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Demise of Rivers Letter to Editor, NY Times

To the Editor:

“Swim to Sea? These Salmon Are Catching a Lift” (front page, April 19) is one facet of an incredibly sad story.

Over the past 166 years, since California’s Gold Rush first destroyed rivers en masse in the quest for gold and silver, we have continued to decimate our rivers and groundwater for our growing population and agriculture, including all the Public Trust resources that had thrived with them.

We have altered our geography, hydrology and geology, frequently depleting our water, soils, air and local economies.

No civilization can survive long with this kind of damage to the natural resources needed for it to prosper and grow. Without significant changes in our water policies and demands, the long-term picture for the West is not good.

We need to address problematic policies of “free” and subsidized water, overdrafted groundwater basins and dammed rivers, farming water-intensive crops for export in our semiarid desert, contamination and loss of soils through chemistry and erosion, and the immense (and mostly hidden) electricity costs to move all this water around through huge engineering projects.

The history books are full of dusty and dead civilizations. Is that our future?

Bay Area Director
Friends of the Eel River
Petaluma, Calif., April 21, 2014