A New Dam on the San Joaquin? I Think Not.

Bettina Boxall of the LA Times brings us some hope today of a new reservoir. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-water-dam9-2010mar09,0,1524565.story I am not confident, despite the pressing need.
How pressing is the need? We are coming up on the 50th anniversary of the bond measure that gave us the State Water Project. Since the completion of that project about 40 years ago, there have been no serious additions to the State’s water infrastructure – but our population has increased from about 16 million to over 36 million. How long can we go on this way, expanding in population but using the same, aging infrastructure? Not much longer, I fear.
Why have we neglected to build necessary infrastructure – not just in water, but in highways, schools, power systems, etc.? Well, cost is definitely a factor. But more people means more revenue to the State, doesn’t it? Other than property taxes – which have been somewhat spared, due to Proposition 13 – tax rates have also increased. So there should have been enough cash on hand to deal with something as essential as water.
The bigger reason is the unprecedented “success” of the “environmental” movement. This movement was perhaps the second greatest cause of the public protests of the 1960’s – second, of course, to the Vietnam War. How did our government respond? At the federal level, the response was the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Super Fund, and a myriad of other legislative actions. Virtually all of these were signed into law by, of all people, Richard M. Nixon. That’s right: the hated conservative was responsible for the most earth-shattering environmental laws in the history of Humanity.
Mostly under (once and future?) governor Jerry Brown, California would not be outdone by the feds, passing even more far-reaching laws, which brought us the California Coastal Commission, a ban on off-shore oil drilling, the State Water Resources Control Board and its Regional Boards, the California Air Resources Board, and a host of other environmental boards and commissions. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see what the ultimate product of all these environmental laws has been: total paralysis of infrastructure development.
Enter the prospect of a new dam being constructed on the San Joaquin River. The LA Times article notes that funding will be an issue, and I’m sure that’s true. But with 36 million water customers in the State, I’m sure we could find the money. The real issue is the incredibly restrictive nature of existing environmental laws. With no proposed changes in these laws, I can only see the trends of the last 40 years continuing.
But this history is what really concerns me the most regarding our current public discourse over the environment. If the good intentions of the 60’s environmental movement effectively ended the construction of essential infrastructure, what unintended consequences will arise from our actions to “combat” global warming?

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