March 21, 2015

Get rid of those damned dams — and BuRec!

Glen Canyon Dam/Wikipedia photo
Daniel Beard, a former chief of BuRec (that's the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to you non-Westerners) talks about "deadbeat dams" and other ideas for dealing with Western drought in an interview with High Country News.

The interview is based on his new book of that same name, "Deadbeat Dams," which just came out last month and which sounds like a must read.

Beard is not playing around.

He wants to get rid of the Bureau of Reclamation, and as far as all the "deadbeat dams" costing us money, misuse of precious Western water and more, replace it with a dam decommissioning commission similar to the military base closure commission, so as to remove removal of dams from politics and Congress.

The biggest, beyond the "deadbeat" dams, is selling, or rather, "selling" water at subsidized rates, just pennies on the dollar.

The Western farmer is possibly America's biggest socialist, followed by the American rancher and his below-market grazing fees. Next on the list is the Western politician who decries socialism while protecting this.

Example Numero Uno? Modern conservative legend Barry Goldwater.

He repeatedly called for abolishing the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1964. But, was there ever a peep from him about abolishing the Bureau of Reclamation? About not building Glen Canyon Dam?

Absolutely not.

Just like his pale successor, Schmuck Talk Expresser John McCain, Barry Goldwater was a Grade A hypocrite on such issues who got a pass at the time from conservatives and later from the national press.

Beyond that, as drought looks to intensify another year in the West, as some states clamp down on groundwater pumping because of that and more, like a possible 30-year drought cycle in the southern Plains/Southwest, or a 200-year cycle in California, our broken water system, like our broken hydrocarbon use system, needs to be acknowledged as broken.

And, the Archdruid of Reclamation, Floyd Dominy, would be turning over in his grave if he could. John McPhee, who wrote a book partially about him as among his many Western and naturalism books, is still alive ... maybe kicking enough to do a follow-up of sorts. Sadly, Marc Reisner is not alive to update "Cadillac Desert."

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