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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Horror of Southern California Brush Fires as Seen from Above

(click on maps to enlarge)

The Other Part of the Wildfire Tragedy: Sprawling Cities Mean Taxpayers Foot the Bill to Encourage Development of Hillsides and Wildlife Habitat; then Taxpayers Foot the Bill When Fires Wipe it All Out

Here's a thought: California law requires every residential development to have a guaranteed water source. Since climate-change is not only cutting our water supply but making wildfires more likely and more damaging, doesn't it make sense to require that every sprawling development on fire-prone hillsides have a supplemental water supply so that fires can be fought? And maybe this would encourage more infill development in existing flat urban areas or even encourage developers to leave California for wetter climates?

Rex Frankel

Capitol Journal
Living in California means paying the premium
By George Skelton, L.A. Times
October 25, 2007

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently vetoed a dozen bills that the California Chamber of Commerce alleged were anti-business "job-killers." In the chamber's view, the governor's action will create jobs.

Fine. How is this deficit-plagued state going to pay for the jobs?
Yes, of course, they're private-enterprise jobs, not government.

But who's going to pay for the roads and transit to get these people to work? To educate their kids? To provide police protection?

And as we've been uncomfortably reminded, somebody will have to foot the bill for fighting any fires that threaten these workers' homes. Especially when houses keep being built snug up against tinder-dry chaparral or in forests.

Who's going to pay? All of us taxpayers....

Wildfires a threat to state's diminished water supply

There is enough to put out the blazes, but officials worry about replacing it.

Staff Writer

WASHINGTON - As wildfires continued to rage in Southern California on Wednesday, water officials warned that the blazes may threaten the state's long-term supply.

"We are rapidly draining our reservoirs," Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, told congressional aides and lobbyists at a Capitol Hill briefing.

He and others said unequivocally that California has more than enough water to combat the fires, which have raged across the state for four days.

But, Kightlinger noted, "The question is, how do we replace it? Everyone is out there with a hose trying to blanket everything with water. We are watching our reservoirs just plummeting right now."

The Metropolitan Water District serves 18 million people in six counties throughout the Los Angeles region, but droughts and growth are placing a growing strain on the state's water supply.

Problems with the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the hub of the state's water supply, are worsening. A low snowfall year in the Sierra left many reservoirs below normal. And now, water officials said, firefighters are pumping out hundreds of thousands of gallons a day.

"Our first priority is lives. But we've got all kinds of implications that can emanate from this disastrous fire," said Brad Hiltscher, the water district's representative in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this month, state lawmakers missed a deadline to strike a compromise on a $9 billion bond measure to fix the state's water system.

The governor and some lawmakers want to put the measure on the Feb. 5 presidential primary ballot, arguing that problems with the state's water supply are urgent.

Republicans and Democrats have sparred, however, on whether reservoirs or a mix of conservation and underground storage represent the best method of saving the supply.

Kightlinger called the gridlock "unfortunate" but said he remains hopeful that the Legislature will resolve its differences.

In the meantime, he and others urged Congress to continue funding desalination and other water-recycling projects.

A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to comment Wednesday on concerns that the wildfires are affecting the state's water reservoirs.

"California's short- and long-term water supply is critical and a top priority for the governor," Bill Maile said. "Right now he is focused on the aggressive response effort."

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