Another Schwarzenegger Idea Runs Dry

Proposition 18, a ballot initiative that would have put California taxpayers on the hook for an additional $11 billion in water bonds, has been withdrawn by the state legislature.

This effectively ends another of the many dreams Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pursued during his tenure. The Gubernator came into office with bold visions for permanently ending the state's water crisis, and he has returned to this theme through both his terms. The California Water Plan 2005 Update, for example, envisioned a strategic realignment of water practices stretching through 2030, large investments in storage, plans for desalination and other ambitious projects. Post-Hurricane Katrina attention on the poor state of Central Valley levees helped boost the governor's plans for an upgrade, and Schwarzenegger has proposed grand and controversial projects such as a peripheral canal for the Sacramento Delta.

In 2006 California voters approved more than $5 billion in new flood control and water bonds. These funds ended up leaking into unrelated projects or getting absorbed into operating costs. Californians have a long history of largesse with respect to water projects, yet the money always ends up evaporating. As of right now, there has been no upgrade to the levees, the 2030 plan remains a pipe dream, and essentially none of the governor's water plans have come to pass.

Now Prop. 18 supporters have opted to remove the initiative from the ballot and bring it back in 2012 -- when, they hope, the state will not be facing a nearly $20 billion deficit and voters will be feeling more expansive. There's reason to doubt that, but even if it passed in two years, the initiative would be far short of Schwarzenegger's plan and take effect long after he has left office.

It was probably a bad idea, in a state whose water supply depends directly on mountain runoff, to appoint a man named Les Snow as director of Water Resources. But the water problem is vast and complicated, involving resource and rights questions, Colorado River water sharing arrangements with other states and Mexico, and the hard fact that much of the state is a desert. Some of the heat has gone out of this issue thanks to slowing population growth and a few decent years of rainfall. But this has been another matter in which Schwarzenegger was doing all the things that voters supposedly wanted -- thinking big, planning for the long term, using his magnetic leadership to solve complex, longstanding problems. And yet in the end nothing came of it.

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  • Old Mexican||

    In 2006 California voters approved more than $5 billion in new flood control and water bonds. These funds ended up leaking into unrelated projects or getting absorbed into operating costs.

    That's the normal fate of many a government project - the funds end up in someone else's pocket.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Why no one goes to jail for shit like this is beyond me.

  • Hugh Akston||

    What, the bad water puns? Give a guy a break.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    It was probably a bad idea, in a state whose water supply depends directly on mountain runoff, to appoint a man named Les Snow as director of Water Resources


    Internet Journolistic GOLD!
  • Jason S. ||

    Hahaha

  • Paul||

    It was probably a bad idea, in a state whose water supply depends directly on mountain runoff, to appoint a man named Les Snow as director of Water Resources.

    Now if they could only find a man named Les Cash to be the chief state economist...

  • Terr||

    Just as I put my mouse over the picture, I said to myself, "Tim better...YES!"

  • Mike||

    What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!

    Arnold was the best part of that movie.

  • BeltwayLurker||

    Dick Les is in charge of ghostbusting.

  • slayer of pancakes||

    Is this true?

  • ||

    "Some of the heat has gone out of this issue thanks to slowing population growth and a few decent years of rainfall."

    "Slowing population growth," check. "Few decent years of rainfall," yet to be seen. THIS year (rain year starting 2009) was almost exactly average in my part of central coast California (101%), for example, after several years of sub-par rainfall (2008: 71%; 2007: 81%; and 2006: 54%). The last really good stretch of rainfall came in 2004-5 and 2005-6, with 138% and 141%, respectively, and THAT followed several dry-to-normal years, in which annual rainfall was between 5-10% below average.

    The reason the "heat" has gone out of the issue has less to do with the rainfall statistics, I think, and more to do with the population's poor (or nonexistent) memory, exacerbated by erroneous and unsubstantiated media declarations (including, apparently, this Reason posting). Here in Santa Cruz, CA, for instance, I got used to seeing and hearing that 2009-10 was an "unusually wet" year, when my longtimer's memory and longstanding rainfall spreadsheet both agreed that it was only "normal." The people in the media who (not bothering to check facts, apparently) dubbed this a "wet" year were readily believed by those who didn't remember (or, being transplants to the State or the region, had no memory at all of) either normal rainfall, or abnormally heavy rainfall (e.g., during the "205%" year we had in 1997-8).

    In a way, I'm sorry that the Governator's water-management ambitions will never be realized during his term, if ever. He did seem to have his heart in the right place in this case -- as in so many others, actually -- even if his proposed approach wasn't necessarily something I personally would have endorsed. It's just sad that an administration that came in with such a loud noise and hope for common-sense, populist reforms, has been blocked, bluffed, and distracted into what looks an awful lot like impotence.

  • Steve Chaos||

    Somebody needs to get a Les Wynan joke in here, stat.

  • aaron||

    Wait, there is no Councilman Les Wynan.

  • ||

    Or, they could solve the water "shortage" at no cost at all, by pricing all the water at market costs, so low-value uses like alfalfa growing stops and frees up the water for higher uses.

  • roy||

    what?
    using prices to balace supply and demand? what kind of nutjob are you?

  • ||

    The state is ungovernable.

    Picking a different bus driver won't help either--the steering doesn't work.

    There are only two faint glimmers of hope...

    1) Things get so bad that reality sets in and makes the politicians deal with reality.

    2) Split the state and hope things get better in the realignment.

    I think we're already way past any hope of reality making the pols wise up, so let's look at splitting the state already.

    There's no reason why Los Angeles, Orange County, The Inland Empire and San Diego should have to be beholden to what are essentially the interests of Oregon. Hey NorCal, go be Oregon if want to, and leave the rest of us in the land of Reagan and Nixon alone.

    Seriously, the Czech Republic and Slovakia did it, why can't we do it too?

    It may sound pie in the sky, but if you look at the political mess we've been in going back to at least Pete Wilson's time in office, breaking up sounds a lot more realistic than straightening out this Gordian knot.

    So, maybe we'd fare better in a reshuffle. It's bad enough trying to assuage the interests of both Los Angeles and Orange County--why the they should both have to assuage the interests of San Francisco and the farming interests up north is beyond me.

    Just let the counties north of the grapevine vote on which way they wanna go, and let's just call it quits. We're destroying ourselves here, and it isn't about to get any better any time soon. Even the economic realities aren't making things any better.

    Imagine if Utah and Nevada were in the same state. Mormons and Casino interests--in the same state. Northern California and Southern California are worse than that in some ways. So, let's reshuffle the deck already. ...for goodness' sake.

    P.S. The Giants suck.

  • Jason S. ||

    You'll be singing a different tune after this weekend, pal. The Fraudres are gonna crash and burn.

  • Jason S. ||

    There's no reason why Los Angeles, Orange County, The Inland Empire and San Diego should have to be beholden to what are essentially the interests of Oregon. Hey NorCal, go be Oregon if want to, and leave the rest of us in the land of Reagan and Nixon alone.

    The interests of Oregon? What are blathering about? Which part of Oregon?

    There is something called the State of Jefferson, though. Northern California (the real Northern California) and Southern Oregon made a half-assed attempt to create their own state back in 1941 because the lousy state roads were impeding resource development. But the revolt fizzled out when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor a week later. Japan also bombed the State of Jefferson's coastline a year later. I guess they didn't like the idea of the State of Jefferson. Bastards.

  • ||

    "The interests of Oregon? What are blathering about? Which part of Oregon?"

    Pretty much, all of it.

    Although Washington State might be a better comparison...

    They even have the winery business like NorCal, the high tech industry has a big presence in both places, and Metro Seattle has some political sensibilities like San Francisco...especially the environmentalism.

    The environmentally minded inflicting themselves on the pristine streams and forests of Northern California; you have any idea how ridiculous it is when they inflict that crap on San Bernadino County?

    I know...San Bernardino County has a few mountains and forests too--I'm talking about one polity inflicting itself on another. Really, why should the people of Victorville and Fontana have to compromise with the people of San Francisco? It's a pointless exercise, and it's at the root of California's political problems.

    P.S. The Bay area has two crappy baseball teams where Seattle only has one, but that's beside the point too. Things don't have to be alike in every way in order to be useful for comparison purposes, and there are a lot of ways that NorCal is more like Oregon and Washington State than it is like SoCal.

  • Jason S. ||

    The environmentally minded inflicting themselves on the pristine streams and forests of Northern California; you have any idea how ridiculous it is when they inflict that crap on San Bernadino County?

    Yes, the NorCal environmental ethos can be insufferable, but take a look at the Wildlands Conservancy, headquartered in Oak Glen, CA in San Bernadino County. There's all this crazy environmental brouhaha going down in the Mojave Desert at the moment.

    A Bay Area headquarted (Israeli owned) solar energy company wanted to build some hella solar arrays down yonder in the Mojave -- you know, to reduce our carbon footprint and stuff. But they were smacked down by the greenies in San Bernadino and the Dept. of Interior. The greens said it was going to kill off the desert tortoise populations. Mind you, the project was going to affect less than %2 of the total land holdings
    if I can remember correctly. This is why California is so sweet. It's hilarious. Aren't we pushing for alternative energy? Who cares about the turtles? Turtles are messed up in the head; they live in a shell, for Christ's sake.

    But I think you might be on to something about the Washington State tech industry and NorCal. And I think it might be the only hope for our dear failed states of California and Mexico and the world. Paul Allen of Microsoft recently built the Allen Telescope Array in Shasta County, and they've been looking for extraterrestrial mofos out there in the firmament. Hopefully, ET will send gold and blueprints for a bigger and better Disneyland.

    P.S. NorCal semi-pro collegiate summer baseball is where it's at. Humboldt Crabs and Colt .45s, dude. There's some good college talent right up close.

  • Jason S. ||

    Hmmm, it looks like solar project in San Bernadino County is getting the green light. And it looks like it's not a typical solar array; the panels are mirrors that direct the sunlight to a solar water boiler, and the steam generates energy.

    But where are they going to get the water for the boiler? Certainly not from Les Snow. Ehh.

  • ||

    Imagine if Utah and Nevada were in the same state. Mormons and Casino interests--in the same state.

    Actually, much of Nevada north of Vegas is Mormon country. And, ironically, a lot of Mormons live and work in Vegas because the casinos want honest employees they can trust to not rip them off.

    So, make Vegas its own state, and let the rest merge with Utah, and you'd have a political division that makes more sense.

  • ||

    "The interests of Oregon? What are blathering about? Which part of Oregon?"

    All gambling is illegal in Utah.

    There may be a lot of Mormons in Nevada, but it isn't like Utah.

  • ||

    Sorry...quoted line from the wrong comment, but the point still stands.

  • Matt Welch||

    I've always thought San Francisco was the Bratislava of the West Coast....

  • Mike Laursen||

    There's no reason why Los Angeles, Orange County, The Inland Empire and San Diego should have to be beholden to what are essentially the interests of Oregon.

    You guys need our water. So, there!

  • Hugh Akston||

    In 2006 California voters approved more than $5 billion in new flood control and water bonds. These funds ended up leaking into unrelated projects or getting absorbed into operating costs. Californians have a long history of largesse with respect to water projects, yet the money always ends up evaporating. As of right now, there has been no upgrade to the levees, the 2030 plan remains a pipe dream, and essentially none of the governor's water plans have come to pass.

    Tim, you magnificent bastard.

  • ||

    Northern California needs to take its water back from southern Cali and turn LA back into a desert.

  • ||

    "Northern California needs to take its water back from southern Cali and turn LA back into a desert."

    Water rights have a complicated history.

    Thankfully, that's something that's still generally governed by courts and property rights. If the government can do something to create more water (like infrastructure projects), that might not be such an evil idea--hell, that's one of the few things government has been useful for over the ages (see ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus valley, et. al. for references.)

    It's hard to imagine how awful the world would be if things like water rights could be turned off and on by state governments rather than negotiated and bought and sold by property owners. ...on second thought, it would probably look a lot like California's budget mess, just imagine the water is money--where people who need and use the water efficiently are squeezed out and government and it's interests use and squander it with little accountability...

    ...the last thing we need is government interfering with Southern California's water supply. I'm sure you enjoy your hatred of Southern California, but believe it or not, that kind of hatred probably doesn't translate into sound public policy.

    P.S. Your favorite baseball team sucks.

  • kilroy||

    Once that high speed rail is in place they'll have water virtually on-demand.

    What?

  • ||

    At some point, people are going to realize that they reason they don't have any water is that they have wasted tens of billions on various boondoggles, and trillions on bloated pub-sec employee compensation.

    You need money to get water in CA? You've got plenty. You just need to prioritize.

  • ||

    Again, to a large extent, Southern California's interests in these areas are being squeezed by Northern California's political sensibilities.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Well, that's fucked. Fixing up our Central Valley water infrastructure is something the California government should be doing.

  • cheap watches||

    I just want to make an advertisement in here,you can find whatever watch you want on my name

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