I am consumed by the news about Trump and the election, which doesn’t leave me much spare capacity for thinking about water.  I am heartsick about this reversal.  I had genuinely thought I was seeing new forms of power (social media connectedness between clear thinkers and Science) come to the fore.  I thought the old form of power (rich men buying access to political power) was on the wane.  This may yet be true, but seeing the changeover pushed back several years has made me deeply sad.

Nevertheless, I have had a few spare thoughts and my poor blog is hungry.

Thought 1:  Pretty wet start to the winter, which is nice.  I had thought Drought Year 6 would be the year we got serious.  But with the balance of power changed over, I’m just as happy for a wet year, a year when the water world goes about its business as usual, forgetting droughts ever happen.

Thought 2: I have no interest in the particular person in charge of Interior and Reclamation.  I’m assuming all candidates will suck equally and see no need to try to forecast.

Thought 3:  I am not sure that water policy will be the dominant force on CA agriculture this year.  Immigration and labor could be big.  But I’m looking hard at trade.  Trump seems to be going out of his way to offend China and India, who are large markets for tree nuts.  If Trump provokes a trade war, or a real war, with China, I’m thinking that this post of mine will seem prescient.  Almond orchards are all the same asset; holdings in tree nuts are not a diversified portfolio.  If there’s an overseas market bust, there will be an unbelievable surplus of harvested almonds, with more new orchards coming into bearing years.  Although the instream flow proposals are being touted as a terrible pressure on northern San Joaquin Valley economies, after a China/India trade bust, it may be that land prices collapse and easiest ways to get flows back in the river are to simply buy up abandoned almond orchards.

UPDATE 12/21:  Trade war with China.

UPDATE 6/22/18: Trade war with India; almonds.


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22 responses to “Heartsick.

  1. #3. Sometimes it is horrible being right|clear seeing. The Germans probably have a word for this.

    Please carry on, and thank you!

  2. Chris Gilbert

    re: “I had genuinely thought I was seeing new forms of power (social media connectedness between clear thinkers and Science) come to the fore. I thought the old form of power (rich men buying access to political power) was on the wane.”

    You are an idealist and a technophile. I’m probably older than you; I assume that greedy, ambitious people will always find a way regardless of technology and laws, but that a noble way to live is to attempt to call them to account.

    It is disturbing to find so many people who admire greedy, ambitious people, and even trust them to make their own lives more meaningful, or more comfortable.

  3. OTPR – try harder to wrap your brain around what we’re all learning, one Trump bloviation at a time – that he’s to be taken seriously, but not literally. He’s no more likely to disrupt CA’s almond trade than he is to quit having his clothing line manufactured elsewhere than China. These coming years are going to be all about deal-making and the One Percenters are going to make out like tall dogs.

  4. Dear on the Public record – I share your grief and Chris Gilbert’s cynism…. It will be interesting to see how a possible New alignment of global Powers affects Natural Resources. I suspect many countries are going to align themselves With China for protection from a potential US-Russia bloc. If that happens, it will be interesting to see how politicians in California react and how that will affect agriculture and water in California.

    Keep blogging! Facts not fake News!

    all the best

  5. Tom

    Seems like Trump combined your new form of power with the old form of power to his advantage

  6. Jon Hoge

    I realize that lack of accountability is the entire lifeblood of government work (that and thinking about retirement), but maybe instead of figuring out brand new ways of acquiring water and sending it through man-altered channels to the ocean for the sake of sending it to the ocean, you could first look back and figure out why the previous operations plans and bi ops, which in the case of the pumps, operated to their strictest standards, have done nothing to improve native fish numbers in the watershed in any proportional or measurable scientific way. I’ll make a prediction now as well, although no one has claimed the failure of the “science” when the fish have declined during the current operations regime, when the state returns to a more normal wet pattern and the fish numbers increase, government workers and environmental lawyers will trip over themselves trying to claim credit for their wonderful man-made environmental victory (see Doug Obegi in 2011). This is why it’s hard to believe the insular ag haters really care about the environment. They either want to “feel” like they are helping something as long as it doesn’t affect them personally (probably most people), or the really sick ones get pleasure from using water restrictions as way to exert power on others and/or satisfy their regional agenda. Either way no one seems to care about the results on the ground unless it suits their preconceptions. So until you get really serious with your recommendations and include things that are truly painful to all and all justified by your revered science (depopulation of the physical delta levy destruction and delta farm land restored to habitat, non-native fish kills madates, complete elimination of pollution or habitat alteration of any kind) I’m going to put you in one of those two categories as well.

    • Saul Travers

      Well, I don’t know if I am an “insular ag hater” or not, but I do have 2 expectations of water diverters and well drillers in California.
      1) I expect them to follow the law, including Fish and Game 5937. I have no reason to reject Judge Wanger’s opinion that operation of dams in a way that kills fish species is illegal. As long as 5937 is in effect, I expect it to be followed and not ignored as it has been in the past.
      2) I expect them to work toward groundwater sustainability. Long ago, I lived in a house in East Porterville and drank well water that went dry in the recent crisis. When that sort of thing starts happening all over the SJ Valley the human pain will be vast and tragic.

      I am not looking to “feel good” or implement any agenda except for stopping the current agenda of driving off a cliff, especially when the current agenda seems overly tilted toward globalist nut exporters.

    • A Reasonable Ag Type

      Thanks for being willing to voice an unpopular perspective.

  7. onthepublicrecord

    REMINDER: We’re getting some provocative comments and I understand the urge to respond to them as well. But there is nothing more boring than an argument in the comments and I will not tolerate boring.

    So far you’ve all done great and I appreciate it.

    • unapologetic misfit

      I hope that you don’t confuse “boring” or “an argument” with a difference in opinion.
      BTW, if there is a silver lining to the election of Trump, that could be (by no means apparent now) reforms to the Democratic Party so that we can have real options in the next election. So far, the current Dem leadership doesn’t feel like they need to change, but continued blaming of others rather than enacting substantial reforms will make them even more insignificant to those of us who voted for 3rd parties.

  8. Thomas Busse

    At the end of the day, the ships from Asia have to return with something in them, and given Gov. Brown’s hissy fit about coal at the Port of Oakland (hint: it will just go out of Portland or Bremerton) combined with the end of China’s one-child policy, all those babies over there are going to have to eat something.

    The big political news is Kamala Harris will be grandstanding from Boxer’s old perch on the Environment and Public Works committee , the state legislature has a supermajority (hint: repeal of 218), the delta plan is happening, and we will get out of federal judges legislating what should be a political question with a legislative answer you don’t always agree with. This victimization complex you’re falling into isn’t healthy. Concentrating on human population pressure on water resources makes immigration reform welcome (and Trump’s immigration policy is near-identical to Cesar Chavez’s: Hispanics voted for him over 40% and know labor scarcity improves wages and working conditions).

    Besides, it’s pointless to cry about skepticism of science when a whole generation heard people in high places blathering just say no to marijuana…a new crop in the state.

    • onthepublicrecord

      What empties?

      It would be very ironic if Trump’s ascension brought about two of my dear policy goals: California secession and the collapse of the international nut market.

  9. Bill

    Instead of waiting for a trade war to break the market for almonds what do you think would result from an organized effort to have eminent domain used to buy the orchards?

    Sent from my iPad


  10. Heartsick, yes.

    Thank you OtPR, as I often think but do not write, for sharing your thoughtful and often visceral expressions. I hope that the coming dark years only strengthen your resolve. I wish you the very best for the new year.

    I hope you can excuse my crocodile tears if as you speculate one of the casualties of Trump’s anti-free-trade trade war is the collapse of the almond hedge fund landscape spreading like illegal settlements on the dusty grazing foothill lands along the eastern edges of the Valley.

    What makes me heartsick more than potentially bad speculation by hedge funds is what might happen when Trump turns his ability use his non-politically-correct populism to turn “two-inch bait fish” into a way to gut the Endangered Species Act.

  11. Jon Hoge

    OtPR, is it science’s opinion that if all the almonds are pulled out of production and the 3 – 3.5 million acre feet (I think this is about 4-5% of California’s TOTAL water…could be wrong though) used to irrigate them is sent to through the respective tributaries and existing delta, the native fish species will return to early 1800s population levels?

    • Anonymous

      No, but 3 – 5 MAF, depending on water year, could bring the Sac River and SJR back to 1960s levels, and definitely meet the targets outlined in the CVPIA.

  12. Joe Commentor

    Luckily, melted precious snowflake, you’ll add to the water supply to be allocated to almonds or a megalopolis.

  13. John Ragozzino

    I just made another driving trip up highway 5 to the Bay Area. Much planting
    under way, many people working, equipment being purchased. Our future looks bright. And Lake Shasta is 100 feet higher than this time last year!
    Life is good.

  14. jaylund

    If the Chinese are as adept at manipulating the US political system as some other powers, they will target the exports of red or borderline states, or states with competitive Senate races, and our almonds will be safely sold.