I dunno, man. I read this and I kinda felt like some of it was directed at me. I hope not, because they have better things to think about. But I’d like to use that op-ed to make a point related to something that Mr. Sabalow mentioned yesterday. Mr. Sabalow said that nothing ever happens in water. This op-ed by Secretaries Crowfoot and Blumenfeld nicely illustrates that when you have no destination, you go nowhere.
The headline of the op-ed is:
Rejecting federal proposal, California lays out its vision for protecting endangered species and meeting state water needs.
I am a grown adult, so I never hold authors responsible for the headline. I know headlines are written separately. But we can agree that this headline offers hope that the 660 words that follow it will contain a vision.
Let us look at where our two most important environmental executives hope to take us in the next two or six years. They write that they intend to:
- find… ways to protect our environment and build water security for communities and agriculture
- embrace decisions that benefit our entire state
- become much more innovative, collaborative and adaptive
- turn the page on old binaries
- develop a broad, inclusive water agenda
- take a big step in this direction
- improve water systems across our diverse state
- find creative solutions that balance all water needs
- [potentially make] tough decisions
- [pay immediate attention to t]he protection of endangered fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
- tak[e] a careful, science-based approach to operating the State Water Project
- strengthen safeguards for fish and improve real-time management of the project that delivers water to … Californians
- protect California’s interests and values
- find… common solutions with the federal government and all those interested in ending the patterns of the past
- work… together to develop a set of voluntary agreements
- provide additional water, habitat and science to improve environmental conditions in the two river systems and the Delta while providing water for other beneficial uses such as agriculture
- have… a strong commitment to move forward
- adapt to the present, but prepare for the future
Yes. Right. That’s all great. But WHAT THE FUCK DO THEY INTEND TO DO?! Six hundred and sixty words about how they intend to work, including some vagueness about doing every good thing. I absolutely understand that they will do it with the most pragmatic-sciencey-synergistic-collaborative-feasabilitiness that this state has ever seen*, but what will they do? All of everything, with good will and none of that ugly fighting that smallminded bloggers go on about? That op-ed is two pages of optimism with no content. One op-ed isn’t everything, but it sure parallels what I expect of the Resilience Portfolio, which can apparently be all things to every water interest.
All the possibilities suck. One is that they have an interior vision with, you know, places and specifics in it, but won’t tell us because that might alienate someone. Or maybe they have no interior vision for the entire goddamned field of CA water because they don’t actually care about it and are only doing these jobs as stepping stones for national positions. The worst possibility is that they think that ‘all of the good things, synergistically rising above conflict’ is an actual vision. That will not get them anywhere. In the language of our California culture, you manifest what you vision and ‘a super-duper process to do everything good’ won’t manifest anything.
The thing that kills me is that Gov. Newsom talks about “big, hairy, audacious goals” and his top environmental executives literally will not speak goals aloud. They are utterly disciplined and professional about avoiding speaking clear goals. There is no goal in that op-ed, much less audacious goals. Not ‘achieve 15M irrigated acres of almonds’. Not ‘the salmon return thunders so loud that it keeps people awake at night’. Not the classics, like “fishable, swimmable”. There is only process, no goals. Not even tiny, clean-shaven, timid goals, like ‘mis-use my authority to make my favorite camping creek real nice’. That would at least be a distinguishable goal. No. Instead we get endless assurances that whatever their vague-ass goals turn out to be, they will be accomplished in the new collaborative future-facing paradigm.
This, Mr. Sabalow, is a big part of why CA water goes nowhere. The people in charge of it cannot imagine anywhere to take it**.
*Whomever wrote that last paragraph should be deeply ashamed.
**Why, you ask, can they not imagine what CA water should look like after four to eight years of their efforts? Because there’s no solution space within their constraints. They’ve set “pleasing everybody and especially ag” as a constraint and that excludes most things (maybe not FloodMAR), and then they (especially the State Board) have to meet their duty to protect fish and wildlife. There is not much left. Which is why you’re hearing a lot about FloodMar and unspecified “multi-benefits” these days.