Recent articles in the Sacto Bee highlighted two things about the new battle for Sierra water. First, they want our water, and they want it just like it came from the snow.
Incidentally, many people don’t seem to know that each snowflake is formed around a speck of airborne crap. It could be anything from a chunk of smog from city air to radioactive soot still in the atmosphere from Chernobyl, or a razor sharp shard of volcanic ash from Finland or anything from anywhere, giving a new meaning to "pure as the driven snow".
Anyway, they don’t want our cows to poop in it, they don’t want us to put our boats in it, and indeed, their plans for their water don’t include us at all.
The second thing the article demonstrated is that flatlanders have an idealized view of our home. They want their experience in our mountains to be muir-like, or, as I prefer, muirish. They want a muir moment uncluttered by Cletus and kin.
Leader of the muirish people, John Muir, maybe on something.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. We note that
Muir disagreed with damning the rivers for water for the cities.
Indeed, their view of the forest primeval doesn’t include cowboys in baseball caps driving cows with quads. You might sneak in a marlboro man on horseback so long as he wasn’t scaring the cows, just protecting them from rustlers and keeping them far, far from water. (The real rustlers wear green uniforms, and cattle die without water.)
It doesn’t include workers running a dozer, or swinging a chainsaw in the heat of early summer, clearing the woods to improve biodiversity and keep the whole shebang from going up in smoke.
It doesn’t include women and men filling out forms, getting together in meetings, applying for funding, just to keep the conifers from pumping out the watersheds or invasive plants from taking over the meadows.
In short, it doesn’t include us.
Except that they want us to form into local party precincts to report to them on every drop of water and every half disappeared critter but us.
Increasingly, local people are being required to watch each other. Monitoring the water quality in the Sierra Valley is a great example. It moves from being funded to being encouraged to being expected to being required. There were range wars over barbed wire; the new war has the electric fence as a symbol.
The Feather River Basin, from Wiki
The California Farm Bureau has filed suit against the Department of Fish and Game to prevent them from re-interpreting a law to require farmers who take water from the river without stream modification to obtain a permit.
The suit is over water from the Scott and Shasta rivers. Water from the Scott river, in particular, is contentious because it feeds in to the Klamath River, which is subject to litigation from farmers, Indian tribes, sportsmen and water purveyors. About 140% of Klamath River water is allocated, and the salmon are dying.
This means it won’t be long and our local ranchers will be facing down the DFG. Water from the Yuba and Sierra Valley, and Independence Lake and indeed every body and river and stream and trickle and wet grassy spot in the Sierra are subject to intense scrutiny and permitting.
Water tussles in the Sierra Valley have a history almost as long as the presence of Europeans. Mark Twain did not say, but is still credited with saying "whiskey is for drinkin’ and water is for fightin’ over." Some still alive today remember the Owens Valley Water Grab where water from a place not very different from the Sierra Valley was stolen for Los Angeles. Owens Valley water heading into a 250 mile aqueduct heading for L.A. A second has since been added to carry pumped water south.
Dry now: Owens Valley water goes to LA.
Heading for LA!
Our own water goes generally to Oroville Dam, where it does all kinds of work including watering the lands of other places, places with more votes, more investors, more political stroke.
Oroville, govt photo
We can not encourage readers enough to vote "no" on the The Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010. At a time when California is nearly 20 billion in the hole, this bond act would raise 11.1 billion to provide better water to the Sacramento and Bay Area water users and get the courts off the backs of water purveyors because fish in the Sacramento Delta are dying. This project would take more of our water, and demand more of us to keep it clean, and we’ll pay taxes so people in Sacramento can water lawns and fill swimming pools. Our waters flow in rivers to the Sacramento, but our votes are too few to matter.
What can we do about the other problem, the invisibility of local people in the muirish view of flatlanders? That’s more difficult, and more personal.
Do we really want to make a stink face at every tourist we see this summer? They already don’t spend enough in our stores, restaurants and gas stations, shall we make them feel unwelcome? It isn’t their fault, after all. They just don’t know shit.
Maybe what we should do is make them welcome. Remind them that we’re up to our butts in snow half the year, and sometimes it isn’t all snowmobiles and ice fishing. Let them know what its like to have our homes surrounded by badly overgrown forests. Give them a lecture about the Fire Safe and Watershed Council, the Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District and the Sierraville Ranger District. Tell them, sure, it’s great to live here, but it also means a lot of work, a lot of expense, and it means doing without a lot. We pay a price to live here. We deserve to be remembered.
This photo, from Jessisensei2, is not of the Yuba River canyon, but is of a statue of a boy peeing into a river on the Island of Shikoku, Japan. Still, it captures very nicely the mood of "they want our water".
For another fairly in depth but still readable analysis of the water situation in California, go HERE.