Michael Rozengurt

In Memoriam: Dr. Michael Rozengurt

  I was saddened today to learn of the passing of Russian hydrologist/oceanographer/fisheries biologist Dr. Michael Rozengurt.  Dr. Rozengurt, who lived in the Los Angeles area, was 79.  I was contacted by his son Vadim, who thanked me for writing about his father on this website last July. (Just type Rozengurt in the website search engine box and you can read the whole story.)  Dr. Rozengurt, who fled Russia after sounding the alarm that Russian water officials were destroying the Aral Sea in a desert cotton farming scheme, came to America to see the same destruction happening to America's rivers and estuaries.

  He wrote Gov. Brown in 1980 warning that the proposed Peripheral Canal would destroy the San Francisco-San Joaquin Estuary fishery.  More than 30 years later he was railing against the proposed twin tunnels project, which he said would also destroy the Delta fishery.  His message was simple:  take too much water out of a river or estuary and you kill them, including the fish and other biota. 

  Dr. Rozengurt was a prophet in his native Russia and in America.  Leaders in both Russia and America ignored his warnings but he never gave up trying to talk sense to the water buffaloes.  He will be dearly missed.

   

A voice in the desert wilderness

By Lloyd G. Carter

               On the day before the start of summer in June of 1980, Russian oceanographer/hydrologist/fisheries biologist and political exile Michael Rozengurt, along with American marine biologist Irwin Haydock, co-wrote then Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr.  a two-page letter warning that a proposed "Peripheral Canal" to funnel Northern California river water around the problem-plagued Delta, would result in the demise of the Delta ecosystem and its abundant fishery.

               Rozengurt, now 78 and living in Los Angeles,  was no stranger to gloomy predictions.  In his 1986 epic on western water "Cadillac Desert", the late author Marc Reisner described Rozengurt as "an expatriate Russian fisheries biologist, who compared California's situation to what the Russians had done to the Sea of Azov, a spectacular fishery turned into a biological desert by Stalin's directive to irrigate a limitless acreage of cotton." He had also watched the Soviet construction of a peripheral canal on the Volga River in 1974 which had caused "mind-boggling" damage to the river's fishery.

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