Thursday, August 20, 2009

California: once the bread basket of the world

Now a basket case.

The Los Angeles Times:
If San Joaquin Valley farmers such as Locke are fearful, so are the agricultural scientists who support California's $10-billion annual fruit and nut crop, the largest in the nation. A new study from UC Davis, to be published today, found that the number of winter chilling hours, essential to the flowering of orchards, has declined as much as 30% since 1950 in large swaths of the Central Valley, where most of the tree crops are grown.

Only 4% of the Central Valley is now suitable for apples, cherries and pears, all high-chill fruits that could once be grown in half the valley, according to the study. By the end of the century, it says, "areas where safe winter chill exists for growing walnuts, pistachios, peaches, apricots, plums and cherries are likely to almost completely disappear."
Along California's central and northern coasts, salmon season has been closed for the second straight year because, in large part, water conditions have become so mucked up in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that baby fish can't survive before heading to sea.

Commercial fishermen and their crews can't work. Recreational anglers can't fish, hurting charter boat owners.

"The delta is a black hole" for salmon, legislators were told by Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Assns.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin river system -- encompassing California's Central Valley -- historically has been the second-largest salmon producer on the West Coast, second only to the Columbia River. And Columbia salmon tend to migrate north to British Columbia and Alaska. Salmon that make it through the delta and out the Golden Gate have supplied 90% of the catch off California, and 50% off Oregon.

The delta also is the largest estuary on the West Coast of America, north and south, Grader said in an interview.

"Estuaries are places where salmon gain strength before going to sea," he continued. "We've been seeing salmon actually losing weight in the delta. They become weakened, get lost because of [reverse river] flows, become entrained in pumps or wind up in forebays where they're easy prey to predator fish."

What Grader describes is pretty much the fault of water management in the delta during the past half-century -- something all sides currently are trying to fix.
And here's this nice graphic that shows how the Central Valley will dry up.

Add in the economic collapse and budget disaster and California will be good and truly Californicated.

No comments: