Arnold, and friends, want a Dam. SacBee Frustrated.
Sacramento Bee Editorial
Arnold wants a dam
Water policy makes lousy political crusade
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 30, 2007
Story appeared in EDITORIALS section, Page B4
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.
The Delta is the proverbial hub of Northern California's water system. Any new reservoir proposal anywhere in Northern California can't be pondered without knowing first how to fix the Delta. Time and political energy are precious things. The Delta needs to be center stage, with distractions kept to a minimum.
The Legislature and the governor should be keeping their minds wide open as they prepare to hear some expert Delta advice from the University of California, Davis, a blue-ribbon task force and wildlife agencies.
Meanwhile, if Schwarzenegger insists on championing a reservoir, he should take a tough-love message on the road. He should start in Fresno. There, it seems, the local establishment wants to build Temperance Flat with someone else's money. A local conversation must take place on how those who would benefit locally from any reservoir (whether it's with better flood protection or more farm water in drought years) would have to help pay for it. And they need to figure out how to come up with the money.
If that conversation can't occur until the Delta's future is clarified, so be it. But it makes no sense to keep having emotional debates about reservoirs in the abstract.