Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Drought and the Oil Spill -- another Weekend in California
By Fred Owens
Santa Barbara oil spill news.

I got tar on my sneakers yesterday -- on a beach walk. Little tar balls are common on Santa Barbara beaches because of natural oil seeps. It's been that way for as long as anybody can remember, but yesterday it seemed to be worse. We're about ten miles down the coast from the oil spill, so it would not surprise me if there is more tar than usual coming our way.
We saw the pelicans flying around a lot -- one flock going up the beach, another flock going down the beach  -- they seemed to be at sixes and sevens like they were disturbed about something, and that could be from the oil spill.
And we have a drought of epic proportions. It's another weekend in California.

We don't have special plans for this weekend, but we are heading down to the harbor in a bit to hear the ukelele players. They are a local group of ukelele players who meet every Saturday at 1 p.m. under the flame tree next to the Harbor Master's office. Maybe a dozen faithful players and singers. We don't play, but we like to listen to them and sing along.
This is how we deal with serious problems in California. And it works.

Big Farm, Small Farm. Size doesn't matter. Some farms are big, some farms are small. Some farms are good places to work, some farms are not. I have worked at three small organic farms since moving to California five years ago. They were okay. The pay was all right, and the product was good -- we grew some good, honest veggies and bodacious flowers and herbs of good quality.
But I am not in the movement. I am not a believer. The trouble with organic people is the high incidence of wing nuts, airheads and conspiracy fanatics on these farms -- okay this is California and we do grow a lot of fruit, so I guess it's going around. They breed here -- bio-dynamic ghostbusters, psychic healers, aromatherapy zealots. An organic farm is a rural homeless shelter for folks who are a little bit strange. But you need to humor them. Don't say Roundup out loud -- they start screaming and falling faint. They pull crumpled citations out of their pockets and insist you read the research. Outer space beings are coming to save us soon! In the meantime place these heirloom seeds in a corner of your cheek and suck on them slowly..... Seriously, I'm glad these people have a place to go. Modern life can be daunting and we all need shelter.

These little farms got me settled in California and I am grateful, but, as I said, I am not of the true faith.
I'm looking for another job, probably a farm, a greenhouse, or a produce stand. My intention is to work with rational people, people with common sense, folks who know how to tell a joke, who know how to laugh at themselves. Working with good people is my goal.
But whether it's organic or not, whether it's big or small, doesn't matter.

I don't hate Monsanto. You would think Beelzebub, the devil himself, runs a chemical company out of St. Louis, with a plot to take over the world and destroy all life.
I don't think so. My own associations go like this -- Monsanto? from St. Louis? Oh, they must be nice people. I have cousins in St. Louis, and they sure have a great baseball team. I love those Cardinals. And the Clydesdale horses at the Budweiser brewery -- you never saw such pretty horses.  Now, what were you saying about Monsanto?

Gulley Report.  The coyotes in the gulley in the back of the house are howling a lot. We don't know why. But we hope they kill all the gophers, because the gophers are running rampant. Kill all the gophers, but leave the cats alone.Our cats aren't stupid. They stick by the house and they come in at night. Good kitties.
Skunk News. Unbelievable, but we just today discovered a mama skunk and six baby skunks emerging from the culvert under the pepper tree very near to the house, and we have noticed an odor these past few days. The baby skunks wrestle and prance around. Don't tell the coyotes about this.

Tree Report. The eucalyptus trees, across the gulley and up the other side, look weather beaten and water-starved with poor leaves. The drought might kill them. The big sycamore, growing right at the bottom of the gulley, has old deep roots and plentiful green foliage. It will survive.  The Valencia orange tree in the back yard died, but it was more than 30 years old, and it may have just been a natural finish. The camelias in the front of the house have not been getting any water and they look to be suffering. The roses get the dish water, carried out in a bucket, but I am diverting some to the camelias out of compassion.

Water Issues. Okay, I made some wisecracks about the organic foo-foos. I hope they don't mind. I care a lot about these things, I just don't care to give evidence of my concern.
I am getting involved in water issues. The Goleta Water District where we live is just outside of Santa Barbara -- 89,000 people on 27,000 acres of foothills and ocean-side flatlands. The water comes from Lake Cachuma, a fast dwindling reservoir, plus the state canal which is getting parsimonious in deliveries, plus ground water.
Goleta has 8 producing wells, which were wisely re-pumped with surplus waters during past rainier winters. Still, the situation is dire with not a gallon to spare, and every gallon to fight over.
Comes now the wealthy enclave of Montecito to the south of Santa Barbara with billionaires and polo fields and wealth beyond your imagination. But no groundwater -- no groundwater but tons of money.
Comes now the Slippery Rock Ranch adjacent to the Goleta Water District. The ranch has 750 acres of avocados and pasture and a recently discovered aquifer of enormous proportions.
"We're sitting on a gold mine of water!" the ranch owners shouted with glee. Indeed they are.
Well, it only took a few morning coffee conversations at Jeanine's Cafe in downtown Montecito  to come up with this idea -- pump the water out of the ranch and sell it to the mansion millionaires.
Comes now the Goleta Water District saying the water on that ranch is from the same pool as the Goleta Water District -- you pump one, you pump all and they sued the ranch.
I studied the law suit, Goleta Water District v. Slipper Rock Ranch, all nine pages, and clearly written. The summons declares that the Goleta Water District is suing the Slippery Rock Ranch for stealing the water that rightfully belongs to the district. The Ranch replies that "water under our ranch is ours and we want to drill it out, truck it down to the rich folks in Montecito, and thereby profit." But the Water District claims, and will prove, that water flows downstream and is thereby influenced by the law of gravity and since the Slippery Rock Ranch aquifer is some what above and adjacent to the Goleta water district, it is substantially in the same pool and YOUS CAN'T HAVE  IT, ipso facto.

I am on the side of the district, but first I will need to be convinced, so I spoke with Brian Trautwein, the resident water expert at the Environmental Defense Center, who rattled off facts and figures that support a writ of condemnation against Slippery Rock, that they are water thieves plain and simple.
But I have decided, being prudent, to also talk with the ranch owners who have enough money to hire their own expert.
I found the name and phone number of their attorney, Steve Amerikaner. I researched his legal career, which is long and distinguished, and I read some of his common pleas and found him to be intelligent and fair-minded. In short, I set out intending to hate him, but I like him instead -- which doesn't make him right.... I will call him this week.
Are you interested in hearing all this? Water rights and water usage are of vital importance. The conflict between Goleta Water and Slippery Rock is just one piece of a larger struggle. My intention is to study this particular issue and so to be of some use to the greater good -- while we wait and pray for rain.

Stay tuned. And be happy. And keep an image of those ukelele players making pretty music by the Santa Barbara Harbor -- that's California.

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Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Thank you very much,

Fred Owens

1 comment:

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