If Sir Isaac Newton were around today to assess California’s interest in seawater desalination, he would likely reference his own third law of motion, which in simple terms states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In short, as our water supply dwindles, the desire to glean freshwater from salty oceans and brackish groundwater is growing.
For centuries, the biggest environmental concern for most California water users was how to squeeze every last drop from nature. While a wet year might shift concerns to flood control, grab-as-grab-can gusto came back almost as soon as the waters receded. But that was then. Today, environmental concerns are center stage in the state’s ongoing effort to reform its water system.
California’s cities and counties are facing the formidable challenge of determining how they’ll tackle regulations outlined in the state’s greenhouse gas legislation.
Yuba County officials knew they couldn’t rely on federal money to improve their levees. Historically, the federal government has provided the bulk of money for flood protection, but it can take 10 to 20 years to receive it. So Yuba County, a mostly agricultural county of nearly 73,000 people 30 miles north of Sacramento, developed a plan to fund levee improvements itself.
Even in the best economy, employers fight a financial tug of war with the people who work for them. One side wants more pay and benefits while the other side wants to trim costs. When the economy takes a nose dive, though, the tug of war can get a lot rougher. State and local government jobs are getting much of the attention in Sacramento this year as furloughs and layoffs have increased tension with workers. But Sacramento’s private sector has seen temperatures rise, too.
Mary Nichols is no stranger to innovation. As one of the nation’s first environmental attorneys, Nichols has spent her career protecting natural resources at the state and federal level. She also served as the California Air Resources Board Chairwoman from 1978 to 1983, and now she’s at it again.
In the dead of night last February, while trying to find the final votes to pass the budget, exhausted California legislators unknowingly set in motion a major change in how we do politics in this state.
The potential benefits of high-speed rail are huge. Transportation planners say a bullet train would meet or exceed the demand for transportation from our growing population between now and 2030 — at less than half the cost of building the five airport runways, 90 departure gates and 3,000 miles of new freeways that would otherwise be required. Building the system will provide 160,000 construction jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs in related industries, providing a much-needed boost to the economy.
Roseville, absent of levees and flood-prone rivers, is sitting high and dry — in a good way. With infrastructure spending on hold and flood protection requirements increasing, development in neighboring communities has stalled and the future remains uncertain.
When most people think of action heroes, they do so in Hollywood terms: big, brawling, muscle-bound guys for whom compromise is always a dirty word. But in politics, brute force rarely holds sway over the art of the deal. In that regard, Doris Matsui, who represents much of Sacramento in Congress, may just be our very own action star.