I am seeing more local newspaper op-eds opposing the San Joaquin Valley water dogma than I ever have before. Part of it is about replacing Nunes, but it also opens the door for new ways of thinking about water If this is the work of the local resistance, you guys are doing a great job. They are feeling the pressure.
The longstanding water dogma of the San Joaquin Valley has been narrow. The premise is that farmers need more (extracted from the environment), and the only other lens for water policy is farmworker jobs. I don’t pay as much attention to the water quality news stories, but I don’t remember many of them from the Valley before 2011-2016 drought, even during the 2006-2009 drought. Post drought, I’m seeing a few topics emerge:
- Drinking water supply in rural Valley towns. (Related: longstanding racism, paying for ongoing O&M for water treatment, nitrates in the groundwater, arsenic standards, special district consolidations). This is getting well-deserved attention, primarily because of the local organizing done over the past several years.
- Urban water quality in Fresno, particularly fear of lead poisoning.
- SGMA implementation, including the formation of water markets and who will have access when Groundwater Sustainability Plans are being written.
- Having living rivers in the region, with access for everybody.
These are all relatively undeveloped issues, from a statewide policy perspective. I am sure locals have been aware and working on these for decades, but at my remove, I haven’t heard anything on water policy out of the San Joaquin Valley besides the standard clichés. Further, these issues are tremendously susceptible to the wonder powers of the progressive left: community organizing, developing policy based on science, and throwing money at problems. Imagine if Nunes and Valdao had spent any effort on these or had brought home any money towards these objectives? The few issues they have harped on for years are deadlocked; the discussion around them played to exhaustion.
I am inspired by the new themes emerge in the Fresno Bee, the Visalia Times-Delta, the Hanford Sentinel. I greatly admire Lois Henry’s work at Bakersfield.com. The local community organizing on drinking water done during the drought is bearing fruit now. There are concrete bills and proposals that California can implement (imagine if the State had constructive local Congressmembers to work with). The Resistance to Trump is opening new arenas for progressive work on Valley water. I love to see it. Please let me know if I can help.
14 responses to “Watching a progressive water platform for the San Joaquin Valley take shape.”
Maybe the momentum will disrupt Westland too.
I am new to your essays, but loving them. I find I can quickly gobble up hours reading your archives and clicking on links.
Great to read about hope for something akin to progressive ideas taking root in the SJV. There was this about Nunes just today, too…more signs of his eroding purchase on power: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/richard-burr-devin-nunes-created-susan-rice-unmasking-narrative
Agreed. The nitrate contamination extravaganza of the 2010s and the drought/SGMA seem to have reoriented SJ Valley water discussions to levels of realism and pragmatism seen in some of the better reports from 1970s and 1930s.
Hmm, what about the new Valadao bill?
Let’s not forget irrigation. Talking to a U.C.Davis educated European expert this week, he emphasized the fact that irrigation is only paid attention to during drought years. Then it is forgotten. We need a strong, state-wide program to help farmers save water.
This article is a perfect combination of virtue signaling, cliches, and blindness to facts that contradict your preconceived notions. Your “progressive” policies of diverting water to the ocean for endangered species restoration, made the drinking water crisis in rural areas worse. (By the way did your science based policies improve the fish species’ viability?) But now that they help your agenda you suddenly care about these people dearly. Many of these people are farmworkers, so not only did you worsen their drinking water, you also turned a blind eye to massive unemployment caused in these areas by pumping restrictions that, again, did not improve fish numbers. You can say cliche words like science and environment until you play them to exhaustion, but it does not overcome the reality that your policies have been a complete failure for people and fish both. Let’s also question the ridiculous idea that more progressive ideas will improve the lives of the poor or the environment in the San Joaquin Valley. As if we don’t have living examples of very progressive places like the Bay Area and Los Angeles that have the impressive combination of high taxes, high inequality, poorly ranked schools, infrastructure and public services, which has caused a net migration of the poor to places like Texas, Arizona and Nevada, and that also happen to destroy beautiful places (Owens Lake, Hetch Hetchy) to ensure themselves a water supply. The spread of the “agenda” among journalists and self described policy makers is one thing and you can write policy papers and stack them from here to the moon, but at some point the agenda has to produce something concrete in the real world, which is where you have tried and failed. Yet you are entirely insulated from the consequences of your own ideology, which is why you can’t and shouldn’t be trusted by anyone who is exposed to the consequences.
I was going to try and respond in a measured way to Mr. Hoge’s half truths and deflections but then remembered that there is no talking to the 38% of the population who are clinging desperately to a past to which they are entitled. Better to talk to those interested in the future.
What we have here Mr. Bass is the undeniable signs of a progressive internet zinger. You call out half truths without specifics. You make a personal attack with a whiff of identity politics (maybe you should use the word deplorable next time, though I’m not a Trump voter). And a vague dismissive platitude about a glorious modern progressive future. (We’re living in it dude, see California’s rankings in infrastructure, schools, poverty and inequality) Don’t worry OtPR, won’t post again.
So when you write a sentence accusing someone (unclear exactly who, the context makes it seem like anyone who opposes the illegal operation of dams in a way that kills fish species) of “worsen their drinking water” what do you mean by that? Because I am thinking that allowing water to flow past Gravelly Ford on the San Joaquin River might help to recharge groundwater in the same way that it used to before Friant Dam dried up the flow. The most widespread groundwater contamination seems to be nitrates, and more than 90% of the nitrates were caused by farming activities (http://groundwaternitrate.ucdavis.edu/). Do you think the desire to have enough water in rivers for fish to live causes nitrates? I myself think that fertilizers are a more likely cause.
@Sojournertruth good point that was carelessly and quite poorly stated on my part. I was referring to the cases of pumping restrictions in the delta to “save fish” reducing surface water deliveries and causing growers to pump more groundwater, which dropped groundwater levels affecting domestic wells for rural inhabitants. I was not referring to nitrate contamination, though I see a regulation now exists for this that will generate mountains of paperwork that no one will ever enforce and that appears not to change anyone’s actual behavior (could be wrong here). Probably another good example of the difference between pretending to fix a problem and actually doing it.
I refer you to long-term records of groundwater depletion in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Such an example is here: http://calag.ucanr.edu/Archive/?article=ca.E.v069n03p193
See Fig. 1 which tracks changes in groundwater storage since 1922.
To me, the plain fact is that we have more farmable flat land in the San Joaquin Valley than we have developed water supply. Society has always used water here unsustainably. We got away with it for a long time, more than 100 years. Now the reckoning is coming.
Referring to Fig. 1, can you identify the non-drought years in which Delta pumping restrictions caused groundwater to plummet significantly? I can’t.
Read that opinion piece by Aubrey Bettencourt again – it is a horrible mess. She tries to draw parallels between Fiint (which had a functional water system until the Governor and his appointed city manager decided they could save a few pennies by ignoring those “elitist” civil engineers) and a few communities with naturally occurring contaminants. To make her point about water contamination she included a (dead) link to a story about environmental contamination in Oakland, as though Oakland is in the San Joaquin Valley.
It was terrible writing that was utterly disconnected from relevant facts.
Yes, I agree, the condition of drinking water supply in rural areas got better and efforts made for Fresno water quality are appreciable.