William Shatner Wants to Build $30 Billion Drought-Busting Pipeline from Seattle to CA

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Star Trek actor William Shatner wants to boldly go where no man has gone before: To the rain-soaked city of Seattle for a potential solution to California’s devastating drought.

In an interview with Yahoo! Tech, the 84-year-old said something must be done, and soon, about California’s water problems.

“California’s in the midst of a four-year-old drought,” Shatner told Yahoo’s David Pogue. “They tell us there’s a year’s supply of water left. If it doesn’t rain next year, what do 20 million people in the breadbasket of the world do? In a place that’s the fifth-largest GDP — if California were a country, it’d be fifth in line — we’re about to be arid! What do you do about it?”

Shatner’s solution:

“So I’m starting a Kickstarter campaign. I want $30 billion… to build a pipeline like the Alaska pipeline. Say, from Seattle — a place where there’s a lot of water. There’s too much water. How bad would it be to get a large, 4-foot pipeline, keep it above-ground – because if it leaks, you’re irrigating!”

“Bring it down here and fill one of our lakes! Lake Mead!” Shatner responded when asked where the pipeline would end.

Shatner’s reference to the “Alaska pipeline” likely refers to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, a complex system of pump stations and pipelines that move crude oil, not water, through the state.

Still, the idea of a vast Northwestern water pipeline has been floated before. In the early 90s, Alaska Gov. Wally Hickel was receptive to the idea of providing his state’s abundant water sources to drought-stricken California. Plans were drawn up for four, 14-foot-wide pipes to be constructed across the 1,400 miles separating the two states. The pipes would have delivered 1.3 trillion gallons of water per year, according to Wired.

The problem then, was the price; a congressional estimate conducted in 1991 reportedly found the pipeline would cost $110 billion and take up to 15 years to complete. The cost of water would be too great, the report found, at up to ten times the standard price per gallon.

Today, California’s water needs are dominated by agriculture, which uses roughly 80 percent of all of the state’s water. The cost of building a pipeline would be passed on through higher water costs, which would in turn be passed on in higher food costs. Environmental interests would also likely fight against a pipeline, since fish species in several of the state’s reservoirs and rivers remain threatened by freshwater shortages.

Shatner said that even if his fundraising campaign doesn’t collect $30 billion, it could at least raise awareness of the drought.

“If I don’t make 30 billion, I’ll give the money to a politician who says, ‘I’ll build it,'” the actor told Yahoo. “Obviously it’s to raise awareness that something more than just closing your tap… so why not a pipeline?”

Shatner’s billion-dollar plan comes on the heels of California’s own water cutback plan, unveiled Saturday. The plan calls for the implementation of a sliding scale to ensure a 25 percent reduction in statewide water use across each of California’s 400 water agencies, with cities using the most water ordered to slash use at a greater rate.


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