Week 29

I’ve been chronicling my project with my wife on this blog. I’m going to write a sonnet series about the creation of California. I’m trying to tell the story of water in California, what really made it what it is. Ann’s a visual artist, so she’s going to do the graphic art work for it.

I have been getting reports and hearing references to something happening in Northern California on the Eel River. The Eel is the river that flows through the Avenue of the Giants, which is a drive full of coastal redwood trees. The Return of the Jedi was filmed in part in that area. If you’ve seen that movie, you know how lush that forest is.

What I’ve been hearing has been so dramatic, it’s been hard for me to believe, but apparently, the Eel River has stopped flowing. In parts, it has completely dried up.

I haven’t viewed this project with my wife as a political action in any way so far, but this news makes me want to do so. The problem has to do with our dry winter in part, and the strangeness of our laws to a large extent.

I live outside of Los Angeles, which is far to the south of the state. In Los Angeles there is little flowing water and a lot of what we use is imported from the south and the north. Each city and town around Los Angeles to some extent makes its own laws about water use, and as arid as it is, some promote using water wise alternatives.

However, some cities want to maintain a particular look, and require lawns. Some cities will fine their home owners if their lawns are not green enough. When we think of water battles and destruction we think of the Owens Valley which dried up nearly 100 years ago because William Mulholland diverted all of its water to Los Angeles. We think of Mono Lake and the battles fought over it 40 years ago.

But the story of water in Los Angeles isn’t just history. It’s going on now, but it’s happening silently.

There is a natural component to what is happening, but there is a political one as well. I’m not really a political writer, but this makes me want to be. Los Angeles is farming hundreds of miles of lawns while small farmers do without, and our rivers are drying.

Follow the link if you like to Tom Sebourn’s video of the Eel River. It’s horrifying.