Governor’s Dam Argument

The argument stands so clearly on its own in a general sense of what California’s water needs are, that the specifics can be worked out later, but in an environment where every recent dam project in California seems to be rejected by the political leadership—though expert public administrative leadership disagree—it is no wonder the concept is floated without specifics to gauge the possibility of it gaining traction prior to coming up with the details.

Probably not the best way to develop public policy, but one works with one has.

Editorial: Arnold wants a dam
Water policy makes lousy political crusade
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 30, 2007

Who knows whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will ever manage to build a water reservoir, somewhere, to fulfill one of his goals akin to his favorite flavor of the month. But he sure is making the case in the wrong way.

He and Republican supporters in the Senate have proposed a $4.5 billion bond for the November 2008 ballot. The bond would include money to pay for half of two reservoirs. One is Temperance Flat, a reservoir on the San Joaquin River. The other is Sites Reservoir, near the Sacramento River west of the small town of Maxwell.

Somebody else — local governments, Southern California, Warren Buffett, who knows? — would have to pay for the other half of the costs. Nobody has stepped forward with a checkbook. There are no partners for either project and no final studies showing what the projects would cost or the amount of water they would provide. So the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee the other day did the obvious. It sank the governor’s fuzzy reservoir plan on a party-line vote.

Detailed studies and a fuller set of facts are necessary to begin making the case for any new reservoir. But first things first. And at the top of any savvy leader’s water list should be the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It is in crisis. The fish populations are dwindling. The state and federal pumping projects are in big trouble in separate court cases. The sea is rising. The levees are suspect. Nothing related to the Delta seems sustainable. And the California Legislature is preparing to make tough decisions about historic fixes next year.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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