It has been known for some time that public leadership in California has failed in maintaining the necessary water infrastructure needed for a growing population, and this article in the Sacramento Bee affirms that.
After six years of drought and a few months of flooding, California’s decades-long political commitment to ideology of being either for the environment or against progress has endangered the state’s water supply system and is threatening public safety, environmental health and economic stability.
Rather than upgrade California’s water collection and delivery systems, for 50 years state bureaucrats, political appointees and many elected officials focused their priorities on an onslaught of environmental standards, regulations, projects and programs committed to their rose-colored-glasses vision of California.
They created a false choice for all elected officials, every “wanna-be” officeholder, career bureaucrat, water manager, scientist and engineer, advocacy group, community leader, and even California voters: either you are for the environment or you are against California.
Once again Mother Nature has shown that these choices cannot be either-or decisions. Both options – all options – are important. Six years of devastating drought and a quarter year of record rain are no match for California’s political game masters.
For Oroville Dam, our state’s latest costly mishap, 188,000 Butte, Yuba and Sutter county residents were forced from their homes and businesses as dam operators worked desperately to prevent the collapse of an emergency spillway that failed spectacularly the first time it was used.
Since 2000, California has passed eight water bonds, but not a single dollar went to replacing the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway with concrete rather than soil – a defect so serious that three environmental groups demanded its repair in 2005, during the dam’s relicensing process by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A curt memo from the California Department of Water Resources dismissed the threat, the Wall Street Journal said.
Whether it’s decrepit, broken pipes spilling precious water in Los Angeles, eroding a spillway in Oroville, a population with needs that double in size each decade or environmental protection programs requiring 50 percent of the water we capture and store, we have known the water infrastructure challenges we face for 50 years. But our choices to address them have been limited, restricted and removed from the table; not by science, not by engineering, not by opportunity, but by pure politics.