Thursday, 20 February 2020

Rexrode: Eliminate Lake Pillsbury – really?

I have read with increasing bewilderment about an effort under way to eliminate Lake Pillsbury.

I am admittedly neither an expert on dams nor riverine systems. However, I have lived through several droughts.

I am being told the frequency of droughts will increase significantly with global warming. Seems to me, that while trying to increase our water conservation efforts, we should not also be pursuing an effort to actually eliminate current water storage capacity. Humans of course cannot survive without water, it's as simple as that.

I've tried to understand a bit of what is going on here. I've read that Pacific Gas and Electric does not want to continue to produce electricity from Lake Pillsbury. OK, fine, I'm good with that, as long as they can produce what is needed from another source.

But making the gigantic conceptual leap from PG&E's business decision to now an effort to eliminate all the water storage afforded by Lake Pillsbury makes no sense at all.

I dug into this a little deeper. It seems once again, as often happens, minority special interest groups are behind it. And they come fully armed with the typical alarmism and half-truths.

I've read that the dam, which has solidly stood for nearly 100 years, is all of a sudden now a huge safety risk. Large population groups are in danger.

What experts are saying this? The "Save the River" groups. I'm not sure they are the self-proclaimed dam experts I'd turn to for this evaluation. Those dam experts …

I've read that tearing down the Lake Pillsbury dam will be a huge economic boon to Lake County, creating thousands of jobs for workers needed for dam deconstruction.

Oh, really, are these the type of sustainable jobs we truly need for a vibrant economy? Or perhaps are they the most temporary type of job available, lasting just until the damage is done?

Do these self-interest groups think the public is so naive as to believe anything said or written no matter how outlandish?

Seriously, "an economic boon" created by eliminating a sustainable water storage area that is also used perennially for recreation? Are we expected to believe that? Methinks someone takes us for fools …

I have also seen a certain amount of obfuscation at play. Rarely, or never actually, have I seen this effort described as "eliminate Lake Pillsbury." It would appear there is a desire to keep that significant fact buried for as long and as deep as possible.

Instead, I read about an effort "to eliminate the aging and unsafe Scott Dam" – a headline many would pass right over. No one I know catches the significance of that.

Everyone knows Lake Pillsbury, almost nobody knows that Scott Dam creates it. This trickster naming ploy is designed to keep the average person unaware of what is going on. Perhaps until it’s too late, the train has left the station, and no one is on board.

Another recent scam seems to be a variant of the old tried-and-true shell game. Just substitute "basin" for "shell" and you got it.

I wondered who gets to make this decision of eliminating such a significant amount of our crucial water storage. Well, the special interest groups, pushing forward their own agenda, it appears to me. I believe this consists of just five mostly biased self-serving involved parties.

I read recently that Lake County, where the lake is located, wished to join the voting block of decision makers. The current voting block of special interests themselves gave a resounding "No! Thanks, but no thanks."

Anyone seen the missing fox? Hope it's not in the henhouse.

So who are the groups represented on this all-powerful voting block? One for example, is Humboldt County, who previously had gone on record as already wishing to abolish the dam. I ask, how much of the water stored in Lake Pillsbury does Humboldt County use? Well, water doesn't flow uphill, so I believe that the answer is “nary a drop.” Guess what else also flows downhill … uh-huh.

What is going on here? How is this allowed? Humboldt County can vote, but Lake County cannot? Are Sonoma and Marin counties, who are also recipients of this stored water on the voting block? Absolutely not. Yet not one, but two fish-advocacy groups are. Does this feel like well-balanced advocacy to anyone else? I still can't find that fox.

Perhaps a simple solution is needed – one that often works best. Take this to the people, let the people decide by popular vote if they want crucial water storage retained, or let a river run through it. A river that can go fully dry, and certainly will be come the next drought.

How many fish will be swimming upstream then? They won't get up creek, with or without a paddle.

A quick internet search shows that Lake Mendocino holds 122,000 acre feet of water. Lake Pillsbury increases that amount by 70 percent, with an additional capacity of 86,000 acre feet.

With global warming on the horizon, complete with more frequent droughts, who in their right mind would try to eliminate such crucial existing water storage capacity that's been in place for a century?

I have nothing against salmon or steelhead, I just realize that some trade-offs must be accepted in our modern world. I would not propose or support damming another freely running river, but we sure can use the water, and this storage capacity has been in place for 100 years.

Perhaps a self-proclaimed expert may now appear and try to nitpick away at my letter. Oftentimes these biased "experts" are not needed, common sense works just fine.

Leave Lake Pillsbury alone.

No dam-age should be done.

Jim Rexrode lives in Kelseyville, California.

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