Old News About California’s Water Woes

At the first informational hearing on water and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta August 18, lawmakers heard a lot of things that have been said to them — and by them — for a long time.

Former Assemblyman, now lobbyist, Phil Isenberg told the joint hearing of the Assembly and Senate water committees that “if you do something significant, a lot of people will be mad at you.” Isenberg chaired the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, a nearly two-year process, whose final report’s recommendations form the basis for some of the water legislation being considered.

“The Delta is not sustainable. There is no credible science out there that will show any other alternative,” said Dr. Jeff Mount, a University of California at Davis geologist who has said much the same thing to lawmakers for the better part of a decade.

Mount also pointed out “change in the Delta is not going to take place through a peripheral canal. Change will occur from modifications of the 1,100 miles of levees. This is the quiet issue. ”

Those are 1,100 miles of levees that the state Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation has neither the money nor the ability to manage.  And the legislation being debated doesn’t adequately address that problem, Mount said.

Mount also said the notion of a peripheral canal – a channel that routes water around the Delta — “sucks all the heat and light out of discussions” about the Delta’s future.

It has been doing so for some time. The December 1966 document below is the original proposal. The canal MUST be built by 1974, the Department of Water Resources insists.

Despite containing some Dr. Evil like numbers – the canal will cost $7.2 million to build but save more than $16 million – the idea is essentially unchanged after 43 years. Several of the points made in the proposal about the Delta and about salt deposits in the Central Valley were also aired at the August 18 committee hearing. 

Like Harry Truman said, “The only new thing in the world is the history you don’t know.”  And, the French corollary: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”





  1. Much Ado About Nothing, yet again. We could’ve air lifted water east and south from the Delta with all the hot air that’s been dedicated to the water debate over the last couple of years.

    Comment by SF Flowerchild — 8.19.2009 @ 3:08 pm

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    Comment by LarsonLAURI31 — 4.16.2010 @ 7:08 am

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