Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”     Thomas Jefferson

October 17, 2007

The Endangered Species People Act

by Stephen Littau

(WSB Radio) — Despite the threat of legal action by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Army Corps of Engineers says it has no plans to reduce the release of water from Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona.

Army Major Darren Payne tells WSB’s Pete Combs the Corps is required by law to send water down the Chattahoochee River to protect endangered wildlife, power plants and water needs along the river.

“At the moment there’s not a whole lot we can do,” said Payne. Gov. Perdue has given the Corps a deadline of today to respond to the state’s demand to reduce the amount of water, under the threat of legal action.

Payne says the Corps will continue to release 2 billion gallons of water a day.

“We cannot deviate without some action being taken on the endangered species act or special legislation,” said Payne.

Ah, the Endangered Species Act strikes again! A law which has arguably done more to undermine property rights in our country than any other could potentially endanger the lives of Georgians. The Army Corps of Engineers apparently has no choice but to follow the law as it is currently written meaning the federally protected mussels and sturgeons have priority over the people of Georgia.

As Gov. Sonny Perdue threatened legal action, the Georgia delegation to the U.S. House as well as both of the state’s senators introduced legislation to amend the ESA to allow states to be exempt from the law if either the Secretary of the Army or the state’s governor declare emergency drought conditions (Personally, I would prefer a complete repeal of the ESA but this proposal seems like a reasonable enough compromise for now).

I fail to understand where the controversy is. Does anyone really want to argue that these animals should have priority over American citizens who are being forced to cut back their water usage so they can have water to drink, bathe, and clean with? Outrageous!

Neal Boortz proposed a rather interesting idea: the governor should order the Georgia National Guard to seize the dam from the Corps of Engineers. I have no idea of what the legalities of doing such a thing are and other legal options should be exhausted first, but I believe one could make a good case for doing just that. During the War of 1812, at least one governor who opposed the war refused to allow U.S. troops to come into his state. If one were to look at a more contemporary example, certain “sanctuary cities” refuse to enforce federal immigration laws.

While I normally advocate the rule of law, it seems to me that if cities and states can pick and choose the federal laws they wish to follow, then ignoring the ESA in this emergency seems to be quite appropriate. Endangered species should never have the ability to endanger people.

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7 Comments

  1. The ESA and your comments raise an interesting dilemma for me. On the one hand I abhor government intervention into our lives. On the other hand, I love such places as the Boundary Waters (I will never forget sitting on the lake shore with my youngest son watching two bald eagles fight over the same prey on the far side of Lake 4 and many more such memories) and if we don’t take steps to protect such wilderness it and the bald eagles will be gone; lumber companies drool over the thought of getting into the Boundary Waters. So, what do lovers of liberty do?

    Comment by BJ Eddy — October 18, 2007 @ 1:28 am
  2. This story misrepresents the actual situation in two ways:

    First, part of the issue is a long political fight over water rights between Alabama and Georgia. Alabama wants the water released so that it can have the water.

    Second, this in no way endangers any people. This is a controlled release; they’re not just unleashing a flood upon the poor people downstream. The harm to one group of people (water users in Georgia) is exactly offset by the benefit to another group of people (water users in Alabama).

    So drop this nonsense about environmental laws hurting people. There are some good examples of this (such as the Klamath River situation), but this is most definitely not an example of environmental laws hurting people.

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — October 18, 2007 @ 1:28 pm
  3. Chepe:

    I understand that the fight between Alabama and Georgia is part of the drought issue. I didn’t address that angle because I don’t have a dog in that fight and I don’t know very many of the details (though it’s my understanding that Alabama isn’t doing anything to conserve water or to otherwise help the situation).

    You don’t believe there is a water crisis in Georgia? The local papers seem to disagree. The water levels are at or near historic lows relative to the population.

    This has wider implications than just Georgia. Other states will likely face similar problems in the future (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado). If the ESA is contributing to a water shortage, then the ESA needs to be amended or preferably, ended.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — October 18, 2007 @ 3:58 pm
  4. You don’t believe there is a water crisis in Georgia? The local papers seem to disagree.

    I never intimated any such thing.

    If the ESA is contributing to a water shortage, then the ESA needs to be amended or preferably, ended.

    This is a matter of making choices about what we as a people want. The trade-offs are real and they are often complicated, and they are sometimes weird. The classic case was the snail darter back in the seventies. This little fish prevented the construction of a dam. In that case, I feel, the ESA did everybody a disservice. There are also lots of weird cases of insignificant species stopping projects. But there are also plenty of cases where the ESA is much easier to justify. How about the protection of the bald eagle? It is quite possible that, were it not for the protection afforded by the ESA, the bald eagle would no longer exist in this country.

    Another important point is that the ESA often carries lots of side benefits. For example, in the Klamath River case, farmers were using so much water from the Klamath River that the salmon runs were being reduced, having an impact on the salmon fisheries offshore. So who’s more important, farmers or commercial fishermen? (Actually, I don’t think that the ESA got caught up in that dispute directly, although there was some entanglement involving something at Klamath Lake, I believe.)

    Anyway, the point I’m making here is that this issue is a lot more complicated than “worms versus people”. I see the ESA as a clumsy starting point, a way of developing some experience in handling a really tricky problem that’s only going to get worse. I think it’s time to rewrite the ESA to provide more precise protections. There are some areas in which the environment is still getting clobbered, and others in which the ESA is overkill.

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — October 18, 2007 @ 6:52 pm
  5. For example, in the Klamath River case, farmers were using so much water from the Klamath River that the salmon runs were being reduced, having an impact on the salmon fisheries offshore.

    Sorry Chepe but your facts are totally wrong. The Federal Klamath Irrigation Project uses from between 2 and 5 PERCENT of the water available in the Klamth River – depending on what type of water year it is. Average yearly flow out the mouth of the Klamath River is 12 MILLION acre feet! The Klamath Project farmers use between 245,000 acre feet (1992) and 348,000 acre feet (2002) to irrigate their crops – crops that may help feed you by the way.

    Before the water shut off of 2001, all know causes of declines in the salmon runs in the Klamath River were blamed on logging practices, ocean conditions and over fishing by commerical and non US fishermen. No where was the blame placed on the farmers and ranchers in the Upper Klamath Basin.

    The ESA played a HUGE role in the water shut off of 2001. We were shut off becuase of the Biological Opinions (BO) for the endangered Lost River suckers and the shortnosed suckers who live in Upper Klamath Lake AND, we have to supply water down stream in the Klamath River for the endangered coho salmon. Both BO’s were involved in 2001 and are still affecting lake levels and down stream flows today.

    Please visit http://www.klamathbucketbrigade.org or http://www.klamathbasincrisis.org to learn the facts.

    Comment by Barb Hall — October 18, 2007 @ 10:20 pm
  6. Barb, you are presenting a version of events that is distorted in favor of the Klamath farmers. For example, you left out the fact that the Klamath River shutoff took place during a drought. You talk about “average yearly flow” of the Klamath River, but the yearly flow of the Klamath River in 2001 was much much lower — which is why there was a cut-off. And then in 2002, the water was restored to the farmers, which reduced water flows in the river and killed about 70,000 salmon, the worst fish die-off in US history. This in turn led to the idling of the offshore fishing industry and huge economic losses to the commercial fishermen.

    This was NOT a matter of people starving to protect cute little fishies. This was a battle over money between farmers and fishermen. Yes, the ESA was used as a legal basis for their court case. But this was not a matter of a bunch of big-city environmentalists depriving hard-working farmers of their rightful income. Let’s be honest about what was driving this dispute.

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — October 18, 2007 @ 11:18 pm
  7. He will be hung out to dry (no pun intended)… like I was during the run up to the Gulf War… as the saying goes, you can run… but you can’t hide….from the US Govt. Retire while you can!

    Comment by Dr US Army — October 19, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

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