I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “whisky is for drinking, water is for fighting”, anyway, the old California battle rages on, as this article from the San Francisco Chronicle, reports.
CLEMENTS, San Joaquin County — When grower Brad Goehring looks across his rows of grapes, he can’t help but see a pool of murky water that breaks the rhythm of his vines, which otherwise stretch steadily into the Sierra foothills.
The pool is relatively small, maybe half an acre, but vital, according to environmental regulators. They say it helps to clean the runoff from Goehring’s fields and provides a home for critters such as marsh birds. And by law, it can’t be disrupted, which is what makes this mini wetland a headache for Goehring.
“I’m paying for this land, but I can’t farm it,” he said on a recent afternoon as he stood in his vineyards about 40 miles southeast of Sacramento where the water chokes back his Pinot Gris. “This land is doing nothing for me.”
Now Goehring is worried about seeing more cropland lost to regulation. He’s among the many California farmers caught in the middle of a tug-of-water between President Trump’s administration and the state over the reach of the federal Clean Water Act.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working to rein in the landmark law and halt what it sees as excessive oversight of small marshes, creeks and ponds, like the scores that spill across California’s farm country. State regulators are seeking to maintain and even expand watershed protections. They say too many waterways have been eaten up by human sprawl.
“Our policy makes sure we are doing what we can to protect them,” said Jonathan Bishop, chief deputy director of the State Water Resources Control Board, which could put new rules into play as soon as next month.
The stakes are huge. Whatever regulation emerges between the state and federal governments will affect potentially millions of acres — where developers may want to build homes, where cities are eyeing new roads, and where farmers may wish to extend their fields.
Goehring, a fourth-generation grower in the Central Valley town of Clements, sees a rising demand for his Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. Yet the prospect of growing more grapes, he said, is clouded by uncertainty over where he’ll be allowed to plant.
Such confusion has caused him problems before. When Goehring plowed a field that regulators deemed a protected wetland years ago, federal agents in a black sport utility vehicle showed up at his property with the threat of arrest and $100,000-a-day penalties.
He was cleared of wrongdoing, but only after a lengthy legal battle.
Today, Goehring has a lot of powerful allies. California’s farming and wine industries, the building and construction trades and many cities and chambers of commerce share his apprehension about the looming regulation. On the other side of the equation, a growing roster of scientists and environmental groups has lined up in support of stronger protections.
Retrieved March 25, 2019 from https://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/As-Trump-tries-to-roll-back-clean-water-rules-13712526.php