Remarks of Dan Beard
Friends of the River
California Water Awards
San Francisco, California
October 23, 2015
Thank you for this very special award. Mark DuBois is one of my heroes and I’m honored to receive an award named for him. I’ve been a huge fan of throughout my professional life. Since your founding in 1973, you have stayed true to your mission to fight for water policy and hydro reform, river restoration, and advocating for wild and scenic rivers. Thank you for your dedication, perseverance and advocacy. California and the nation have benefited from all your efforts.
With such an illustrious crowd gathered here tonight, I can’t pass up a chance to offer some thoughts about changes I think we should make in our nation’s water policies:
We should stop lavishing billions of tax dollars on the small number of special interests – who I refer to as the Water Nobility. We’ve allowed them to hijack water policy decision making. It is our water and our tax dollars and everyone should be included in finding solutions, not just a few, wealthy agricultural interests.
Dams look and feel permanent because they’re so large. Once constructed and operating, they cross an imaginary threshold in our minds and become a permanent part of our vocabulary and geography.
What most people don’t realize is dams are not permanent fixtures on the landscape. They are there because we made a political decision to build them.
But what if our political institutions made a mistake in building a dam, or a dam isn’t needed any longer? Why should we have to live with someone else’s mistake, or continue to endure a White Elephant?
We shouldn’t. If a dam was a mistake or is no longer needed, we should remove it. Dam removal is a viable policy option and we need to accelerate the national movement to remove “deadbeat dams,” including Hetch Hetchy, Searsville Dam and my personal favorite, Glen Canyon Dam.
In my view, dams, and surface storage projects, are the dinosaurs of the water world. They are relics of antiquated thinking. They are the least effective way to address water problems. We are not going to build our way out of our current challenges with more dams. Or “fix” our problems by constructing idiotic twin pipelines under the Delta.
No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it’s still a pig.
There is no viable justification for Temperance Flat Dam no matter how much money some people want the taxpayers to spend. Auburn Dam is still a stupid idea. Raising Shasta Dam makes no sense. Sites Reservoir is a multi-billion mistake and shouldn’t be built.
For some reason, the dam building zealots and their political supplicants think building something – anything – even if it doesn’t solve a problem is better than solving our water problems thru non-structural means. Concrete over common sense.
We need to resist the Siren Song of those who want to build more dams. The solution to our future water problems lies under our feet, in our neighborhoods, and in our communities. We need to make every drop of water count. We need to stop wasting water in every sector of our economy and promote water conservation, reuse and efficiency improvements. They are the greatest untapped sources of water in this nation.
Twenty years ago, I gave a number of speeches where I predicted that the dam building era in the United States was over. A clear, forceful, and bold prediction. And I was wrong.
The pendulum has swung in the other direction. Big dam and pipeline projects seem to be gaining traction and getting approved or are being seriously considered with increasing frequency.
Who would have thought that in 2015 we would be waging a fierce battle to oppose spending a minimum of $25 billion in California for just three projects, none of which can pass a straight-face test.
The clamor to construct more deadbeat dams is never-ending and there has to be someone who is willing to lead the fight against stupid ideas. That is why we are lucky to have to have Friends of the River. They are there to lead the fight. We won’t win every battle, but we’ll fight at every turn. There is too much at stake to abandon river advocacy. I’m willing to do my part, and I urge you to join me.
Again, thank you for this award; I deeply appreciate it.
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