by Jerry Blair
When we study the
health of our natural resources there are no county lines. When we're
dealing with the air we breath, the water we drink, and land we share
in this ecosystem of the Great Basin, jurisdictional boundaries don't
mean much. Ten counties from Sacramento to Shasta. Eight down to Kern.
Four hundred and fifty miles of alluvial plain made over into an Eden
of agricultural abundance. With that abundance came the growth that
is now making demands on our natural infrastructure -- demands that
could conceivably reverse much of what makes the Valley an enticing
place to live and work.
Take a deep breath.
This Central Valley geography we've come to know and appreciate as the
"Breadbasket of the World" also happens to be a perfect spot
for the collection of air pollutants. A Public Policy Institute poll
found that 34% of Californians view air pollution as the most important
environmental issue facing the state today. Much of that concern points
to the Central Valley.
At the foundation
of this Central Valley ecosystem is the land. For centuries it supported
a vast wealth of wildlife and natural habitat. Today it also sustains
cities, suburbs, a massive agricultural complex and industries of all
shapes and sizes. According to the California Department of Conservation,
between 1996 and 1998 the San Joaquin Valley saw over nine thousand
acres of irrigated farmland turned over to urban use.The loss of wetlands
to urban use in the valley can cause changes that have far reaching
implications to wildlife using the Pacific Flyway. Interruptions of
riparian pathways can cause damage to the natural filtering of water
contaminants and deplete aquifers.
The Central Valley
at one time had over 4 million acres of vast wetlands; today these have
diminished to a mere 300,000 acres. The PPIC poll indicates that Central
Valley residents are split over how best to use what open space remains.
we've seen over the last few years, poorly managed energy sources have
far reaching ramifications to our environment, our health, and our pocketbooks.
According to the California Energy Commission, per capita residential
electricity usage in the Central Valley is consistently a third higher
than the state average. You can blame the summer valley heat.
The life's blood
of California's past and its future is water. Only gold may hold a higher
spot in the resources hierarchy. Agricultural interests, manufacturers,
tour directors and urban planners can all make a case for needing more
of this diminishing resource.
Our rivers and streams
are the spine of a watershed system that must support wildlife and the
growth that is now threatening many prime watersheds in the valley.
Our other major
waterways, the Sacramento, San Joaquin and American Rivers have all
been seriously impacted by growth. Thirteen percent of the rivers and
streams in Sacramento County are damaged to some degree. Eleven percent
of San Joaquin County's waterways are suffering from growth related
Air, land, water,
and energy. Resource managers are working overtime in their efforts
to stay ahead of the growth curve.
A tough task, since
we've already fouled our nest...