Peripheral Tunnels

We may need to discontinue our subscription to the Los Angeles Times — we’re not sure that our blood pressure can handle it any longer.  It’s not really the Times’ fault — this time.  Their Bettina Boxall is merely reporting on the perspective of farmers in the Sacrameno River Delta regarding the long-overdue completion of the State Water Project here in California.  See:,0,1310701.story

We get annoyed at the perspective of many in northern California that their southern brethren in the state are stealing their water.  They derive two huge benefits from this arrangement: vastly improved state tax revenues and far fewer neighbors.  These benefits are rarely considered by those opposing the transfer of excess water from the north to the south.

How does the project impact state revenues?  Water makes everything possible on Planet Earth.  No water, no life.  No life, nothing there to tax.  Perhaps our northern neighbors would like to see SoCal dry up and blow away.  If so, they would have to pony up full freight on the already grossly under-funded state budget.  In rough terms, their taxes could triple.

Which brings us to the second under-acknowledged benefit: fewer neighbors.  For the most part, northern California is blessed with a rural, idyllic countryside.  It is truly beautiful, and we would really want to preserve that if we were residents there.  If southern California is deprived of water, where will these 20 million folks go?  Hello, neighbor!  We’re moving to where the water is!  The population of the northern part of the state could triple, AND we’d still be taking the same amount of water out of the River!

If northern Californians pondered these two benefits alone, we think support for the completion of the State Water Project would grow significantly.  Incidentally, this completion is labelled as “Peripheral Tunnels” in today’s Times.  That’s the first time we’ve seen that term.

Yet another benefit of Peripheral Tunnels is lost on the farmers interviewed in Ms. Boxall’s piece today: flood control.  Everyone should empathize with these family farmers: their situation is hopeless.  And we don’t refer to the story line of the article, where SoCal is allegedly depriving them of their livelihood.

We are particularly amused by the first quote in the article:  “There may come a time when you have to grab a shotgun and sit on the pump.”  These farmers now live below river level, so “the pump” shouldn’t be needed any longer!  The grandfather quoted may have been living above water level, but today’s residents of the Delta would drown were it not for extremely unnatural levees that protect them and their farms — and the pumps that they need to operate to remove water from their farms and put back into the River!  (And you can bet that the cost of constructing and maintaining these levees is not completely — or even remotely — paid for by these farmers!  See the first “benefit” above.)

The current residents quoted vow to fight the Peripheral Tunnels, saying “We’re not going anywhere.”  We’re very sorry, but they are wrong.  Nature — not greedy SoCal — will be moving them to a new location.  Just wait for Her next major earthquake or torrential flood.  Several areas in the Delta have already realized this fate.

Should the entire economy and way of life of over 20 million people be forever denied by a handful of farmers whose land will be swallowed up by the very River from which they claim to need every drop of water?  If the recent past in California is any indicator of the near future, my money is on the farmers.  In the long run, Nature will be relocating them, so they are doomed to lose in the end, and no number of lawsuits will prevent that.

We can only hope that California will act in the best long-term interests of the vast majority of its residents.

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