Still another effect of water diversions has been to allow salt water to move inland toward the Delta for long periods of time during dry years, threatening farmlands that use Delta water for their crops. To facilitate exporting water to Southern California, state and federal agencies propose to construct a canal that would skirt the Delta, carrying with it much of the flow of the Sacramento River. This project has its Rube Goldberg aspects. As it skirts past the Delta, water would be released from it to keep back the saltwater intrusion. Green calls the canal the final part of a not-so-grand design that could severely damage the West's most valuable estuary.
In face of all these threats—from massive water-diversion schemes, from ravenous foreign fishing fleets and from uncontrolled power-plant proliferation—many fishermen and conservationists are, understandably, pessimistic. Yet as Angus Macbeth, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council who has been involved in major fishery cases, puts it, "We are lucky in that we know enough so that we can do something about the situation. We can see the causes of the trouble and take action. We've found out just in time, and this gives us a lever. We have to have real protection of our estuaries and the high seas or we will suffer major declines in our best fisheries. It's a David and Goliath situation, frankly. We have three stones in the sling: litigation, legislation and responsible action by administrative agencies. All three stones had better hit the mark."