Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Train To Nowhere Endangers Birds?

The California High Speed Rail Authority, which is in charge of the train to nowhere, is now proposing a new route for the train because it could potentially affect a bird sanctuary. Human sanctuaries are of little concern to the Authority, as I discussed in an earlier article about the high-handedness of the train zealots here.

The earlier brouhaha swirling around the effects on human habitation was centered largely in the San Francisco Peninsula where the trains will roar through highly-populated areas including Silicon Valley on their way from San Francisco to Los Angeles. But the Authority largely ignored the pleas of the residents because the human misery index for those near the tracks is insignificant compared to the fabulous benefits of high-speed rail. The complaints were lodged in areas currently covered by Cal Train slow speed trains which seem to have a deadly accident at least a couple times a month.

The bird misery index is of course far more important than any concern for humans. So a couple hundred miles south of San Francisco, the Authority has found to its horror that both previously-proposed alternate routes would pass through the Tulare Lake Bed where there is one of those troublesome "wetlands" in which birds dwell. "Thousands" of birds, according to the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District and the US Fish and Wildlife Services. Put down those picks and shovels, this "disaster" must be averted at all costs (read: "human costs").

An all-new environmental review is underway, but those living in the path of the train in the Central Valley have not been invited to participate in the hearings. The Authority has the usual excuse: "We have a thorough environmental review process in which we must follow strict state and federal requirements." When all else fails, always defer to the rules and regulations of other agencies so that arcane and incomprehensible environmental factors can be used to keep those pesky humans most impacted out of the debate. After all, they just live there, but the birds have "experts."

Besides, most of the people questioning the proposed new route are just dumb farmers, and what do they know about environmentalism? For instance, Mike Monteiro has a 1,000 acre farm with 7,000 cattle which abuts the bird sanctuary. Instead of going through the sanctuary, the new route will go right through the farm, essentially cutting his farm in half. How selfish of him to worry about his own health and livelihood, not to mention the lives of all those silly cows--thousands of cows.

The Authority has already decided it favors the new route, and its bureaucratic review of its effects on "the environment" will be published in July. But never fear, the Authority also promises that it will do everything in its power to "mitigate the impacts on human habitation." Why am I now remembering a song I learned as a kid? "Oh, the railroad runs through the middle of the house, the middle of the house, the middle of the house. The railroad runs through the middle of the house, and the trains are all on time. They let us live in the front of the house, they let us live in the back. But there ain't no livin' in the middle of the house, 'cause that's the railroad track."

The Authority generously allowed the residents of Kings County and Kern County a 45 day window to lodge complaints. But they scheduled no actual hearings with the residents, and the report sans their input is already several thousand pages long. Can you say "loaded dice?" Even with what little input from the residents has been taken, the Authority has not been keeping the residents informed of the "progress" of the environmental document.

Anne Gaspar, an impacted resident of Hanford in Kings County pleaded: "We need to be informed because this is going to displace, not just our homes, but our business, how we make a living, everything. And it would be very good if they would come out to talk to us and answer the questions, and we would explain our situation here." Gaspar's husband added that it would have been nice if the Authority had notified them that a new route was in the works and reached out to the community at a much earlier date.

What the local residents don't understand is proportionality. There are thousands of birds, humans and farm animals under threat. But there is only one human species and a small number of farm animal species under the same threat. BUT, there are hundreds of bird species affected, according to the ecoweenies. I'm quite certain that logic is compelling to unthinking green zealots, but it confuses me. Thousand of birds, hundreds of species, most of which would simply ignore the trains as they barrel through on that narrow line. Or maybe they would just fly away for the couple of minutes it takes for the trains to pass.

This sounds an awful lot like the arguments against the Alaska pipeline which was going to destroy the environment and kill off all the caribou. Needless to say, it did quite the opposite. The California report seems to be bereft of any discussion of any endangered bird species living exclusively in the area. But "wetlands" and "wildlife sanctuaries" have become holy icons among the ecoweenies, and those seem to be the only issues the report has addressed so far. There could very well be a few hundred endangered California double-breasted slug-suckers nesting in the sanctuary, but thousands of them nesting a few dozen miles down the road. The report doesn't tell us.

It matters to the humans and cows that their feeding and living areas are bisected by a 200 mph train, but most birds have the good sense to get out of the way--fast. The bird sanctuary is about 1300 acres. How much of that 1300 acres would the train right-of-way take up? And for that matter, why isn't the proposed route simply moved to the border between the farmlands and the adjacent farms, thereby eliminating the necessity of cutting either in half?

Oh, wait, I just got the answer. Most of the hundreds of species must depend on the existence of the Delta smelt, so while we're busy denying water to those damned farms, we are also protecting the feeding rights of smelt-loving birds. Never mind.

19 comments:

rlaWTX said...

ok - already off-topic --
the whole church discussion- true story from another church secretary:
a couple comes in and wants to have their wedding in the sanctuary, so they are touring and asking questions. one of their questions was "can we remove the cross? it looks too 'churchy'." At least this time the church said NO.

rlaWTX said...

on topic:
birdbrains in govt...

Tennessee Jed said...

after reading this, I have the overwhelming urge to mix up a nice batch of hash brownies for those people. I mean, really, you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried. keep fighting the good fight from the once upon a time golden state. On that same note, would there be any place else in the country that could bankrupt the Dodgers?

Patti said...

all i kept thinking while reading: bunch of environmental asswipes. sorry for the language.

AndrewPrice said...

I love it when two liberal ideas collide and blow each other up. Now both sides should lawyer up and fight about this for 200 years. :-)


rlaTWX, I'm not surprised. I've heard people make requests like that before.

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: That sounds like the story from a year ago where they were going to have a meeting in the Yale chapel, and they had to take the cross off the altar in order not to offend anyone.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: The citizens in Kern, Inyo, Kings, and Fresno counties are really getting up in arms about this juggernaut and their attempt to bribe locals into supporting it because it will "create jobs in an area of high unemployment." Well, of course there's a lot of unemployment, the EPA saw to that by drying up the farms to protect that goddam fish! But at least many people now have time to storm the public meetings since they don't have jobs to go to.

As for the Dodgers, the answer is "no." They have their own Golden Gate. LOL

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: You have a point. Maybe it's time for me to come out of retirement. That'll fix their wagons.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: There's nothing to forgive when the sentiment is highly appropriate. They're the stuff that gets on the asswipes.

BevfromNYC said...

Maybe these people should try and entice a few spotted owls or some Delta smelt to move into their neighborhoods. Or maybe plant a few giant redwoods in the path of the train.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

The next endangered species in California is humans who work for a living. ;-)

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: The EPA has done such a good job that we're up to our asses in spotted owls. There are six distinct species in California, and all six are doing just fine (as they probably were before they "helped.") We should import some barn owls, though. We have lots of empty barns for them to roost in since the EPA dried up all the farms.

The Delta smelt wouldn't help though, since nobody here would know one if they saw one, or care either. I think the fish is so damned unimportant that the only ones who have ever seen one are the ecoweenies and the EPA. How important could a species be that no sane person has ever seen?

Thanks for the giant redwood tip, though. And while we're at it, we have lots of very, very large oak trees. I'd be glad to sacrifice my winter firewood supply for the cause.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: We don't count. We won't be included on the endangered species list until we're down to only one. And that will be the one who turns out all the lights before leaving.

BevfromNYC said...

How about polar bear or timber wolves? Albino hippos or rhinos, though not indigenous, I bet if one wandered just once along the proposed new train route, it might slow down the process enough that illegal undocumented immigrant high school students could move in. They seem to be the only ones who can cause the government to stop in their tracks...

T-Rav said...

You know, I think I'm going to adopt a new strategy (to shamelessly steal Andrew's phraseology). I will now be shooting only birds and Delta smelt in the face, to the exclusion of all other animals. This will both drive the environmentalists crazy and get The Management off my back, so I figure I can't lose.

The Management (definitely NOT BevfromNYC) said...

Dear Citizen T-Rav,

Congratulations! It has come to our attention that we have finally convinced you of the error of your kitten face-shooting ways. Further to that, we wanted to extend our full support in your new focus in alleviating the world of the pervasive Delta smelt problem and the over-population of indigenous birds. If we can be of any service in your new endeavors, please do hesitate to contact us.

Yours very truly,
The Management

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: Thank goodness, I thought I was going to have to form a "save the kittens" group just to get my cats to stop looking at me like I'm plotting something. Particularly when I'm cleaning my gun. LOL

Koshcat said...

Al I ask is for my share of the federal money given for this project to be given back. California is so willing to become European that they are going to get in trouble faster than most of the PIGS. Greece is just a glimps of its future. At this point, I have no faith it will be fixed before total collapse. Anyone who thought it was going to be the big earthquake to destroy the state underestimated the power of the progressives.

LawHawkRFD said...

Koshcat: Yes, but we can get from our foreclosed homes in San Francisco to the poor house in Los Angeles in less than two hours on the bullet train. That is if they actually ever build any of it outside of the Central Valley. And even then, I'll still have to drive an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the Bakersfield station, and pay for the parking, of course.

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