Water Bond Beats Towing Icebergs

Joel Fox

Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily


By the end of the day we should know how California’s governor and legislators decided to deal with the state’s suffocating drought. The choices range from keeping the expensive $11 billion water bond already qualified for the ballot; substituting the $7 billion bond fashioned by the governor and Democratic legislators; adding or subtracting to that bond proposal depending if proponents want to secure Republican votes for more water storage or reduce funds for ecosystem restoration in the Delta which suspicious environmentalists think is a prelude for readying the Delta for the governor’s twin tunnel plan of water transfer from north to south; or doing nothing—removing the big bond but leaving nothing in its place.

Here’s betting something will be done. Not responding to the severe drought will give the lawmakers and the governing process a black eye. Adding a little more to the storage piece while assuring environmentalists that the tunnel debate will occur at another time and place likely would be the compromise to get a new, slimmed down bond on the ballot.

However, making the ballot is only half the battle. Anyone who lived through the referendum fight over the peripheral canal in 1982, which scuttled a legislative act dealing with the state water project, knows that the details of the bond can be used effectively in a political campaign to veto a legislative action.

Taking a positive step to strengthen the state’s crucial agricultural industry while assuring environmental safeguards is not easy but can be done.

California’s legislature has long looked for solutions to water issues, some actions being quite extraordinary. In 1978, the California legislature endorsed a resolution in support of a plan to tow two icebergs to Southern California as a source of fresh water. A short report from the Associated Press found in, of all places, the Toledo, Ohio Blade newspaper said all that was needed for the pilot project was “cooperation” from the federal government to the tune of $60-million. The “cooperation” never came.

The idea of towing icebergs to quench the thirst of California goes back even further. Scripps Oceanographic Institute scientist John Isaacs offered the idea of iceberg towing to California 65 years ago, suggesting a few years later “capturing an eight-billion ton iceberg, 20 miles long, 3000 feet wide, and 1000 feet deep in the Antarctic and towing it up to San Clemente Island off San Diego in a matter of 200 days.” (More on Isaacs and ideas of iceberg towing in an Atlantic magazine article here.)

The governor and legislature better act on the water bond before ideas like iceberg towing come back in style.

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