Removing citrus grove during drought

'Dead Harvest' calls attention to decades of bad policy

California’s biggest story of 2015 was the drought. While other things happened that rightfully made the news, drought stories ran cover-to-cover, Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.

When my congressman personally invited me to the screening of a short movie on California’s water woes titled “Dead Harvest,” I saw it as an opportunity.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, has been out front on California water politics since he was elected to Congress in 2002. Nunes is featured several times in the 38-minute movie written and directed by Ray McNally.

The most-recent movie on California's water woes has a more political tone than does “The Fight for Water: A Farmworker Struggle,” an independent film by Juan Carlos Oseguera we highlighted in a 2014 feature story.

Also featured in the movie are several Central Valley growers, a retired federal judge who ruled on water cases from the bench, a prominent Fresno talk radio host and Victor Davis Hanson, a noted author, professor and Hoover Institute fellow.

Nunes says the purpose of the movie is to inform voters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles as it’s their votes and policies that drive what happens in California’s state house and infects a large segment of the votes in Washington, D.C.

While I agree with Nunes’ approach, a comment made by Hanson in the movie seems to throw cold water on the idea.

“This dream of reengineering California and returning it to the 19th Century is from the Bay Area,” Hanson says in the movie. “They are dictating and adjudicating policy for people in the interior that they do not see as cultural, intellectual or social equals.”

Perhaps showing the movie to people Hanson politely calls snobs (my word, not his) may not play well in the region, though it’s worth a try.

Curing the problem, according to Judge Wanger, is simple but unlikely. Sacred cows like the Endangered Species Act and Central Valley Project Improvement Act must be radically altered or repealed if California water policy is to begin serving Californians fairly.

Convincing cultural elitists to “see the light” of the lantern tended by Central Valley farmers and farm workers is not going to happen in a polarized, balkanized society that uses lawsuits and the courts as their weapon of choice to terrorize those with whom they disagree.

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