California commentaries Feb. 10 – 16: Obama’s visit, the drought, federal and state legislation and more

Editorials and commentaries on Obama’s visit …

  • Obama’s visit hit the right note, says the Fresno Bee:  ” … the president said something that some people embroiled in California’s long and bitter water fights have yearned to hear for decades: “Water has been seen as a zero sum game: agriculture against urban, north against south. We’re going to have to figure out how to play a different game. We can’t afford years of litigation and no real action.”  We will hold him to those words, as well as his promise to stay on top of the state’s water problem “because it has national implications.” … “  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: EDITORIAL: Obama hits right note on drought
  • Obama’s visit could have been much more, says the Sacramento Bee:  How nice of the President to stop by and bring that drought aid with him, says the Sacramento Bee: “What would have been much nicer is if the president had spent more time with real people – like the middle-class families and working poor he claims to care so much about. Goodness knows, it would not have been that difficult to find Valley residents who are jobless and struggling to reach the American dream.  Alas, on the first visit to the Valley in his five years in office, Obama’s schedule barely allowed the general public to catch a glimpse of him, much less share their stories. … “  Continue reading this editorial at the Sacramento Bee here: Editorial: President Obama’s first visit to the Valley could have been so much more
  • Here’s what Obama should see on his trip, says author Gerald Haslam:  “Over a mirror in a beer bar in my hometown, Oildale, hung a sign: “We don’t care how they do it in L.A.” It revealed a truth in that little San Joaquin Valley hamlet, because folks really didn’t care. Just north in Fresno, President Barack Obama will be entering a part of California today that plays by its own rules and expectations – Los Angeles and San Francisco (and maybe Sacramento) be damned.  The view in the state’s midsection is that the coastal communities are mere ornaments. Local folks are tough, contrary and certainly self-serving, but also kind, generous and innovative in equal turns. They are not easily impressed. ... “  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee here:  Viewpoints: What Obama should see on his trip to Fresno
  • Better late than never for the President’s visit, says the Sacramento Bee:  “If all goes as planned, President Barack Obama will touch down in Fresno on Friday afternoon, a few years late but welcome nonetheless.  After treating the other California as fly-over territory for the first five years of his presidency, Obama will see firsthand that California is more than Beverly Hills, Pacific Heights and the Silicon Valley.  The president won’t be raising money; Fresno is not where the money is. Instead, his focus will be on the drought and agriculture, appropriately so. … “  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Editorial: Better late than never
  • On Fresno visit, Obama will learn that California water issues are tough to unravel, says the Fresno Bee:  “When President Barack Obama visits Fresno on Friday to talk about the historic dry year in California, what should he know?  Farms, fish, cities, mountains, industries, rivers and even air quality have suffered, say many touched by state water problems. Recent storms have taken the edge off, but the intense dry year still is cutting a wide swath of damage in many ways.  … “  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: In Fresno, Obama will learn that California water issues are tough to unravel

Editorials and commentaries on the drought …

  • No easy answers to this drought, says the Mercury News:  “Unless the president has found a way to issue an executive order to make it rain, the residents of Fresno are largely in for disappointment Friday when President Obama comes to town to discuss the drought. There are no easy answers.  The president doesn’t favor California House Republicans’ plan to destroy the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to give Central Valley farmers water for their crops. Nor should he. The better option for Obama is to back the proposal pushed by Senate Democrats to provide a limited amount of additional water to help Central Valley farmers through the crisis. … “  Read more from the Mercury News here:  Mercury News editorial: No easy answers for solving state’s water shortage problem
  • Federal marijuana rules exacerbating California drought, says Douglas Ernst at the Washington Times: “The federal government’s schizophrenic approach to enforcement of marijuana laws is destroying California’s water supply. The state’s “Emerald Triangle” of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties, for example, is having its water supply drained by illegal pot growers because the federal government won’t allow local officials to craft public policy addressing the issue.  “Marijuana cultivation has the potential to completely dewater and dry up streams in the areas where [cannabis farmers are] growing pretty extensively,” Scott Bauer, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), told the business website Quartz. … “  Feds’ marijuana policy confusion exacerbating Calif. water crisis
  • NRDC’s Steve Fleischi gives a prescription to prepare for drought:  ” …Despite some much-needed rain and snow in parts of the state recently, not even the president can make it rain as much as we need.  The president can help us cope with this disaster, prepare for the chronic water shortages to come and protect future generations from the widening dangers of climate change.  All three will require federal help. … “  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Viewpoints: A prescription to prepare for drought
  • No quick fixes for the drought, says the San Francisco Chronicle:  “If California can’t come up with a quick response to its epic drought, then Washington wants to try. Two rival and partisan plans have the potential to reshape agriculture, wildlife and the political landscape for years to come.  The opening bid by the state’s House Republicans is too far-fetched to support, basically a water grab of delta flows to favor farmers at the expense of all else. But the message of major hardship in the nation’s most productive agricultural state achieved one major result. … “  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  No quick fixes for drought
  • Federal rules leave California high and dry, says Damian Schiff and Julie MacDonald:  ” … Even in what the media calls “the great drought of 1977,” San Joaquin Valley farmers still received a water allocation of 25 percent. Why? Because reservoirs had been used for one of their intended purposes — to capture water that might be needed in the future.  Now, after one dry year, 2012-13, and the current year that’s shaping up as critical unless we get many more storms like this past weekend’s, water users have been told to brace for no deliveries — thanks in significant part to federal biologists pulling the plug on California’s traditional water-storage practices. … “  Read more here from the Washington Times:  Federal rules leave drought-stricken California high and dry
  • Government money is no solution to the drought, says Steve Greenhut:  “The drought in California is one of the state’s worst weather-related disasters in decades, despite some recent rainstorms. The images are dramatic: Folsom Lake in the north is so dry that receding waters have revealed a Gold Rush ghost town. Farmland is bare and parched, which will lead to increases in food prices nationwide. In Sacramento, agents have been seen snooping around neighborhoods looking for improper water use.  Yet unlike hurricanes, blizzards and tsunamis, a drought has no obvious response — no rescue, no cleanup, no rebuilding. ... “  Continue reading at Bloomberg here:  Government Money Is No Answer to California Drought
  • The Dust Bowl returns: Every Saturday in late December and January, as reports of brutal temperatures and historic snowfalls streamed in from family in Vermont, New York and even southern Louisiana, we made weekly pilgrimages to our local beer garden to enjoy craft brews and unseasonably warm afternoons.  Normal winters here in Fresno, in the heart of California’s Central Valley, bring average highs in the 50s, steady periods of rain and drizzle, and the dense, bone-chilling Tule fog that can blanket the valley for days and even weeks on end.  But not this year. Instead, early 2014 gave us cloudless skies and midday temperatures in the 70s. By the end of January, it seemed like April, with spring trees in full bloom. … “  Continue reading this commentary at the New York Times here:  The Dust Bowl Returns
  • California’s severe drought exposes thin veneer of civilization, says political commentator David Horsey:The severe drought in California and much of the West is a reminder that civilized life is a paper-thin veneer that overlays the deep upheavals of nature. Humans carry on blithely, holding fast to the illusion that the natural world can be tamed and exploited with no unavoidable consequences, and then we get slammed by a hurricane, a flood, a tornado, a wildfire, a drought or a freezing polar vortex that lets us know how wrong we are. … “  Read more from the Baltimore Sun here:  California’s severe drought exposes thin veneer of civilization
  • Those Fracking Tunnels:  ““Will water pumped from the Delta be used for fracking in the Central Valley?”—a troubling question that appears in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) weekly forum, “Your Questions Answered.”  The answer is “yes.” According to the plan, fracking is a “reasonable, beneficial use” of water. While New York State imposed a moratorium on fracking (at least to 2015), Governor Jerry Brown — applauded by the Western States Petroleum Association — signed legislation that facilitates the fracking boom in California. Brown has already received $2.5 million from oil and gas interests, like Exxon and Occidental Petroleum, in the state. … “  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here:  Those Fracking Tunnels
  • Fracking during a drought is destructive and irresponsible, says Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch:  “You cannot read the news anywhere in the country – let alone here in California – without being reminded that we face what’s shaping up to be the worst drought in centuries. Even with recent showers, water supplies in the northern and central parts of the state remain dangerously short.  The State Water Project recently announced that it would be cutting off water deliveries for the first time in its 54-year history. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency and implored Californians to conserve water. But his embrace of water-intensive hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, for oil sets exactly the wrong example. ... “  Continue reading here:  Viewpoints: Fracking during a drought is destructive and irresponsible
  • Making ethanol is wasting California’s water, says Tom Tanton, policy director for the California Coalition of Energy Users: “President Obama’s visit to Fresno will hopefully bring some much-needed clarification as to how the federal government plans to help California battle the devastating drought in the near-term. Unfortunately, the administration’s continued support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) works counter to any federal water assistance as it incentivizes the use of California’s water toward the production of ethanol —a huge drain on state water resources for a fuel that has been discredited as environmentally harmful. … “  Read more here in the Fresno Bee:  Making ethanol is wasting California’s water

Commentaries and editorials on federal legislation …

  • Feinstein bill a good start, says the Sacramento Bee:  “With more than three-quarters of the state suffering extreme to exceptional drought, old, unhealthy disputes are resurfacing.  House Republicans, led by members from the southern San Joaquin Valley, passed a bill last week that amounts to a water grab for the south Valley. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have introduced a more reasonable bill that can be debated and amended to meet the needs of the entire state. … “  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Feinstein bill a good start in addressing drought
  • Solving California’s reckless water policy:  Congressmen Valadao, McCarthy and Nunes in the Saramento Bee say:  “It appears that Washington has awakened to the current water woes of the West Coast.  Late last week, the White House announced that President Barack Obama will visit Fresno on Friday to review and discuss federal relief efforts in response to the drought. Prior to that, the president had called Gov. Jerry Brown to express his support for our state and had mentioned to Rep. Kevin McCarthy at the State of the Union address that he had his eye on the issue. This drought has national significance; an outsized percentage of the nation’s food supply is grown in California, which is the nation’s No. 1 producer of fruits, vegetables and nuts.  But having an “eye on the problem” is not a solution in and of itself. And unless the president can mandate rain or snow to fall from the heavens, we still will be faced with the driest year in more than a century. … “  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee here:  Viewpoints: Solving California’s reckless water policy
  • House Republicans muddy the California water crisis, says the Washington Post:  “California saw a bit of relief from its extreme drought this past weekend, when big storms dumped rain on the parched state. But it appears that California won’t be spared from another threat — Washington politicians talking foolishly about the water crisis or, worse, meddling in the state’s efforts to cope.  A week ago, Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, sought to connect the drought to global warming. “California,” he said, “is now seeing some pretty serious developments as a result of climate change.” The White House hasn’t pushed this point since, and it has good reason not to: Scientists haven’t yet found any apparent climate change connection to this particular event. … “  Continue reading this editorial here: House Republicans muddy California’s water crisis

Commentaries and editorials on state legislation and the water bond …

  • Twice the water for half the water bond, says Assemblyman Logue:  ” … Ironically, one of the primary reasons why this year’s drought is so bad has nothing to do with Mother Nature.  It is a lack of forward thinking from Sacramento.  California’s current water infrastructure is outdated and overwhelmed.  It was built more than a half century ago to meet the needs of 1960’s California for a population of 10 million people instead of the 38 million who now reside in California.  This is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of our constantly-growing state.  Had we acted to build additional storage, both above and below ground, people would be feeling less pain today.  That’s why I have proposed legislation – Assembly Bill 1445 – to place a $5.8 billion statewide water bond before the voters.  $4.8 billion from my water bond proposal would go to increase ground and surface water storage capacity. … “  Read more here from Public CEO: Twice the Water for Half the Price Water Bond
  • Logue and Garamendi water bills are very different things, says the Appeal-Democrat:  “Dan Logue and John Garamendi both have ideas on water, each of which merit consideration. But we’re not sure they should be on the same stage.  There’s some assumption the plans should be compared and contrasted, since they’re both about water and they’re both proposed by candidates for California’s 3rd Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives. (Logue, who terms out of his state assemblyman job, long ago announced he’ll seek the Republican nomination for the federal seat now held by Democrat Garamendi … and it seems pretty likely the two will appear on the ballot for the November general election.)   But while they’re both proposals for mitigating California’s water problems, they’re miles apart in scope and philosophy. ... “  Continue reading at the Appeal-Democrat here:  Our View: Logue, Garamendi water bills are different things

Commentaries and editorials about other things …

  • Navigating the Delta: Meeting the People Who Live in California’s Water Hub:  KALW reporter goes into the Delta to meet the people who live and work there:  ” … I was drawn to the Delta because most of what I’ve been reading and hearing over the years focused just on the water diversion and on the endangered species caught up in that system. When, about a year ago, I started driving through the Delta, I became really curious about who lives there, their history and culture, and what they do for work and for fun.   figured if I wanted to get to know this place better, a good person to meet first would be a mailman, which is how I wound up at the marina on King Island, in the eastern part of the Delta near Stockton. That’s where Rick Stelzriede, the only mailman in California who delivers by boat, starts his route. Every day but Sunday, he takes his 21-foot aluminum boat about 60 miles, visiting marinas and designated docks. At most stops, he just slows his boat as it approaches a pier with a mail box, picks up and drops off mail, then flips up the red metal flag.  … “  Read more here: Navigating the Delta: Meeting the People Who Live in California’s Water Hub
  • Managing forests is crucial to water supply, says commentary:  “2013 was a year of record drought and wildfires in California, and the risks of droughts and wildfires are only expected to increase in the coming years. Although there are no easy answers, understanding the relationship between healthy forests and downstream water supply should be part of the solution.  The Sierra Nevada and other watersheds upstream of the Delta are the primary sources of the state’s water supply, and the quality and quantity of water that flows through the region are directly linked to the health of these watersheds. Unfortunately, in many places, the legacy of past management practices has led to unhealthy forests that are overly dense with brush and small trees. … “  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Drought and forests: Managing California forests is crucial to water supply and quality
  • South San Joaquin Irrigation District steps up to sell water to Tuolomne County:  “Jeff Shields says he’s going to sleep well tonight. Thanks to him, and the people who live in the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, about 44,000 Tuolumne County residents should sleep a little better, too.  Shields, the general manager of SSJID, and members of his board were moved by reporting in Wednesday’s Modesto Bee about the water crisis in Tuolumne County. … “  Continue reading from the Modesto Bee here:  Our View: South San Joaquin Irrigation District works to sell water to Tuolumne County