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Quote of the Day - If you want to catch trout, don't fish in a herring barrel. - Ann Landers

Taking Water and Paying for It

Last December, when we were all bundled up for our winter nap, things were happening in D.C., and we weren't paying attention. But now, the news is out. The US Court of Claims (where you go if you have a claim against the federal government) decided that farmers in two California counties are entitled to just compensation for water taken from their land.

Sounds kind of normal, doesn't it?

Except that the water was taken to protect endangered winter-run Chinook salmon and threatened delta smelt between 1992 and 1994. The USFWS withheld billions of gallons from farmers in California's Kern and Tulare counties. But, since taking the water constituted a "taking" under the 5th Amendment, the government now has to pay the damages for that condemnation.

About $26 million. That's a lot of fish. The cash will go to about 15 farmers in the Tulare Lake Basin water district. Hansen Ranches, Lost Hills Water District and Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Supply District were also affected by the loss of water.

The NRDC is not happy with the lawsuit, claiming it is just a backdoor attack on the Endangered Species Act because condemnation payments by the federal government to affected parties will prevent needed listings of endangered species.

I thought that's what the Constitution was supposed to provide. Maybe I missed something.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, February 14, 2004

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