|Modern Picture Jones Pumping Plant|
Scale: See the vehicles on opposite side of canal?
“There’re two sets of pumps drawing water from the Delta. One’s run by the feds and sends water to Southern
. The state runs the other one, the one blown up last night. It sends water to farms on the west side of the valley.” California
stretched his legs and continued. “The pumps are huge, like 25,000 volts. They suck water out of the Delta and pump it up a hill to a canal, where it flows down the valley by gravity. They put them in back in the 50s and right away knew they had a problem. Fish that got sucked into the pumps were chopped to pieces. So they dug canals to take water to the pumps and put up screens so the fish couldn’t get in the canals.” Jackson
“Sounds like it would work,” Grant said. “What’s the problem?”
“Lots of controversy.”
said, wagging a finger in the air. “Fish get caught in the screens and have to be pulled out of the water and trucked back to the Delta, far away from the canals. A lot of the fish die in the truck, plus bigger fish hang around the dump sites and gobble up the smaller ones. This has been going on for more than fifty years and they say it’s drastically affected some fish counts, particularly the little ones. And now that the Delta smelt is on the Endangered Species list, environmentalists are calling for the pumps to be shut off.” Jackson
“But if the pumps are shut off, where will
get their water?” Grant asked. L.A.
“Exactly. No judge would ever go along with it, which is why they’re going after the farmers’ water first. They figure it’ll be easier to take water from a few farmers than twenty million people.”
* * * * *
What Officer Jackson told Grant in this scene, and what Lightfoot told the gang while sermonizing on the riverbank, is mostly true. I’ll admit I made some stuff up to further the story along (it is a work of fiction) and likely got some other stuff wrong (again: fiction).
But here’s an update to the novel: a federal judge began restricting water deliveries from the pumps in 2007. Restrictions became so severe that much of the west side of Central California has reverted back to desert, unemployment hit 45% in some counties, and billions of ag revenue has been lost.
All because the Delta smelt was put on the Endangered Species List. Here is one of the little buggers, 5 to 7 cm (2.0 to 2.8 in) long:
|U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento|
That was the deal he’d struck with the two old Paiutes.
The pumps were for him, for fun. Because he couldn’t stand to let them be.