the fish must pay

· Among the Barbarians

And so far, the fish owe the farmers of California $26 million for depriving them of their water rights during the drought years of 1992 to 1994, according to federal claims court judge,
John Paul Wiese .
Since fish don’t have bank accounts it’s the federal government that will have to pay. For depriving farmers of water that is delivered to them via a federally-owned viaduct system built with taxpayers’ dollars. The farmers belong to collectives known as Irrigation Districts that negotiate the price of water in contracts with the federal government.
Whose water is it? According to California law, the water belongs to the public, specifically the state Department of Water Resources which holds the rights to the water it diverts for farm and municipal use. Judge Wiese has ruled that the water not delivered to the farmers is, essentially, their property–and they, and not the fish, are the victims of a “taking.”
Oh, and it pretty much voids the Environmental Protection Act which allowed for the river water to go to the fish during those drought years. If you want to protect fish habitat (hint: its WATER), you’ll have to pay the farmers.
Of course, the federal government could challenge Judge Wiese’s ruling that it owes millions to farmers in California. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), however, has urged the administration not to do that. He’s with Judge Wiese, who said that “The federal government is certainly free to preserve the fish; it must simply pay for the water it takes to do so.”