POLITICALLY INCORRECT ZONE: Politically Correct Water or How I died in California

patient arial, ampoule sans-serif;”>Political-correctnessBy Kevin Harris

prescription arial,sans-serif;”>According to the latest NOAA weather models, there is a greater than 90 percent chance that El Nino will continue through winter, 2016, and an 80 percent chance it will hang on through spring of 2016. Though no one can say with certainty what this means for California’s long term weather forecast, most scientists believe it presents an increased likelihood of heavier than normal rain for parts of the state beginning this fall and extending into winter.

But why am I talking about the weather in this column? Because I’m pointing out that when the rains start, and Californians raise their fists to the sky in unison and cheer that the drought is finally over, most of the precious water that falls on us will promptly wash out to sea.

Here’s a fun little tidbit to get this party started: California hasn’t added one major reservoir since 1979 – though the state’s population nearly doubled in that time. We DID try to save a tiny, rare fish from going extinct by dumping billions of gallons of water out to sea year-after-year. But it went extinct anyway. So now the state insists on dumping that water to save salmon.

As our farmers begin to go extinct.

This is all very confusing. Here’s why. Extended droughts in California are not new, though it appears we may be in the early stages of a frightening NEW weather pattern, which is really an OLD pattern, for California. That old pattern is of, well, a desert. That is what this part of the country actually IS. And apparently, we may be coming out of an unusual stretch of unlikely, relatively wet weather for the state that goes back a hundred years or so.

What I’m saying is, a pattern of devastating droughts is about to become the norm, and not the exception, in California. Dumping water is no longer an option. Nor is spending our limited resources on projects the people of California don’t want or need, such as the High Speed Rail. Simply put, we need that money to build dams and reservoirs. Right Now!

In 2014, Californians passed Proposition 1, the “Water Bond.” Among other things, that was to allocate $2.7 billion for dams and reservoirs – by far the largest single financial allocation in that proposition. So where are our dams and reservoirs? What ever happened to Proposition 1?

As it turns out, the California Water Commission “Water Storage Investment Program” working session was today, as I write this in mid July, 2015. It was apparently a closed meeting, and not even webcast. What I was able to gather from the Water Commission’s website though, was which organizations were behind the letters to be read at the meeting: American Rivers; Natural Heritage Institute; Ducks Unlimited; Grasslands Water District; Audubon California; The Nature Conservancy; California Waterfowl Association; Environmental Justice Coalition for Water; The Nature Conservancy; Sierra Club California… to name a few. So, how many of those letters do you suppose will be in favor of building new dams and reservoirs, as the voters demand?

I don’t know what will ultimately happen with Proposition 1. It seems to me that our proposition system in this state is in shambles anyhow, but that is a topic for another column. What I CAN point to, with potential optimism, is California Water Bill HR 2898 – co-authored by Congressman Tom McClintock. The Bill was just approved by the House Natural Resources Committee last week (July 9), and it does several things to improve our water situation, including streamlining the now nightmarish permitting process for water storage projects. I encourage everyone reading this to look up this legislation and get behind it.

But the bottom line is, we’re in a bad place right now as far as water. You didn’t need me to tell you that. But we could have, and should have, been better prepared to ride this drought, and the next ones, out! There is not a fish on Earth worth the lives of millions of Californians, and damming a river to provide water, food and electricity to millions of people must never again take second seat to some environmental or political fantasy. We are on the verge of a new phase of long term weather patterns that will likely be harsher and more demanding. We will either prepare for it, or die.

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Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris is a former reporter, editor and journalist, and previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists. He is now a realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Oak Park. 

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Kevin Harris - this article's reporter/photographer

Laurence, I am far too much of an “environmentalist” from the perspective of many of my right-leaning friends. I am generally anti-coal and pro renewable energy, and I am a big supporter of things like EVs.

But I can recognize when and where environmentalists have abused their welcome and when they’ve gone too far. Like any other power group, right or left, the environmental lobby in California has gotten completely out of control and made life MUCH harder, and more expensive, for all Californians!

That should not be tolerated, no matter your political allegiances.

Laurence Hunt

Kevin, I have one small point of difference. I am very much in favour of wildlife conservation measures (as obviously also are the hordes of organizations that will be presenting to the commission). However, what you have correctly described is a state so deeply mired in political correctness and making every interest group happy that even the biggest and most obvious issues can’t be addressed. If there are extra costs to run a spillway past the dam for the fish, I would be fine with that. But yes, California needs a much more assertive water conservation system, and those making the decisions appear to lack the courage to act on behalf of silent future generations in the face of vocal present special interests. As a part-time California resident, and a supporter of the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, I understand the passion driving conservation initiatives. But I can assure you that every one of these environmental activists takes for granted that there will be running water at home.

Jeff

Well said, been saying it for years. Next major rainfall watch where the water goes…..right out to sea. What a waste…..