Monthly Archives: June 2009

Can’t rule out stupidity.

Two gauges that measure the flow of the Mattole River were vandalized over the weekend, temporarily throwing a wrench into the works of a program to monitor the amount of water in the drought-stricken stream.

The first U.S. Geological Survey gauge in Ettersburg was hit on May 31 at 10 p.m. The solar panel that charges its batteries was torn out and its antenna — which transmits the information — was cut and removed. Three hours later, vandals hit another gauge near Petrolia in similar fashion.

This article about vandalized gauges on the Mattole River cracked me up. I mean, it is actually sad, because that equipment costs money and we need the flow data. But it was still funny. There are three possible reasons for the vandalism. The article quotes some director-guy as saying that vandals did that deliberately to obscure information about the river. Maybe rights holders don’t want anyone to know how much they’re draining the river.

That’s possible, but I got to tell you. When I was taught to design anything, any stupid uncontroversial gate in a water district, my professors hammered home the design criteria that everything we make must be bullet proof. The folks out there shoot anything, all the time. If it stands out in any way, it is a target. Half the boxes (for circuitry and telemetry) at the gates we go to have bullet indentations in them, just because. No one hates them. No one is sending a message. They just get shot at. So you can’t rule out the possibility that this vandalism was the usual dumb vandalism.

My friend suggests a different reason. I’m so used to water scarcity and fish limits and policy disputes, but that’s not what she says. “On the Mattole?” she says. “Those are pot growers. They don’t want anyone seeing their unauthorized diversions and sending out helicopters.” Compared to all the usual complexity in resource disputes, that sounds like such a pure and straightforward reason to break a couple gauges.


Filed under Uncategorized