We Need a Political Climate Change

If you had any doubt that California’s present shortage of available water for farming in the Central Valley is a political, not a climate, problem, Anthony Watts will disabuse you of the notion.

If you’ve any doubt that this administration puts the desires of the crazy greens over the public interest, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board puts that to rest

California’s Historic Flood-Drought Weather

Per Watts, since 1861, before the industrial revolution, California has recorded periods of heavy rainfall and truly massive floods which more water storage could mitigate. On the “flip side,” the state has had long periods of drought which can be dated from 800 A.D. to the present, obviously long before “the modern occupation of California.” These swings are attributable to something NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) calls “Atmospheric Rivers.”

“Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere -- like rivers in the sky -- that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow.” 

Its Central Valley, about which Victor David Hanson has so often written, was submerged in rain during the 1861-62 storm and is presently starved of water because of an ongoing drought and mismanagement of existing water supplies. 

On the western side of the Central Valley, the effects of arbitrary cutoffs in federal irrigation water have idled tens of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land, leaving thousands unemployed. Manufacturing plants in the towns in these areas -- which used to make harvesters, hydraulic lifts, trailers, food-processing equipment -- have largely shut down; their production has been shipped off overseas or south of the border. Agriculture itself -- from almonds to raisins -- has increasingly become corporatized and mechanized, cutting by half the number of farm workers needed. So unemployment runs somewhere between 15 and 20 percent. [snip]

The public hears about all sorts of tough California regulations that stymie business -- rigid zoning laws, strict building codes, constant inspections -- but apparently none of that applies out here.

It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not regulate. Its public employees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the upscale areas to justify our expensive oversight industry, while ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas, which are becoming feral and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything but feel irrelevant. [snip]

I pass on the cultural consequences to communities from the loss of thousands of small farming families. I don’t think I can remember another time when so many acres in the eastern part of the valley have gone out of production, even though farm prices have recently rebounded. Apparently it is simply not worth the gamble of investing $7,000 to $10,000 an acre in a new orchard or vineyard. What an anomaly -- with suddenly soaring farm prices, still we have thousands of acres in the world’s richest agricultural belt, with available water on the east side of the valley and plentiful labor, gone idle or in disuse. [snip]

California coastal elites may worry about the oxygen content of water available to a three-inch smelt in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, but they seem to have no interest in the epidemic dumping of trash, furniture, and often toxic substances throughout California’s rural hinterland.  

Good planning in the light of this historic climate evidence should lead the state to “improving and hardening… reserves and infrastructure,” observes Watts and that seems to me unarguable.

Blocking the Cadiz Project

Just as the fate of thousands of farmers and tons of valuable agricultural products were and continue to be destroyed purportedly to save a three-inch smelt, the administration works to block a desperately needed water project for the Central Valley for no demonstrable reason except catering to the loony left.

The history of the Cadiz Inc. project to repurpose a 220-mile oil and gas pipeline to bring water to the Valley and the Inland Empire is detailed in the Wall Street Journal. On its own land, Cadiz has watersheds holding trillions of gallons of water and wants to use that water as a groundwater bank to store runoff in rainy years and tap it through the pipeline in drought years. It fought for years for environmental permission to do just that and in 2012 the Santa Margarita Water district and San Bernardino okayed the plan. But in order to transport the water to users, it needs BLM permission to build a 43-mile underground pipeline on an existing railroad right-of-way, which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) blocked. That ruling was reversed by the Trump administration, which granted the permit. Four years later in 2019 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring yet more environmental studies and BLM has not granted the land-access permits necessary to do these additional studies. The 220-mile pipeline could still be used, but BLM recently sought a judicial ruling vacating the Trump-era permit.

“The pipeline already exists. Reassigning the right-of-way would have no impact on public land.“ The reviews sought under the National Environmental Policy Act will likely delay this essential project for years. This is clearly abusive and hurts the most impoverished parts of the state most impacted both by the drought and nonsensical public planning.

BLM’s court filing came days after California officials announced that cities and farms that rely on the state Water Project would receive 0% of their requested supply next year, because of severe drought, so water rationing would be coming. 

Once again, the crazy greens overrode public needs, along with the bureaucrats of the Biden administration. What we desperately need, along with the denizens of the beleaguered Central Valley, is a change in the political climate.

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