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Victor Davis Hanson
California’s Water Wars « Back to Story

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Whenever one of those bay area envirowackos would start going on about breaching dams to "save the salmon", etc. I would always say, "Good. Let's start with Hetch Hetchy and see how long you elitists survive." They would spit and sputter, but they just did not have a come back to that one.
Overall, environmental "law" is a man caused disaster.
Nothing is discussed in this otherwise excellent article of how the big farmers are choosing to sell water as a major "crop" to make zillions of dollars. Example: Stuart and Linda Resnick, who control the Kern Water Bank and Westlands Water District, sold "some" of their private water rights for $78 million in 2011; their partner, real estate developer John Vidovich, of Los Altos Hills, sold "some" of his water rights for $73 million. This is the trend for the big farmers and land holders in Kern County, who keep big advertising signs on the 5 Freeway trying to make the public think they are hurting for water, blaming Congress and two inch fish in the California Delta. Then there's California Senator, Darlin' Diane Feinstein, who just stuck in December 20, 2011 earmark in Obama's latest $915 billion spending bill to channel more Delta water directly to the Resnicks and Vidovich's Kern Water Bank and Westlands Water District. Taxpayers should be alarmed that the Kern Water Bank was financed with more than $75 million of taxpayer's money, then given to the Resnicks in a secret, closed-door meeting in Monterey. This is now referred to as the Monterey Amendment. It was like a Christmas present to Feinstein's Beverly Hills billionaire buddies in return for their generous campaign donations to her and being included in parties at their Beverly Hills mansion. The corruption is as flagrant as back in the early 1900s with Jim Boswell, when he was the largest farmer in the United States. Read The King of California for starters; it reads like today's news! Cadillac Desert movie and Chinatown movie will give interested readers more education in these water wars. The beat goes on with only the names changing for the politicians and super rich power players in this drama. Like old reporters say, follow the money. Or, if you folllow the water, it flows uphill to the big money! If the truth were known, the first Governor (Pat) Brown sold the public a boondoggle that the water bond would pay for itself. It never did and now his son, the present Governor Jerry Brown, is going to try to sell California citizens another water bond. And I wonder if the commissioned seller of that water bond just might be his sister, Kathleen Brown, who works for Goldman Sachs?
King Kong, Godzilla & the Delta Smelt

"California’s water wars aren’t about scarcity. Even with 37 million people and the nation’s most irrigation-intensive agriculture, the state usually has enough water for both people and crops, thanks to the brilliant hydrological engineering of past generations of Californians."

Rarely have I read a more Orwellian statement. Much of California is arid or semi-arid, and some of it is even more so in modern times, after all these water projects, like the Owens Valley, thanks to long ago having its water shipped to L.A. There have been "water wars" all along the way, well before everything could be blamed on environmentalists and critters that do not vote or write fat checks to lobbyists.

This aridity was the very reason for these huge water projects, which, yes, are a marvel, but cannot withstand California forever redoubling its population like some Third World backwater, all due to federal policies of endless mass illegal and legal immigration, counting offspring. (This is called math.)

Utopian “liberal”-Democratic open-borders “environmentalists” and their “conservative”-libertarian counterparts, in ignoring the foreign invasion’s resulting overpopulation problems, definitely deserve each another. Although most Californians, and certainly the environment, deserve neither.

Without getting further into California's gigantic government water projects, a type of spending I hadn’t thought was particularly popular on this website, and the reality that such projects have unintended consequences, like killing rivers and, through over-irrigation, turning vast stretches of farmland into virtually irretrievable horizontal toxic materials depositories, one of Hanson's dire statements stands out:

"a growing population of illegal aliens."

Say what? I thought that the ever increasing demands from the ever increasing California population could never possibly impact the Copernican California water supply? (Hmm, seem to recall someone writing a good book once called “Mexifornia” but guess not.) Apparently, if it were not for this devil fish, disguised as an unassuming smelt, and its posse of raving environmentalists, California could have the population density of Calcutta--no problema. Just keep them regulations at bay.

Amazing how short is the human memory in between droughts. In any case, who would have thought that anti-Obama ideology could be as scarily disconnected from reality as its counterpart? But apparently the most important thing is always to shape facts any way they can fit in order to arrive at the desired outcome. Whether Democrat or Republican, all such efforts will be handsomely rewarded by the supremely satisfying: Hooray for our side!
VDH, Thank you for a most cogent and reasoned detailing of the Central Valley, and its' sub-areas. After 50+ years of studying CA and its' strengths and weaknesses I now understand.

Thank you for your usual insight.

Stephen Eakin.
millions of acre-feet (a unit of volume measuring one acre wide by one foot deep)

Aargh! The golden idol of historical wisdom is tarnished! Even my Fresno State degree in civil engineering taught that an acre-foot is one acre in AREA by one foot deep. The width is immaterial, the acre can be any shape you please, as long as there are 43,560 square feet in it.

Pardon the quibble, Dr. Hanson, the rest of the article is indeed golden.
Welcome to the brave, new, liberal world.
I run a business founded in 1863. My great uncle, in 1930, kept the books for a very prosperous company in a book in his vest pocket. My father lived in a house on the water, and was considered a rich man. He worked hard, but no harder than I.
I was just old enough in the 60's to observe the change which has occurred. Obama is not an aberrance, he is the process. I remember my father having nightmares about workman's comp rates which I would kill for. It was once a well understood concept that 10% for overhead and 10% for profit was a proper charge for extra work. If you show me one company that has 10% overhead today, thanks to the government, I'll eat your hat.
All this is nothing new. My mother, descended from a family which came here in 1623, hated Roosevelt, because she understood what was involved. My '60s liberal sisters all thought Roosevelt was wonderful, with all his love for mankind; and Eleanor (a simplistic dolt, if there ever was one) was even better, in their eyes.
Idiots abound, and always have. It is up to us not to accept their lunacy. What is today the Democratic Machine should be universally ridiculed, as they are ridiculous, and mere liars. "No, it's not!", no matter how loudly put forth, is not an argument (see Monty Python). I am mightily weary of it all, since I always saw this coming, from high school, yet was I derided, as a cynic and a paranoid. It ain't paranoia, if they really are out to get you.
This is what happens. The Founders understood it completely. They had learned, through bitter experience, that there is no free lunch, and everyone does not bargain in good faith. Let us pray that we don't have to learn the exact same lessons, the exact same way. Communists have more respect for the delta smelt than human life. I would like to argue my point, but the other side thinks that they have a right to my free labor, and any comment on my part is somehow wrong. I will not stand by and let myself be robbed, which is what it has become. Lest we forget, it is armed robbery, because if I say, "No!", they will arrest me and put me in jail.
Wasn't slavery outlawed completely, or only incrementally? If only a bit, how much, exactly? I think the liberal's answer would be informative. Given the latest union and liberal rhetoric, I think they want it all. As they surely have, all along. Since 1912.
Extortion is extortion, no matter how noble sounding. Democrats have declared themselves as "Us" vs. "Them". Stop givng them equal time. They are crooks, plain and simple. One does not negotiate with crooks. Simply call them crooks, and then set to guarding your wares.
you may want to research how Westlands Water Management is only allocating 10% of water to Westside and selling off farm land at pennies on the dollar, not because of lack of water but because of salt concentration that looks to be a result of over irrigating.
And the good research I see is coming from UC Davis, not Cal or Stanford or the Bay Area where "ironies abound". In fact this report on Westside salt concentration is from Davis in 2005: "The model indicated that soil salinity in the area was high in 1940, but decreased until 1975 because low-salinity snowmelt water was brought in by state and federal water projects, flushing salts out of the surface soils and down into deeper water sources or aquifers. This pattern was reversed during the 1970s as increased irrigation in the valley raised the water table, drawing up some of those salts that previously had been leached downward. As the groundwater levels rose toward the surface, farmers applied less irrigation water to prevent water logging -- and consequently increased the soil salinity. This problem was compounded by the use of more saline surface water for irrigation during occasional droughts."

The Westside is not suitable for farming. Quit blaming the fish. The argument is as bankrupt as the politicians selling votes
The personal loans suppose to be essential for people, which would like to organize their own company. By the way, that's not really hard to receive a auto loan.
Good article; but the absence of any mention of the water that Yuma and Coachella take from the Colorado is conspicuous. The 'previous generation' of California's leaders, scientists and engineers believed that the grandest projects could be undertaken in order to beef up California's profile as the seat of Western American power. This worked during the 20th century, but the coming water wars, predominantly centered on the Colorado River's flows, will change that. No amount of Global-Warming denial will change the inexorable decline in the Colorado River's flows, and when the Colorado River Compact falls apart California will be much more profoundly affected. It will be difficult to assign blame to agitating "San Francisco Environmentalists" when the production of the Imperial Valley is cut off by hostile claims made by Las Vegas and Phoenix. Which brings us back to the original point made by these 'activists', which is that economic growth is ultimately incompatible with a sustainable lifestyle. Perhaps the author is right on the short term, but when the Colorado River dries up, the truth-telling hour will be here.
When one person characterizes the situation of fresh water supplies, it is the perspective of one person. When regional water users sit down at a table of users and stakeholders, they can look at issues that include: supply, demand, quality, measurement and monitoring, water law and other aspects of water administration.

Mr. Hanson prefers to proceed based on past practice in regards to diversion. This practice has gotten us into this corner. As he states, the Bay Area continues to rely on diversions for its supplies, even while it is comfortably situated on the coast of vast resources of ocean waters. The record of groundwater depletions and subsidence in the Central Valley is well-known and well-documented. Past practices are poor models for the development of sustainable use of the resource. They present one alternative in the massive diversions.

Regional long-term planning is needed to establish a real baseline for addressing regional uses. It can develop and evaluate the feasibility of recommendations in a holistic manner. The urban-rural war over freshwater supplies is typical of situations that proceed in an ad hoc manner rather than developing scenarios that address a 50 year timeline and can accurately assess supplies and address demand. The State Legislature is a poor water administrator and urban areas have little to complain about given the political influence of Democrats in the state.

The issue is not the Delta smelt. It is just as much inflow streams as a beneficial use that runs into conflict with agricultural use. Why? Dams and aqueducts have created a situation where diversions are seen as an entitlement inherent in economic use of the resource. The Public Trust Doctrine is twisted in a way that water politics is not between regional users and stakeholders but between geographical regions and the battleground focuses away from the communities impacted into a one-party Legislature.

The state water plan is a failure because it fails to link the needs of the regions starting at the regional level. The Stanford study on groundwater suggests regions have developed innovative measures. Necessity has predicated these measures. Necessity indicates that regions adapt processes to develop plans based on renewable supplies. Ad hoc measures are not as successful as long-term plans because they are more often than not stopgap measures.

We have moved beyond the drought. We have a window of opportunity to establish measures that are based on sound science and effective policy at all levels of governance and administration. Those who are impacted by decisions need to be the people who structure their own priorities and develop their policy recommendations with the full recognition of their consequences and the realization that THEY are the ones who will have to live with them.
Living in Fresno for four years taught me a lot about the heartland of California. If VDH doesn't write a book consisting of an extended paean to the Central Valley and the nearby Sierra Nevada foothills, he is missing a bet. John McPhee hasn't done it so far, so do it!
Yet another example of what happens when Democrats take control of anything these days. The Democratic Party, under whom some of these magnificent achievements were accomplished, has transformed itself into something that is among the most corrupt organizations on the planet. It has embraced its dark side - the party of the KKK, Jim Crow and lynchings.

As an organization the Democratic Party is institutionally corrupt, relying on media support, and taxpayer dollars funneled through public unions. It ruins everything it touches. California is in the hands of this organization which after it seizes power (usually by using its power over the media to sharply define groups and then turning each group against the other) uses government to drive out all those who disagree with its vision of turning the populace into dependents, by destroying the family, and subsidizing children out of the traditional family structure. Thus have Democrats transformed cities from engines of growth and wealth to a drag on those around them - and has utterly destroyed the African American community in so doing. (Latinos take note - you are next).

Democrats have turned its corrupt vision on the whole of California, and what this articles describes is part of its overall strategy - the povertization of the people IS the goal, not the result of Democrat policies. A populace that is poor, fearful, dependent and broke is THE perfect Democrat Party society. there is simply no other way to view what happens when Democrats take control. Democrats would have everyone believe that these are the consequences under which Democrats take control, but that is belied by the facts - which are that these are not consequences but results of such control. Once in power Democrats use taxes to set up sham 'community' entities to distribute money throughout its organization, in the process doing exactly nothing for the community.

For over 50 years now this process of governance has been perfected in the major cities - and the African American community has borne the full brunt of the Democrat Party experience in governance, and the absolute corruption of the one party system in control of most of today's inner cities. That model of government is in the process of being implemented on a state-wide basis in California. Don't expect what is typically known as wise government from these people - they have an entirely different agenda in mind, including driving out those who disagree.

Think this is paranoia? Continue to watch events unfold in California, and note that no matter how bad it gets, Democrats will never admit that there is anything wrong with their theories of how to run things. There are different rules at work here, and the destruction of the work of the past is strictly intended.

I can't think of another reason why Democrats do what they do, and get away with it.

I find it interesting that many conservatives in this country continuously point to government spending as the crux of our economic problem, when this article makes it quite evident that this massive public works project ($5.2 billion unadjusted for inflation according to the DWR website) has facilitated the prosperity of agribusiness in this state. I imagine that those pesky people in the Bay Area that the article pointed out must have voted to issue public bonds to finance this massive project, otherwise this economic generator would have not come to be. I would even venture to guess that should a project of this scope be considered today, many in the central valley would be against it. Consider this fact the next time that you hear people say that high-speed rail, electrical grid upgrades, or other infrastructure spending is "socialism" or government waste. The truth of the matter is that infrastructure is a public burden to support and encourage private profits.
How about a lawsuit declaring contracts and property superior and the darn enviornment of little to no value? Maybe we need an activist radical supreme court or a chinese invasion.

Peter Martinson presents the June 2011 announcement by the American Astronomical Society, about the future of our Sun, within the context of a creative universe. The Sun is not random, and neither is our planet's relationship to it. So, our governments must quit posturing, and do something about it!

Any economic recovery of the United States depends upon the immediate implementation of the North American Water and Power Alliance program. The LaRouche PAC Basement Team presents a four part breakdown of the NAWAPA mega-project.
That's more than egregious. The San Joaquin Valley is one of the most fertile regions in the world, let alone the U.S.

I've heard interviews with Congressman Devin Nunes - from that district. He told of Senator Boxer, sitting on a committee with jurisdiction in that area (water), refusing to do anything about it.

If I didn't know better, I'd have to conclude that the Democrats and the environmentalists were trying to destroy the State. Try or not, they're succeeding.
Certainly the Democrat party is a pox on our state - however the Repubs aren't innocent. They cannot field a viable ticket.

We need a third party.
I live in the San Joaquin Valley. Hanson's analysis is right on target. He knows his land and his fact.
Everything else is spot on, but the author persists in casting doubt on the reality of global warming. There is ample evidence of its reality, and when (not if, but when) winter precipitation in the Sierras falls mostly as rain, Chu's predictions will be born out.

See the web site RealClimate for further information.

The obstinate denial of a scientific fact will doom conservative thought to scorn across the board, just as Catholic thinking fell from its pedestal after it clashed with Galileo over which goes around which, earth or sun.
A brilliant, fascinating article. Beautifully written, as well. Many thanks, Mr. Hanson, for enlightening me and, I hope, many others on this subject.
"But in today’s California—with vast Democratic majorities in the state legislature, statewide officeholders mostly Democratic, and a delegation to Congress that’s also mostly Democratic—there is almost no chance of restoration of the original 100 percent delivery contracts, no matter what weather the future brings."

That's the crux of the matter and the reason California will go down the toilet. The best we can do is confine the damage to that state alone.