|Baby Blue Eye: San Joaquin River Gorge|
I would love to believe that local newspapers are a bastion of truth, but what do I usually find? The Fresno Bee is a purveyor of falsehoods time and again. If Donald Trump were truly concerned about truth and journalistic integrity, he would be pointing at The Bee every other day and shouting, “Fake news, fake news!” McClatchy takes full advantage of its monopoly power to promote corporate interests, not the public interest, and does not hesitate to print lies that benefit the top few percent. No longer just a local newspaper, the McClatchy Company has grown into a powerful octopus over the past few years, controlling 29 newspapers in over 14 states—while the quality of its product and its integrity have all but vanished.
For instance, Fresno Bee reporter Lewis Griswold hardly even makes an effort to present the appearance of balanced, unbiased reporting in a recent front-page article on Temperance Flat Dam (Thursday, August 24, 2017). He had the opportunity to reveal catastrophic weaknesses in the dam proposal but chose instead to omit facts and allow dam supporters to perpetuate lies—in ten times the space that he allotted to people who oppose the dam. He ended up writing what amounts to an advertisement for the dam, most of which was—tellingly—printed next to a half-page drug advertisement that contains statements that have not been evaluated by the FDA. The one person who got to mention anything in opposition to the dam, Ron Stork, senior policy advocate for Friends of the River, is quoted as saying that the dam has “never been constructed because it’s costly and doesn’t develop more water.” This one sentence, if explained effectively in a fraction of the space granted to prevaricating dam supporters, would poke a hole so big in the dam proposal that all efforts to support the dam would collapse.
Allow me to explain in one short paragraph.
The dam would not develop more water because the holders of water rights already have a claim on the water: The State Water Resources Control Board has determined that no more water rights are available on the San Joaquin River. Moreover, according to a recent study, the water from the river has been over-allocated by a whopping 861%. And very little new water will be created because other dams already capture and divert almost all of the river’s flows. The trickle of new water that would be created by the dam would be channeled to landowners and corporations with the water rights.
Instead of presenting these simple facts, Bee reporter Griswold allows the dam supporters to peddle their snake oil. Despite the fact that the dam is costly and doesn’t develop more water, dam supporters claim that a new dam at Temperance Flat would work wonders, miracles even. Salmon on the lower San Joaquin would thrive due to the cold water provided by the dam, and water from the dam would also be delivered to wildlife refuges. Water from the dam could be used to recharge groundwater and meet the goals of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The dam would help farmers on the east side, the west side, and in the south. Recreation and ecosystem improvements would be “gained”—even though the dam would destroy 5,000 acres of a majestic public park and destroy a stunning river ecosystem. Obviously, dam supporters can say whatever they want, no matter how absurd, and The Bee will print it without making an effort to present the other side.
The lies go on and on, but the one that always tugs at the heartstrings the most is about the family farmers who have to fallow their land and the agricultural workers who lose their jobs because water runs dry during the Valley’s abiding droughts. According to Assembly Speaker Rendon, “you never forget those faces.” Imagine their faces when they realize they’ve been duped into spending billions of tax dollars and sacrificing a majestic park so that landowners and corporations with the water rights can channel a little more water to their land. Imagine the faces of urban users when they realize that the water will go to many unsustainable crops that should never be grown in a desert, such as almonds, the dominant crop in the valley. (Much of the land has been fallowed due to over-drafting of groundwater that has been used to irrigate crops unsuitable to the region.) Imagine the faces of the people who love the San Joaquin River Gorge Special Recreation Management Area when they see the canyon drowned under hundreds of feet of water. Imagine the faces of the poor when they realize this is a land and water grab meant to benefit the top few percent. Imagine the faces of voters when they realize they have been lied to over and over about the miraculous benefits of this dam.
Ron Stork, senior advocate for Friends of the River, also mentions that the dam obviously “has the political winds behind its sails.” We can thank The Bee for these political winds because of all the hot air it has printed about this dam bamboozle. Again and again, The Fresno Bee has revealed that it has no journalistic integrity. One way of sending The Bee a message is by hitting McClatchy where it hurts—its profit margin. I have cancelled my subscription to The Bee, and I encourage everyone else, especially wherever McClatchy has a monopoly, for instance in California's Central Valley, to do the same.