Water Wars

Design by Metropolitan Water District - H2Love campaign via bewaterwise.com

“Conservation must remain a way of life.” With words of caution, Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared April 7, 2017 the end of the record-breaking drought that has held California in a state of emergency for three years.

Executive Order B-40-17 effectively lifts the accompanying conservation regulations by rescinding Brown’s January 17, 2014 Emergency Proclamation and April 25, 2014 Proclamation of Continued State of Emergency, along with Executive Orders B-26-14, B-28-14, B-29-15 and B-36-15.

Guidelines from Executive Order B-37-16 remain in effect with updates outlined in B-40-17 establishing that “permanent restrictions shall prohibit wasteful practices such as:

  • Hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes;
  • Washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut-off nozzle;
  • Using non-recirculated water in a fountain or other decorative water feature;
  • Watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff, or within 48 hours after measurable precipitation; and
  • Irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.”

The following week, April 13, Brown met with Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Interior in the Trump Administration, to discuss California projects managed by his agencies. Zinke and Brown discussed topics concerning parks, public lands and water infrastructure, including proposals for the California Water Fix Project currently under federal review by the Bureau of Reclamation.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the 32nd Governor of California, Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown, successfully supported the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project.

SWP (left) – Click to enlarge – CVP (right)
Maps by Shannon via Creative Commons

The SWP diverts waters that feed the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta through 34 storage facilities, 24 pumping plants, 5 hydroelectric power plants, and roughly 700 miles of open canals and pipelines to supply 29 water contractors in southern California and the central valley.

Features of the SWP include the tallest dam in the United States, which recently made national headlines in Oroville when the spillway collapsed under flood conditions forcing the evacuation of roughly 200,000 residents. Three local environmental groups submitted a motion to the FERC in October 2005 claiming that the spillway to the dam built in 1968 did not meet modern safety standards. The request called for reinforcement of the emergency spillway to prevent collapse in extreme flood conditions that could overwhelm the main spillway and corrode the emergency runoff chute. The upgrades were deemed unnecessary by the Department of Water Resources and the water contractors that would have to front the bill for repairs to SWP infrastructure. After the February 2017 disaster, the Trump Administration approved federal relief funding for emergency response services and damages to the dam.

The CVP diverts waters that feed the Delta through 22 reservoirs and 11 power plants over a 450 mile stretch to supply roughly 250 water contractors from Lake Shasta to Bakersfield.

Majority shares of SWP and CVP water supplies are delegated to six major consumers–

  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
  • Westlands Water District
  • Kern County Water Agency
  • Santa Clara Valley Water District
  • San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority
  • San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority

Pat Brown’s son, Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown, served as the 34th Governor of California from 1975 to 1983. Jerry Brown supported the Peripheral Canal Project, proposing an additional canal diverting waters from the Delta into the existing Central Valley Project for exportation to southern California. The Peripheral Canal project was defeated on the 1982 ballot, but when Jerry Brown returned in 2011 to serve as the 39th Governor of California, he put his support behind the Water Fix Project, proposing new twin tunnels beneath the nexus of the delta.

Water fix project (click to enlarge)
Map by California National Resources Agency

In 2014, after multiple rounds of revision, renaming, and voter disapproval of what is now known as the Water Fix Project, the state proposed that funding would come primarily from bonds issued to water contractors, to be repaid by revenue from project resources.

General obligation and revenue bonds issued by the state accounted for 78 percent of construction costs for the SWP, paid with interest by the water contractors. Remaining costs were covered by federal obligations, state appropriations, and miscellaneous private sources with invested interests. The SWP remains the largest state-built water project in the country, but the project is also one of the state’s largest electrical consumers, requiring twice as much energy to operate as it generates in hydroelectric plants.

The CVP cost our federal government $3.6 billion to construct, with repayment contracts issued to project beneficiaries expected to cover a third of the cost over a 40-year period. The CVP remains the largest water project operated by the US Bureau of Reclamation, but after 40 years the cost of operations far exceeded contract repayments for most CVP contractors, leaving taxpayers responsible for the national debt accumulated in unpaid federal bonds and negative revenue.

California Proposition 53, defeated on the 2016 ballot, would have required voter approval for state-issued revenue bonds over $2 million. With this proposition out of the way, voter approval will not be required to move forward with the Water-Fix project.

A change petition was filed in August 2015 as part of the Water Fix project, the State Water Resources Control Board commenced with hearings in July 2016. With the project still pending federal approval as of April 2017, Jerry Brown met with the Secretary of Interior in an administration that has already gained notoriety for expediting environmental reviews of infrastructure projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline.

As California residents rejoice the end of a prolonged drought and celebrate the wettest year on record, Jerry Brown stresses the necessity of continued conservation habits. Meanwhile, Brown side-steps voters to secure cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation in final approvals for highly controversial water infrastructure projects that threaten an already depleted delta. We’re told that this costly project will be funded by the water contractors, not taxpayers, just months after Brown begged for federal relief funds to cover repairs to existing infrastructures that would be expanded by the new project.

Poster design by Diener-Hauser, art by Jim Pearsall

The 1974 neo-noir film “Chinatown” dramatizes events surrounding the early 20th century construction of a 230-mile aqueduct diverting water from the Owens River to Los Angeles. The budding city of LA quickly depleted water supply in Owen’s Valley, devastating local wildlife and agriculture, draining Owen’s Lake and creating the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States. As demand continued to grow and supply ran completely dry, a second aqueduct was constructed just north of Owen’s Valley to divert water from Mono Lake into the existing channels.

The ensuing conflicts over these aqueducts and control of the state’s resources became known as the California Water Wars, but this socio-political-economic power struggle took on many names as it expanded into the 21st century.

As the California bureaucracy continues draining northern resources to sustain the southern desert metropolis, support for the State of Jefferson grows in rural northern counties, with campaign signs supporting secession growing increasingly popular as far south as the bay area.

Here and now, the state’s natural resources are still rapidly dwindling, in large part due to the water projects enacted by Gov. Pat Brown. Water regulations proposed by the current Brown Administration are all too familiar and anything but conservative, with an air of nepotism that casts suspicion on the Brown family’s long political history in water dealings.


LaRocca Lush

Daily Prompt: Lush

her lips blushed
a LaRocca Lush
plump, juicy, and sweet
her smile dimpled
pig-nosed wrinkled
eyes twinkled
with pure delight
shied behind
a stray lock of hair
teeth pressed in
a nervous bite

her soul shined
in radiant gold
a Dionysus devotee
grape stomp beauty
draped in ecstasy
and purple toed
her windswept tassels
billowed like a horses mane
braided in grapevines
zinfandel red
cascading the curves
of her divine frame

“The Late Harvest Lush Zinfandel was picked in November 24, 2005, allowing the grapes to hang longer on the vine. The grapes were picked at 34.5 brix at our Sutter Buttes Vineyard. Capturing the desirable effects of the Botrytis cinerea, the “noble” rot, this wine is rich, ripe and elegant with an enormous presence of raisin and luscious flavors of chocolate and berries which makes for a delightfully sweet finish. With hints of spice and pepper the wine is not overly powerful and is referred to as an aphrodisiac that only gets better with age. This wine pairs deliciously with a rich chocolate truffle or any desserts.”

LaRocca Vineyards grows on 110 acres in Forest Ranch, California, two miles down the windy mountainside Schott Rd, to the end of the pavement, and then a bit further. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains at 2600 feet, LaRocca vines thrive on the sweet spring waters and rich mineral deposits of Mount Lassen.

12106829_986283898088474_3771412007118525030_nPHOTO VIA LAROCCA VINEYARDS

Vintner Phil LaRocca does organic with a passion, the fruits of his labor grow chemical free, and his wines age to perfection with no sulfites added. Sulfites may occur naturally in some wines as a byproduct of fermentation, but the United States Organic Wine Standard strictly prohibits use of sulfur dioxide, synthetic additives and preservatives.ccof+usdaAll LaRocca vintages are tested for sulfite levels, if the readings are completely sulfite-free bottles are labeled with “no sulfites detected” to distinguish these hypo-allergenic products for consumers. Roughly 1 in 100 Americans have sulfite sensitivity, which can present as shortness of breath, hives, or anaphylactic shock in extreme cases.

When my big brother Bisbee was in high school experimenting with alcohol, he played a game of slap-bag with some friends of his, passing around cheap Moscato wine… until he passed out on the sidewalk at the Boys and Girls Club where our mother would pick me up after school. Bisbee was taken to Enloe, suffered a brutal hangover, and learned about sulfite sensitivity.


Dad — Pinot Noir Harvest 2015

Sulfite sensitivity runs in our Dad’s side of the family, but we would never have guessed that he was allergic to wine, because both our parents drank LaRocca wines regularly when they were working at the vineyard. The LaRocca family has been growing grapes to stomp their wine since 1984, and under them my family has been working from vine to bottle to tasting room off and on for roughly 30 years.

Dad laid out irrigation, harvested the crops and stomped in the vats. They always joked about the hazard of vat death, apparently common in this profession, but I still remember the day Dad chopped the tip of his finger off with the pruning shears. The flap of skin was hanging by a thread, but we stopped for popsicles at The Store on the way down the mountain to the hospital, orange creamsicle was always my favorite. In the photo below, roughly 20 years later, I am cutting myself with those same shears. Turns out, the grape doesn’t fall far from the vine, but sadly, the popsicle selection at The Store just isn’t what it used to be.


Me — Pinot Noir Harvest 2015

Mom worked at the vineyard in racking, bottling and labeling, and later behind the counter at the Tasting Room when the original location opened in Forest Ranch. At the time, town consisted of The Store, The Diner, The Video Rental, and The Tasting Room. Over the years, several businesses have briefly occupied Forest Ranch storefronts, but the remote little mountain town provides a rather limited customer base, and rent for these locations is notoriously overpriced given the circumstances.

The new LaRocca Tasting Room is a classy joint in the heart of Chico, next door to the El Rey Theater. An intimate setting with limited capacity, the wine bar is a refreshing escape from the rowdy college scene that dominates Chico nightlife, but with special performers and trendy paint nights LaRocca is a tasteful alternative social hotspot.

LaRocca Vineyards Organic Wine Tasting Room
222 W. 2nd Street
Downtown Chico, California
Open Weds – Fridays 1:30-8pm
Saturdays 12 noon – 8pm
Sundays 1:30-6pm


Even Bisbee got to pitch in with the LaRocca crew back in the day, as a tall and lanky child he was just small enough to drop into the vats for cleaning and just tall enough to climb his way back out again. For payment, being the little devil he was, my brother asked Phil for a Dallas Cowboys jersey. The 49ers haven’t won a Superbowl since he got that accursed jersey, but it is still packed away in the family home with baby keepsake clothes and old hippie hand-mades.

When my brother Wilder and I found our way home to Forest Ranch, Phaedra LaRocca had taken over business operations, with winemaker Phil doing what he does best. While we settled back in town, I started working for Phaedra around the vineyard, and fit right in like my mother never left. One by one familiar faces walked in, said hello to my mother… and one by one they did a double-take, wondering how she had managed to age backwards.

Dad, Wilder and I joined the limited friends and family crew when they came up shorthanded for the Pinot Noir crop that year. Another generation of Allens beside another generation of LaRoccas, another vintage, another snapshot, another generation of Forest Ranch memories. Phil prepared an organic feast that couldn’t be beat, with pineapple glazed ham, pasta salad, fresh fruits and veggies, and of course, LaRocca wine.

From right: Dad, Me, Wilder, Phil and Crew