Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: New questions for an old dam debate, and new threats to old forests

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Monday's drought news reveals that everything old is new again, drought-news-wise.

  • Matt Weiser and Jeremy White report that the drought has reactivated efforts to build dams and reservoirs around California; seven pieces of legislation and numerous other proposals would authorize new construction. This time around, they say there are new questions about such proposals
Is there enough water left in California to justify the cost of dams? If taxpayers do front some money, what are they really buying? Are they propping up a project with shaky economics, or buying something with real public value? (Sacramento Bee)

Great, great read, and a must-read today.

  • We've heard several times this year already about new opportunities for finding gold in exposed river beds thanks to the drought. Scott Gold's version of the gold prospector story includes a short video. (LA Times)
  • KQED's Sasha Khoka hangs out with the drilling guys making a killing off of drought. The Central Valley is busily sinking wells and deepening them in search of more water, and well drillers say they're even more busy than the last big drought in 1977. She talked to one guy, Bob Zimmerer, who admits the silver lining of the drought has more than a little cloudy gray in it: 
We can’t keep sustaining this amount of overdraft, we all know that,” says Zimmerer, standing on the platform next to the drill. “At this point in time, we don’t want to keep going on at this pace. It’s more of a temporary fix.” That’s a sobering admission from a well driller. (KQED)
  • Medical marijuana farms, many of them illegal and/or personal grows, are sucking water supplies down in northern California's coastal forests.
"People are coming in, denuding the hillsides, damming the creeks and mixing in fertilizers that are not allowed in the U.S. into our watersheds," said Denise Rushing, a Lake County supervisor who supports an ordinance essentially banning outdoor grows in populated areas. (AP)

And just a quick word today as the Environmental Protection Agency releases carbon pollution rules for existing power plants for the first time. We'll have more on that story throughout the morning, but note that some outlets and advocacy groups are connecting the problem of climate change to potential consequences like drought, to bolster the case for more national action on cutting carbon pollution, including at power plants. We've talked before about the case for this drought being connected to climate change in these pages, too.

How has your community been affected by the drought? Share your story with a photo on Twitter or Instagram. Tag it #mydrought. For more details on our photo project, click here.

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