This story, originally in Grist, but published in HuffPost, tells a sad tale. A project aimed at demonstrating how fish and farming can thrive together failed in Northern California.
The Nature Conservancy purchased a ranch for the purpose of demonstrating the viability of fish and farming together. But to pay the huge price for the land, they sold water rights to the state. Then, when the drought hit, the state demanded all the water flow to the ocean, even at times of the year when it wasn't needed for fish. This left the farmers high and dry:
But The Nature Conservancy’s vision of salmon-filled streams winding through green pastures of fat cattle was short lived. After the Board of Supervisors reluctantly gave in to Fish and Wildlife in 2013, the state gained the ability to keep all the water in the river — meaning none for irrigating the land. During the reluctant final vote, one of the opposing supervisors warned, “You can’t trust this Fish and Wildlife. They have none of our interests at heart.”.
That was at the height of the most severe drought in California in more than 1,000 years. Ranchland was drying up. Nature Conservancy scientists urged Fish and Wildlife to continue irrigating pastures when the fish didn’t need all the water. But Fish and Wildlife now had control and refused to allow any diversion of Shasta Big Springs’ water for agriculture.
So much for a bold, but ill-executed experiment. Is the lesson that fish and farming can thrive together as we are seeing kn many parts of northern Puget Sound, but only if we keep government out of it?
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