Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Auburn Dam: Floods & the Economy

This editorial in the Sacramento Bee, obviously forgetting the primary need for the Auburn Dam—way beyond the water storage capability—includes protection from floods.

They should remember that Sacramento is the most flood prone major river city in the country, as we have posted on before.

Flood protection alone will more than compensate for the construction costs.

The water storage, hydroelectric power, and the economic benefit that will arise from the recreational usage of the new lake created behind Auburn Dam, are the supplemental benefits.

So, of course, during rich rain years Auburn Dam advocates will remind the public of the water storage capability of the dam, but we know that the primary reason for building Auburn Dam is to save the lives and property of those who might lose both when a major 500 year flood hits Sacramento.

An excerpt.

“It never fails that, during wet years or dry ones, the water buffaloes resume their stampede for more taxpayer-subsidized water projects.

“During a single year of drought, they purchase billboards warning of "dust bowls" if someone else doesn't help them build a new reservoir.

“And now that California has been blessed with a prodigious snowpack and plentiful rainfall, the same crowd is bemoaning all the water in the Sacramento River that "is just washing out to sea."

“It's a funny thing, these rivers. They've been known to flow into the sea. Perhaps opponents of all this "wasted water" would want the Sacramento River to resemble the Colorado River, which sometimes fails to reach the ocean? Perhaps they'd want to manage the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta like the Soviets managed the Aral Sea, shrinking this lake to about 10 percent of its former size with massive water diversions?

“On average, the current flows into the Delta are 50 percent of what they were in 1850, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Upstream diversions are a big reason that salmon populations have crashed during the last century, since there are fewer robust flows to help baby salmon make it to the ocean.

“Yet those diversions are not enough. Politicians and pundits want more. And perhaps no one has been more outspoken in seeking to further stop this "water waste" than U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock.

“McClintock, who ostensibly represents Northern California's 4th District but spends much of his time lending his voice to wealthy San Joaquin Valley farmers, chairs the House Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Water and Power. His goal, he said last month, is to restore the original mission of the Bureau of Reclamation "to develop and utilize our nation's vast water and hydroelectric resources to build a new era of abundance and prosperity for our nation."