Revitalizing the Los Angeles River

“And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.” Ezekiel 47:9

From the dawn of recorded history, humans built cities along rivers. Over 6,000 years ago, Sumerian city-states grew along the fertile banks of the Tigris-Euphrates rivers system, relying on these rivers for irrigation and transportation, water to drink and fish to eat. And in the millennia to follow, from the Yangtze to the Mississippi, across the continents, rivers have been the enabling arteries of civilization.

With the arrival of the industrial revolution came rapid population growth and an explosion of new technology. In 1800 the earth and its rivers sustained 990 million people; today, that number approaches 8 billion. As cities expanded along their rivers, to prevent winter floods, dams and levees at an unprecedented scale were constructed to contain them. And at the same time as many urban rivers were transformed into gigantic drainage culverts, their waters were fouled by contaminated runoff, poorly treated sewage, and outfall from industry.

The turning point in the desecration of urban rivers was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the modern environmental movement began in reaction to polluted air and water. A defining event of this era came in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland […] Read More

Environmentally Friendly Delta Diversions

When it comes to cost-effective ways to increase the supply of water to California’s cities and farms, every idea should be considered. The residential, commercial and industrial water requirements of California’s 40 million people add up to about 8 million acre feet of water per year. The nine million acres of irrigated farmland that produces the food they eat, requires another 30 million acre feet of water per year.

With droughts and increasing priority given to letting water stay in the rivers to maintain ecosystem health, this water supply is threatened. Water scarcity and water rationing, along with fallowing millions of acres of farmland, is the only answer California’s legislature seems to support. Efforts to increase the water supply have been incremental at best.

From a cost perspective, most supply solutions are financially viable, but nonetheless quite expensive. For example, only about one-third of California’s urban wastewater is recycled. Construction costs to upgrade every water treatment plant in the state that isn’t already turning sewage back into recycled water for landscaping or even for potable reuse would cost about $20 billion, and give back up to 2 million acre feet per year.

Desalination is another option, but is roughly twice as expensive as wastewater recycling. For an estimated construction cost of $20 billion, about one million acre feet of ocean water per year could be desalinated. While it is the most expensive option, desalination has the virtue of being a perennial supply of new water, impervious to drought. What other […] Read More

Parasitic Architecture is Not What it Seems

The concept is attractive. Taking advantage of an existing superstructure and utility conduits, developers can simply add new units on the sides and top of a residential building. In theory, this can save money, preserve the original building and create new housing in areas where housing tends to be in short supply and high demand.

In practice, parasitic architecture often ends up being a controversial aesthetic experiment, wherein buildings of historic value have their exterior facades debased – or enhanced, depending on who you ask – with odd protuberances. Or it finds expression in “adaptive reuse” projects that rely on public subsidies to create overly expensive additional housing units.

A classic example of parasitic architecture blazing a path into the aesthetic frontier of urban design is the Museum of Military History in Dresden, Germany. In this case, a 135-year-old stone building had grafted onto its square, classical façade a massive steel and glass triangle that juts skyward like the prow of a ship. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. A Wall Street Journal architecture critic compared the new section to “a piece of shrapnel freshly fallen from the sky.”

Enthusiasts proclaim the beauty is in the incongruity, but the practice has many detractors. During the 1980s, architects saved the facades of many historic Washington, D.C. downtown offices and built superstructures behind them – spurring critics to refer to them as “facade-omies.”

There are plentiful examples of historic public buildings expanded with ultra-modern structures. The Pablo Serrano Museum was […] Read More

Green Bureaucrats Are Destroying California’s Ecosystems

California’s political elite consider themselves, and the state they control, to be the most environmentally enlightened in the world. They’re not. Well intentioned but misguided policies, combined with hidden agenda from special interests using environmentalism as cover, have resulted in “environmentalism” often causing more harm than good to the environment.

Some environmentalist policies that might otherwise be obviously suspect are justified in the name of combatting climate change. The prime example of this is the hundreds of billions Californians are spending to convert the electricity grid to “renewable” energy. If it weren’t for their zero emissions claim, nobody would endorse carpeting the land with thousands of square miles of wind turbines, or hundreds of square miles of photovoltaic arrays.

But even if the climate emergency narrative is accepted, does it matter if the consequences to the environment from developing “renewables” is as bad, or worse, than any realistic climate crisis that we’re likely to confront in the next several decades? What is the long-term cost to the environment of doubling or tripling the amount of electricity generated in California, in order to convert the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors of the economy to use 100 percent electrical energy? What would the environmental cost be to accomplish this only using wind and solar energy technologies, meaning California’s existing wind and solar capacity would have to increase at least ten-fold?

The environmental cost of California’s determination to expand wind and solar capacity is already felt around the world, in […] Read More

The Shared Scarcity Agenda of Predatory Investors and Extreme Environmentalists

In a long-planned rally at the California State Capitol last month, San Joaquin Valley farmers protested new laws that impose taxes on their irrigation wells. In Madera County, where most of these farmers came from, the new tax is as high as $246 per acre of farmland. If you’re trying to irrigate a few sections of land to grow almonds, that tax adds up fast.

It would be bad enough for these farmers merely to restrict their access to groundwater, particularly since new laws are also restricting their access to river water. But the timing of this tax couldn’t be worse. The cost for diesel fuel has doubled, fertilizer cost has tripled, and shipping bottlenecks prevented farmers from selling their produce to export markets, flooding the domestic market and driving the price down.

Less revenue. Higher costs. And now a per acre tax on wells. Speaking at the farmer protest, state Sen. Melissa Hurtado exposed the hidden agenda behind the ill-timed regulatory war on farmers. “Financial speculators are buying farmland for the water rights,” she said, “and then they turn around and sell your water right back to you.”

Hurtado is right. The immutable algebra of this predatory financial strategy goes like this: As regulatory oppression drives farmers out of business, investors move in and buy their land. Meanwhile, these investors support environmentalist restrictions on river withdrawals for irrigation and oppose water supply infrastructure projects (using environmentalist justifications), in order to […] Read More

Solar Farms Should Not Displace Prime Farmland

Successfully coping with severe droughts in California and the Southwest requires tough choices, all of them expensive and none of them perfect. But taking millions of acres out of cultivation and replacing them with solar farms is not the answer.

California produces over one-third of America’s vegetables and three quarters of the country’s fruits and nuts – more than half of which is grown in the San Joaquin Valley. According to the California Farmland Trust, the San Joaquin Basin contains the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, which is the best there is.

Putting solar farms in more than a small fraction of this rich land will not only displace farming, but have a heat island impact in the enclosed valley. That would be unhealthy for the farms and people that remain, and could even change atmospheric conditions over a wide area, worsening the drought.

If new solar farms are destined to carpet hundreds of square miles of land, they should be dispersed throughout the state and near already existing high voltage lines. Or, they should be concentrated in California’s abundant stretches of uninhabited land such as the Mojave Desert.

With food shortages worsening throughout the world, Californians should be focusing on how to preserve agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. Why, for example, are spreading basins being proposed to allow runoff from atmospheric rivers to percolate when flood irrigation used to replenish […] Read More

Vertical Farmers Are Coming to Your City

Over 4 billion people have joined the global population in the last 50 years, putting stress on available farmland, water and fertilizer. At the same time, the capacity of the planet to absorb farm waste – toxic farm runoff contaminating aquifers and rivers – has stretched the limit. Nearly 8 billion people now depend on 5.5 million square miles of water-guzzling farmland for their food.

Vertical farms, by contrast, look enticing. Depending on who you ask, and what crop you’re growing, they only require somewhere between 1 percent and 5 percent of the water required by outdoor farming. They also operate in a completely controlled environment, which eliminates the need for pesticides and herbicides.

They can be located anywhere. By siting them within urban areas, the transportation and refrigeration costs necessary to get the crops to market are largely eliminated. With all of these competitive advantages, why aren’t vertical farms sprouting up everywhere?

An interesting 2021 study published in the Rutgers Business Review attempts to quantify these cost variables to compare traditional farming to vertical farming. The authors found that vertical farming was at a huge disadvantage to traditional farming with respect to energy cost and labor cost, while enjoying a decisive advantage in terms of water cost. The analysis was an oversimplification, since these costs vary greatly depending on what crop is being compared, but overall it found vertical farming currently to run about 2.5 times more expensive per unit than traditional farming.

This cost disadvantage is […] Read More

Dam Removal in the American West

The great cities of the American southwest would not exist if it weren’t for dams. Without the massive federal and state projects to build dams, pumping stations, and aqueducts (most of them completed 50 to 100 years ago), more than 60 million Americans would be living somewhere else. Without dams to capture and store millions of acre-feet of rainfall every year, and aqueducts to transport that water to thirsty metropolitan customers, the land these cities sit upon would be uninhabitable desert.

Such is the conundrum facing environmentalists that want to set these rivers free. Without dams, crops wither and people die of thirst. Without dams, devastating floods would tear through towns and cities every time there’s a big storm. Without hydroelectric power from dams, 18 percent of the in-state generated electricity Californians consume would be gone. You can’t just rip them all out. You would destroy a civilization.

But because of dams, fish habitat is lost, and aquatic species can become endangered or go extinct. Because of dams, precious sediment is prevented from running downstream to nurture estuaries and restore beaches. Because of dams, the natural cycle of rivers is disrupted: the cleansing pulse of spring that calls the migratory salmon to come back from the ocean, the dry trickles of summer when these anadromous species fight their way upstream to the cool and perennial headwaters to spawn, the next season’s rains that return newborn fingerlings to […] Read More

Latest Attack on Proposed Sites Reservoir – Not Enough Water

When it comes to attacking anything that will make so much as a scratch in the earth, California’s environmentalists never run out of arguments, and their litigators never run out of money.

So it goes with the proposed Sites Reservoir, which is enduring a withering new bombardment from environmentalists in the wake of Governor Newsom’s recently announced Water Supply Strategy in which the governor endorsed the Sites Project and even had the temerity to suggest environmentalist obstruction is stopping as many good projects as bad ones.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week, and dutifully highlighted in Maven’s Notebook, “California’s largest reservoir in nearly 50 years may be derailed by water shortages.” Apparently there isn’t enough water flowing down the Sacramento River to fill the 1.5 million acre foot reservoir. But that entirely depends on who you ask.

Shown below, courtesy of the US Dept. of Geological Survey, is flow data for the Sacramento River, upstream at Colusa, which is near to where the planned diversions into the Sites Reservoir will be made. The data is expressed in “CFS,” which stands for cubic feet per second.

What is immediately evident from this chart is how it vividly depicts the volume of surplus water that hit Northern California even during what has been described as the driest winter in decades. If during the on-and-off wet months from October 1 to April 30 just 20 percent of the Sacramento River’s flow had been diverted […] Read More

Green Fascists Are Destroying the World

Earlier this summer, the CO2 Coalition was banished from LinkedIn. The CO2 Coalition, with only three full-time employees and an annual budget of under $1 million, had committed the unpardonable sin of sharing contrarian perspectives on climate science. Its work, produced by a network of volunteers that includes dozens of distinguished scientists, offers indispensable balance on a topic that requires honest debate now more than ever.

Among the many comments that followed LinkedIn’s decision, the mentality of the climate crisis mob came through loud and clear. If “the science is settled,” then any contrary perspective is dangerous and must be silenced. A typical comment: “Why does LinkedIn allow so much Climate Disinformation to persist throughout its platform?” Brigades of these content wardens continuously log complaints with LinkedIn against climate skeptics. The impeccable work of Bjorn Lomborg is one of their next targets.

This is not the environmentalism of previous generations, and this new zealotry does not negate or diminish the common sense concern for the environment that most reasonable people share. But this new breed of intolerant, fanatical environmentalism, manifested in the movement to avert a “climate crisis,” is perhaps the most virulent and dangerous expression of fascism in America today. If left unchecked, this fascistic climate change movement will destroy freedom and prosperity while it destroys the planet it purportedly wants to save.

Ideological and Economic Fascism Combined

This is not a frivolous accusation because, in this case, the shoe fits. There are two types of […] Read More