Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Golden State of Dysfunction.

California is choking off the middle class:

Just north of Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley used be a barren desert. But now, thanks to human engineering, dams, canals and aqueducts have transformed the Central Valley into the richest agricultural region in the world.
None of this could be accomplished today. Los Angeles' water-fueled growth permanently altered entire habitats, including, most famously, the Owens Valley, which once supported a lake and farming community. It is now a desert.
Unfortunately, California environmentalists are trying to turn much of the Central Valley's farmland back into desert too. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, federal courts have ordered farmers to divert hundreds of billions of gallons of water away from crops and into the Sacramento River, where it is supposed to help revive the delta smelt.
MondayWhat happened to the Golden State?
TuesdayThe California spending rush
WednesdayBig Ed's big fail: How teachers union's are destroying California's schools
Thursday: California's green jobs bust
Today: Green state chokes off its middle class
Read the entire series at this link
The diverted water has not helped the smelt much, but it has turned hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland fallow and sent unemployment in some farming communities as high as 40 percent.
California could solve this problem by building more dams, thus adding water capacity. But the state hasn't built a major new dam since 1979 and none is on the drawing board.
One reason is the California Environmental Quality Act of 1970. Modeled after the federal National Environmental Policy Act, CEQA was intended to make infrastructure planning easier. As the accompanying chart shows, it is anything but an easy law to follow. Unlike most state environmental planning laws, CEQA allows plaintiffs to recover attorney's fees from defendant infrastructure developers (whether they be state, city or private actors).
This has created an entire environmental lawsuit industry -- a very profitable one that chills development. According to the California Chamber of Commerce, CEQA has become "a morass of uncertainty for project proponents and agencies alike."

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