Monthly Archives: January 2011

Glad to be back; I’ve missed you guys.

I’ll ease my way back into this with the easiest of posts: news commentary. 

  • First, I want to say how much I appreciate straightforward meeting summaries like this.  I appreciate Mr. Breitler’s post of crowd commentary even more.  I often regret that I can’t go to important public meetings, and posts like these help fill me in.  Thanks for those.
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  • I see a couple rate-increase stories a day.  The standard story involves angry citizens vowing to fight the increase and saying that the district should find other sources, like the piles of money that the directors sleep on at night.  So this story about a rate increase in wealthy, liberal St. Helena was pretty fun.  Well, yes, say the puzzled locals.  Of course you need the money to maintain the infrastructure.  But we would have preferred that you ramped the rates up gradually a few years ago.  Why did you let it get this bad?  There is a small mention of little old ladies eating catfood, but it is pretty perfunctory.  It must be nice to be an elected official in St. Helena.
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  • The thing that intrigued me about this opinion piece from the American Farm Bureau Federation is that the author gives the environmentalist perspective no altruistic motivation.  The only explanation Mr. Ness has for decades of environmentalist effort is that they “seek to … control the water and all that comes with it. ” Mr. Ness quotes the perspective that environmentalist “activist groups … try… to shut down irrigation in the name of a bite-sized fish and an over-sized political agenda”, but closes by saying that farmers should “make sure a little silver fish is not really a red herring.”  But neither the quoted gentleman nor Mr. Ness explain what they think the environmentalist agenda really is.  Control for control’s sake?  Preventing irrigation for no reason at all?  Why doesn’t Mr. Ness accept the possibility that environmentalists really like fish?  Even small fish.  Or that fish represent something that environmentalists like even more, like working natural ecosystems? 

It mostly doesn’t matter what any individual opinionater believes about their opposite’s mindset.  But if this is ever to reach a negotiation phase, the negotiators at least will have to believe that the person they’re negotiating with has genuine goals.  Genuine goals can be traded and accommodated in negotiation.  Vague secret goals of ‘power’ and ‘control’ can never be met.

  • I have to say.  My feelings were a little hurt by Mr. Curlee’s opinion piece earlier this week, saying that everyone south of the Delta should follow Westland’s lead and rage against “unwanted and unmerited federal interference” in California’s water business.   What am I, a potted plant?  Have all our state efforts meant nothing to you, Mr. Curlee?  What about the State Board’s Delta flows report?  What about the new Delta watermaster going around telling ag that inefficient irrigation practices aren’t a reasonable use of water?  Is the California Endangered Species Act nothing, a trifle?

I suspect, with nothing in the way of personal evidence, that Mr. Curlee is in the grips of a confused Tea Party-esque view, in which the federal government is the source of oppression and the states are valiant experiments in freedom.  How confusing this must be in California, where the same federal judge hands down the rulings that set a pumping schedule to protect state and federal endangered species (Fed judge BAD), and later told FWS to re-write their Biological Opinion (Fed judge GOOD, fed agency BAD) .  What a conundrum for Mr. Curlee.  Fortunately, Gov. Brown appears to be picking unabashed liberal environmentalists for his administration.  Perhaps they can help Mr. Curlee overcome his ideological focus on the Feds as the source of all trouble and open his mind to new complexities.

  • Very much enjoyed Matt Jenkin’s Grist piece, as well as Dr. Michael’s thoughts on it.  My own thoughts weren’t especially deep.  I was interested in the anecdotes of farmers purchasing additional lands to consolidate their water use either within or outside Westlands.  The unused land is effectively fallowed (or possibly retired), but we don’t hear much about small scale transfers like that.   I was very curious about the number “6.9 million acres of farmland.”  I’ve heard all sorts of estimates.  Dept. of Conservation uses 12 million acres, but I think that includes rangeland.  DWR says 9.2  irrigated acres.  I don’t especially care, and believe there must be some definition that applies, but 7 million is the lowest I’ve heard.   I loved reading that at least one grower was thinking about an exit strategy; since I believe that there’ll be considerably less water for ag over the next decades, I’d like individual growers have decent transitions out.  I liked Dr. Michael’s commentary as well.  Neither of them talk about the overarching issue of whether California should be supplying the entire world with almonds, shipping our sunlight, water and ecosystem health abroad in the shape of very tasty nuts. I personally would trade my abstract pride in our almond-dominating prowess for the abstract knowledge that salmon are swimming in our waters.  But that’s because I insatiably crave power like fish.

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