In a front-page story last week in the Los Angeles Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Bettina Boxall used an oblique structure, gritty detail, and a plethora of conflicting quotes to give a sense of the trouble surrounding a plan to put a massive new straw from the State Water Project into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Here's the crux, from UC Davis scientist Jeffrey Mount, who has been calling for action for years now:
"I am uncertain about how this will work out," said UC Davis geology professor Jeffrey Mount, who has repeatedly warned of the delta's vulnerability to a destructive earthquake. "The only certainty I have is that if it doesn't work out, we will all get worse together."
The trouble is, as a reporter, Boxall can hint that things are falling apart — by, for example, focusing on a farmer who won't even allow sampling on his land, so inalterably opposed is he to any such deal — but she can't flat-out say it, because that would be predicting the future, which isn't news.
Dan Walters, a columnist, can flat-out say that things are falling apart. Walters has been covering Sacramento politics for the Bee since I was in college, so when he says that last year's tentative pact between water districts, environmentalists, and state water managers to "fix" the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is coming apart at the seams, it behooves us to listen.
In a recent column, he wrote:
[Jerry] Brown’s plan endorses “a peripheral canal or tunnel” and generally supports the Schwarzenegger plan’s goals, but pointedly does not endorse the bond issue, which has been criticized for its pork barrel aspects and its use of taxpayer-supported bonds to finance water projects, rather than user fees.
Brown’s plan says that “beneficiaries — or users — of water infrastructure projects should pay their share of the costs of those projects. … The projects must be cost-effective and make long-term sense.”
Meanwhile, the huge Westlands Water District has pulled out of an effort to resolve the perennial peripheral canal debate called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, echoing the farmer-environmentalist alliance that killed Brown’s version 28 years ago.
The peripheral canal conflict and the delay in the bond issue imply that the entire Schwarzenegger plan may be collapsing.
Prediction: Jerry Brown is going to be so overwhelmed dealing with the monster state budget deficit he won't even have time to think about building a monster pipe to carry water out of the Delta.
Here's Luis Sinco's image, to go with Boxall's story about the "alternative conveyance."
Tells the story, methinks…a pipe in trouble.