California State Water Project Todd Fitchette

The California Aqueduct is part of the State Water Project. 

Seasons change while government remains unprepared

It’s a good thing water is not a precious and rare resource in California; otherwise the foot-dragging by state and federal government officials could be considered malfeasance.

A California farmer I know is trying to build a project on his property that will take excessive storm flows from a nearby river and flood them across his property in an effort to recharge the aquifer and give flood control managers a place to put high flows during abnormally-wet winters.

Call it planning ahead.

Because government programs exist for just such an effort the grower is trying to work with the appropriate agencies on everything from cost-sharing to permits. He’s been at this for some time now. I first learned of the project in 2013.

Two-plus years later and the grower is still working with the government to move earth and set up catch-basins that could benefit aquifers that are sorely in need of recharging. Meanwhile, El Niño rains are said to be on their way.

I bring this up because I’ve been asking him now for two years to “keep me posted” so we can tell you about this in an article full of pictures and comments from the appropriate folks.

We’re still waiting along with the farmer.

“As you know I like to move things along fairly rapidly,” writes the farmer in an e-mail in response to my simple question “how’s the project coming along?”

I have no details other than what the farmer tells me: “Government money is involved and things move slowly,” he says.

History lesson

It’s not like we don’t have history to tell us that dry years in California are typically followed by wet years or that preparing for both might actually be a good thing.

Take a look at how low Folsom Reservoir got this summer if you need an example of poor planning.

While the grower says he’ll be able to take some water from flood flows, the goal is to take much more, yet neither he nor the government agencies tasked with flood control are ready for it.

Along a similar front the state water bond that voters passed a year ago in response to the stated need for more water storage and infrastructure is no further along today than it was the day after the election. Of the $2.5 billion earmarked for water storage 100 percent of it remains undedicated and unspent.

So what’s new in California?

While Congress ponders what to do on the federal side and California regulators drag their feet there are still nearly 40 million people in California in need of a reliable, sustainable and sufficient source of water. The last time our water infrastructure was appreciably addressed was about 20 million residents ago.

For all the arguments and truth behind the notion that the wheels of government move slowly, I’m still looking for a legitimate answer to how unnecessary projects like high speed rail and sporting arenas can be permitted, subsidized and construction started within months yet we’re unable to move forward on the one thing we all need: water.

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