Bipartisan Consensus Emerging for New Dams?

Bipartisan Consensus Emerging for New Dams?

A Sunday feature in the Sacramento Bee suggests–indirectly–that a bipartisan consensus may be emerging in the California State Assembly on the need for additional dams to increase the state’s water storage and fight future droughts. Currently, California is suffering one of the worst droughts in its history–though hundreds of thousands of acre-feet are being released from reservoirs to boost stream flows and protect fish populations.

The Bee‘s Matt Weiser and Jeremy B. White write: “Seven different bills are pending in the Legislature that would use varying amounts of state bond funding to launch a new era of dam construction with the aim of increasing the state’s capacity to store precious mountain snowmelt.” Notably, some of the bills are being introduced and supported by Democrats, eager to end the state’s decades-long refusal to build new dams.

The proposals jibe with suggestions from Tea Party-backed Rep. Tom McClinctock (R-CA), who has often suggested that new dams, or additions to existing dams, would help to increase water storage dramatically. Opposition to these ideas continues to come from Democrats, backed by environmental organizations, who see dams as interruptions to the natural flow of waterways, and who note the habitat lost to new reservoir lakes.

New proposals would have to compete with scarce state funds–including funds allocated to the high-speed rail project favored by Gov. Jerry Brown. Other potential problems include the difficulty of meeting existing water allocations, even with new water storage. Former Arnold Schwarzenegger administration official Leslie Snow commented to the Bee that reservoirs would help replenish groundwater but would not achieve much else.