The Drought's Strange Bedfellows 

Some family farms are teaming up with agribusiness to push for a peripheral canal. Plus, NUMMI's eco-problem.

When news broke last week that an El Nino was forming in the Pacific, it raised hopes that California's three-year drought may finally end. But the cyclical warming of ocean waters may be moderate, and not produce the prodigious rainfall that accompanies an intense El Nino event. If that's true, it will be bad news for small family farms, many of which grow organic crops.

The last three winters have severely harmed small farmers in the Central Valley. According to David Runsten, policy director of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, small farms along the southwestern valley have left land fallow because of the water shortage. "It's a very difficult problem," he said.

The drier-than-normal conditions also have prompted small farmers to take opposing sides in the war over whether to build a peripheral canal around the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. Many farmers south of the Delta have teamed up with Southern California developers and agribusiness to push for the canal, because they want a more reliable water supply. Family farmers in the northern Central Valley, by contrast, are working with environmentalists to kill the proposal, saying it will further starve the fragile Delta of fresh water. As for the alliance, Runsten says it's not taking sides. "We're pushing for water conservation," he said. "We think everybody in California has to start conserving water all the time."

NUMMI's Environmental Mess

Toyota will be deciding over the next few months whether to close the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont. And it turns out that one of the pivotal concerns for the auto maker is the costly environmental clean-up that will be required if it closes the plant and puts the property up for sale. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal last week, a Toyota executive said the environmental problem at New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. is so severe that the property has "almost zero asset value." In other words, the cost of clean-up could exceed the value of the 367-acre property once it's rid of toxins.

Fremont City Attorney Harvey Levine said he was not aware of any governmental assessment of NUMMI's environmental problems, nor does he think that Toyota and its former partner, General Motors, were negligent. "My assumption has always been that there will have to a major clean-up," he said. "It's a very large facility that has used lots of oil and paint over the years."

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in Eco Watch

  • Benicia Oil-by-Rail Battle Hinges on Legal Controversy

    Opponents of oil-by-rail shipments want the city to block a proposed Valero facility, but Valero says the city lacks this power.
    • Apr 13, 2016
  • Fish Fight

    Commercial herring fishermen want to limit what recreational anglers can catch, even though recreational fishing is more ecologically sustainable.
    • Feb 24, 2016
  • Coastal Peril

    The future of the California Coastal Commission, the agency that protects the state's scenic coast, is in jeopardy because of pro-development forces allied with Governor Jerry Brown.
    • Feb 10, 2016
  • More »

Author Archives

  • Goodbye, Express Readers

    This is my final column for the paper. It's been a great ride.
    • Mar 23, 2016
  • Oakland Can't Afford to Wait

    The city council and city administration need to immediately implement Mayor Libby Schaaf's housing plan. Plus, there's plenty more to do to deal with the city's affordability crisis.
    • Mar 16, 2016
  • More»

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

Summer Guide 2016

Your definitive guide to summertime entertainment, outings, eating, drinking, and more.

Sustainable Living 2016

Everything you need to know about saving water, energy efficiency, sustainable farming and eating, and more.

© 2016 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation