Sneed and her boss at the US Geological Survey, Claudia Faunt, have tried reaching out to various government agencies and private businesses to warn them and inquire about the extent of damage being done to infrastructure.
“We tried calling the railroads to ask them about it,” Faunt said. “But they didn’t know about subsidence. They told us they just fixed the railroads and categorized it as repair.”
Thousands of miles of highways snaking through the state also are being damaged, she said.
“They go to repair the roads, but they don’t even know it’s subsidence that is causing all the problems,” Faunt said. “They are having to fix a lot because of groundwater depletion.”
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation said the agency does not track costs related to subsidence and was not aware of any current bridge repairs resulting from it.
But Faunt pointed to the Russell Avenue bridge that crosses the Outside Canal in the Central Valley. It sank during two previous droughts—one in the late 1970s and then again between 1987 and 1992. Now with the current sinking, the 60-year-old bridge is almost totally submerged by canal water.
This damage is not being caused by Californians as a whole. We are not cracking San Joaquin concrete by driving down the 5. If Californians end up repairing these roads, bridges and buildings out of the general fund, we will truly have gotten the shaft. The bill for repairing the damage caused by subsidence should be paid entirely by well-owners in that basin. I propose assessing them based on overlying acreage, but if they want to calculate a different payment based on pumping records, and if they care to make those pumping records public, that is also fine by me.
It is possible that assessing all well-owners in the San Joaquin Valley might result in a few growers being unfairly charged for damage they didn’t cause. But paying for repairs out of California’s general fund means that most of the 39 million people who live in California are being unfairly charged for damage they aren’t causing. They should be furious about that.