ll be paying higher prices at the grocery store or simply importing more from Mexico and South American countries, which probably don’t care too much about endangered, tiny fish.

When is that same federal judge going to step in and order the state to protect endangered jobs and family farms?

If this judge was around 10,000 years ago he probably would have ordered the La Brea tar pits boarded up. Then, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and wooly mammoths too stupid to take care of themselves would be saved from extinction.

Imagine living in that California!

Here’s what the state Department of Fish and Game says about the smelt:

“Delta smelt are found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary (the area where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers flow into San Francisco Bay. … The threats to the population are multiple and synergistic.”

Whatever that means.

Here’s what the state Department of Food and Agriculture says about protecting farms and jobs in California:

” ”

Can you hear the nonendangered crickets?

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  • Mike

    I always wondered “What is a smelt?,”Why do I Care” and “How do you cook’em”, bet they taste like chicken.