Viewpoint

Viewpoint: Over-reach in ag water regulation indicative of broader issue

September 20, 2012 

My longtime friend and neighbor, Mike Broadhurst, wrote Viewpoint in the Aug. 16 Cambrian entitled, “Right to clean water.” Many other folks in our town have come to know Mike over the years he has lived here. He is recognized as a thoughtful, caring person who believes in giving of himself in the community, as he (and his wife, Carol) have done since moving here.

Mike is able to speak knowledgeably about water and related issues with more than a passing grade as to how the State Water Board is treating our area farmers. That’s because he holds a doctorate degree in chemistry and spent a successful career working in agricultural chemistry, so he knows his subject when it comes to our water, growing crops and using chemicals.”

You’ll notice that I used the term, “our water.” From the time we moved here and began farming, I recognized that water is a PUBLIC resource, because it is not a luxury, but a need to all living things — therefore it belongs to us all. I have water rights recognized in law, but I have no right to destroy the water needed by others after it moves from my property to Mike and Carol Broadhurst’s and beyond.

The farmers in our area know this well and show care in their farming and chemical use, so that our creek, along with San Simeon, is recognized as a “pristine” waterway. This is why those of us farming in this area have and are resisting the edicts handed down by the Water Resources Control Board. Their concerns don’t involve us, because we have not and are not spoiling our water. In a word (or three) we don’t need their oversight or their orders. The requirements they have demanded of us are costly in time and money but aren’t accomplishing the desired end, if the desired end is cleaner water.

The way I explained it to someone recently was that their directives to us are a punishment which is like this: A bank is robbed while you’re at the bank. The robbers are caught and you are tried and punished for robbery because you were in the bank, too.

There may be various solutions to the problems in other areas of nitrates in drinking water. Mike discussed one in his piece-using reverse osmosis systems in homes to remove nitrates from drinking water. However, the point still remains that in our area there is no problem and therefore no action is required.

The Water Resources Control Board is only one of many agencies whose policies need reassessment. Government regulation has finally dug deeply enough into the lives of enough people that it has become an issue for many. Most people are able and willing to act responsibly so that much of the regulation we encounter is unneeded. Over-regulation is one reason why California’s formerly stellar economy has effectively been destroyed, and it’s my opinion that the size and overreach and excessive power of local, state and federal government has been a primary factor in California’s sorry demise. Without downsizing the power and size and attendant expense of government our economy will remain an embarrassment.

You who grew up in California as I did surely remember an exciting, vibrant economy. We had shiny new publically owned infrastructure. Schools were practically given a blank check with which to educate. Parks could be purchased, improved and all was maintained. They referred to our water canal system as one of the world’s wonders. The same descriptions were used on our community colleges, state colleges and state universities — and attendance was all but free!

Today, these things are practically treated as public liabilities. Cities all over California are threatened with bankruptcy. We can no longer take care of the mentally ill and health care costs are out of control. Our state’s credit rating is another embarrassment. Yet government costs more each year.

Can’t we get a handle on this situation? Why are we in this predicament? Is there no way out of this? Neither major party will vote for the obvious solutions to our problems.

We’ve got to ask less of government — all of us. We need greater self-reliance, a renewed and massive sense of personal

responsibility in our daily lives, without looking to our Big Brother to control and guarantee our every wish.

Back in the 1970s there was a presidential economic advisor who stated that, “something that can’t work will eventually fail.” That's where we are right now and we CAN fix it. However, if we continue to choose not to fix it, it will fix itself by completely disintegrating. We have a choice. It’s happening all around us, as with the Water Board’s minions and other agencies. If we don’t fix it a lot of people will go on paying an unfair price and lose faith in our system. We must demand it or it won’t happen. We need clean water, but we don’t need the current diet of wasteful and thoughtless approaches. Voting can lead to cleaner water and to other things we need, if we insist and communicate and take part. November’s acomin’!

John Linn is a longtime Cambria resident, farm owner and businessman.

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