Don’t Let the Water Crisis Get Bad Enough

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Yesterday on this site, Senator Dave Cogdill argued that it is “absolutely essential … that we pass a comprehensive water bond now.” In response, Jon Fleischman on his popular FlashReport website argued that the cost of the bond will be too high if it comes out of the legislature with an environmental agenda from a “Sierra Club wish list.” Instead of acting on a legislative measure now, Jon proposes we wait until the situation gets “bad enough” and then put forth by initiative a cheaper, more directed bond measure dealing exclusively with water storage and conveyance.

It is hard to argue with Jon’s analysis of how money has been ill spent in Sacramento. Government officials have been irresponsible in not adequately funding infrastructure to serve the water needs of the people. But I have problems with his conclusion that we allow the situation to get “bad enough” in hopes that the people will pass a leaner bond measure sometime in the indeterminate future.

While some would argue it is a principled stand to vote against a water bond that doesn’t exclusively provide for more water storage, watching principle crash into reality will not solve the pending water crisis.

I have already commented that the water bond measure put forth by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Diane Feinstein and touted by Senator Cogdill is a worthy effort. And, while I acknowledge Jon’s concern with the bond and the profligate spending ways of the majority in the legislature, I can’t help but think preventing action on this bond is allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the necessary.

Consider an analogous situation of dithering that has occurred with the long-standing proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. In the light of skyrocketing gasoline prices, efforts to open ANWR to drilling have been met by opponents with the rebuke that it will not help with rising prices now because it would take ten years to begin removing adequate quantities of oil. The rejoinder in that debate from those who want to drill point out that had the drilling been permitted ten years ago, as they wanted, the oil would be flowing now that we have a problem.

If we wait for the water situation to reach crisis level remedies will come too late. We must be prepared when the crisis hits and that means taking action now as Senator Cogdill suggests.

Yes, Jon’s right, legislative spending is a root of the problem and should be confronted. If we put anything on the ballot as an initiative it should be a spending limit.

While the people of California should not be held to blackmail for excessive borrowing, neither should they be held hostage hoping a crisis just about everyone sees coming will be put on hold until a ballot measure might or might not pass sometime in the future.

As former U. S. Attorney General Ed Meese wrote in a memoir of Ronald Reagan, “The president also had a unique feel for when to accept half a loaf from Congress, rather than, as he said, "ride off the cliff with full flags flying." He never forgot his objectives, and he mastered the art of achieving them in stages.”

This is a good model for moving on our pending water crisis here in California.

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