Reviving an ancient lake may help solve California’s water woes

High Country News, 12/07/09

Tufts of unmilled cotton line Utica Avenue like clumps of dirty spring snow. The road is like hundreds of others in the dun-and-green checkerboard of California’s Central Valley, a two-lane highway running straight as a zipper past geometrically arranged almond orchards and vineyards. Steve Haze, a candidate for U.S. Congress, is out here on what he calls “recon,” determined to debunk the local billboard slogans. “Congress-Created Drought” is common in fallow fields, right behind “Food Grows Where Water Flows” and “Water = Jobs.” The signs were put up by corporate growers and water-management leaders, who complain that a federal court decision that reduced their irrigation deliveries to save a tiny fish put thousands of people out of work. Haze thinks the reality is more complicated.

“We’ve lost more jobs in construction than we have in farming this year,” he says, piloting his granite blue Chevy pickup through clouds of fluffy bolls. “The real question is: How do we manage the water we have for farms, fish and people?”…

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