California has a big reason to be thankful at Thanksgiving this year: the winter season that ended in April snapped a crushing five-year drought and saved the state’s agricultural sector.
The winter of 2016-7 was the second-rainiest of all time, according to the San Jose Mercury News, citing federal scientists earlier this year, who noted that “[b]etween October 2016 and March 2017, California averaged 30.75 inches of precipitation.”
That was enough to turn the parched Central Valley green, sending water coursing through canals to thousands of farms, some of which had been left fallow for lack of rain for several growing seasons.
This March and last, Breitbart News participated in an aerial tour of California’s irrigation system. The difference between the two years was striking. Dams that had seemed nearly empty in March 2016 were overflowing in March 2017 — with near-catastrophic results at the Oroville Dam, whose spillway developed a giant crater and whose emergency spillway nearly collapsed. (Construction of a new spillway was completed on time by November 1.)
Even more encouraging than the rain was the fact that the state largely complied with water restrictions — a few wasteful mega-mansions in Beverly Hills aside. Farmers were also encouraged by the election of Donald Trump, who promised to weigh in on their behalf in California’s seemingly intractable struggle between agricultural interests and environmentalists who pushed the federal government to flush water out to sea to save the delta smelt.
The state is still failing to manage its scarce water resources properly. Governor Jerry Brown is wasting billions of dollars on a high-speed train that no one will use, rather than on raising dams or building new desalination plants. His plan to build two new tunnels south from the San Joaquin delta has run into major problems.
Forecasts for 2017-8 are somewhat doubtful, with the possibility of a dry La Niña winter. However, the season is off to an encouraging start — despite a Thanksgiving heat wave — with a storm drenching the state earlier this month and bringing the first winter snow to the Sierra Nevada range.
With luck, the coming winter will provide enough precipitation to fill the dams and crowd the ski resorts again. For now, on a sunny Thanksgiving, Californians will give thanks for nature’s bounty — and pray for the clouds to return.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.