Mark Reisner, in Cadillac Desert, describes Jerry Brown’s struggle back in the late 1970s and early ’80s to sort out the conflicting interests surrounding the Bay-Delta System as plans were developed for what was then known as the Peripheral Canal:
Jerry Brown’s dilemma – which was insoluble, but which he thought he could solve anyway – was trying to please the water lobby and his large environmental constituency at the same time. He wanted a project, but he wanted it to be “environmentally sound”.
Fast forward to the 2008 Delta Vision Report, which provides the the underpinnings for the latest attempt to solve the delta problem:
The Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply for California are the primary, co- equal goals for sustainable management of the Delta.
And the guy who inherited the struggle to carry it out is California Gov. Jerry Brown.
update: To be clear – I’m not arguing here that the historical lesson to draw between the parallels is the insolubility, to borrow Reisner’s wonderful word. Rather, it is the parallel structure in the way the problem was defined then and now – co-equal goals today and pleasing the water lobby and the environmental constituency. I’m very interested in the search for the solution space today, and not at all convinced that it is insoluble.