Sunday, February 14, 2010

Last Week's Drive

I had a very long week booking about 2,000 miles driving around CA. However, I made sure I spent some of my time checking out little landmarks. I drove by Buena Vista lake. It is listed as dry lake on the map. It is really a reservoir now filled by CA Aqueduct water and canals. It used to be fed by the Kern River. The Kern River is all dammed up and is used for irrigation and no longer flows freely. The City of Bakersfield has a beautiful river walk and bike path, but no river. The City is no trying to find water rights to ensure river flow. In downtown Bakersfield, you can watch the river flow down canals that parallel the river bed and the river is dry. The lake itself would be dry if it were not flow down the Aqueduct from the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta.

And Diane Feinstein, senator from CA, is trying to garner votes, while at the same time placing her Democratic counterpart, Barbara Boxer in a bad light. She is promising West-something or-other Water District water by rolling back the Endangered Species Act so the farmers get flow. This is really important as the salmon season is again closed because there was the worst spawning season ever. The salmon count in the Sacramento River was down from the 2002 high of 300,000 to 39,000 this past year. Ow. The giant pumps in the Delta pushing water to the LA and Central Valley area kill the fish (they get sucked in) or do not allow there to be the flow necessary for young salmon to live. This is not he only stresser in the salmonoid life cycle. Ocean conditions and lax discharge requirements in CA wastewater plants are others.

I also took time to drive through the Tulare Lake region. I was amazed as i read the history of this area in the book The King of California. What lake? What once was 60 mile wide lake is no more and is the home of fruit trees, grape vines (for raisins) and cotton plantations. The King River (one of the southernmost salmon spawning runs in the state) can't anymore, as there is no more lake and the river is dammed and goes through irrigation canals in a slow meandering path alongside Route 41 and across fields. The water is too warm for salmonoids anymore, even if they could spawn.

I asked the land if it was happy. Some fields said yes as they were loved and cared for, others wanted to be lake bottom and others just felt used. Am I accurate in hearing the replies. Not always, but this was the impressions I perceived.

Sometimes I wonder about what progress really is. Okay, there are less mosquitoes, but draining the largest lake west of the Mississippi is just stupid. A unique ecosystem drained to grow cotton that could be grown elsewhere. Ugh!


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