Our View: A reason to celebrate
You’d think the downpour we got this past weekend would be cause to celebrate.
It is, just not as much as we would have in years past.
Last weekend’s rain set records throughout the state, including in Grass Valley. We had over 9 inches fall in a 24-hour period that started at 8 a.m. Sunday. That beat our old record of 7.02 inches in December 2005.
So, yes, this is a reason to celebrate, but also to deliberate on where we are, and determine where we’re going.
This is true not only for fire season, but our ability to collect, and retain, water.
In the short term, what this rain did was put many fears to rest for another fire season.
Firefighters continue finishing firelines in the North State. However, the factors firefighters must deal with have changed dramatically from two months ago. Cooler temperatures, shorter days and, of course, the deluge that just fell have changed the game. We always should be wary of fire, but no one would blame you for breathing a sigh of relief.
The recent rain also helped our reservoirs and wells, but again, this is a short-term gain. One big downpour, even one like this, doesn’t erase the long months without any precipitation, following winters that didn’t deliver their seasonal bounty.
That’s why we need to change how we think about both fire and water.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has touted a supposed budget surplus our state has. If it’s there, let’s use it to invest in our future.
We could argue over climate change and its causes, though it would make little difference. What shouldn’t be argued about is that California must take action if it’s to have the water it needs, and the ability to fight fires, decades from now.
Forests must be thinned, and prescribed fire is a good way to do it. This requires commitment, and money, from the Legislature, and a strength of will to stop future lawmakers from dipping their hand in the cookie jar.
The voters of this state chose to dedicate billions of dollars to high speed rail. Why not ask them to put money aside to protect our forests and fund firefighters?
Biomass plants are one way of putting thinned forests to use. Last year biomass plants produced almost 3% of the state’s energy. We can increase this percentage, if we, as voters, demand it. But we can’t sit around and expect it to happen. We have to act.
Additionally, people who live here would be wise to form a Firewise community, or remain involved if already a part of one.
There are also several paths we can take to fix our water issues. We can replace our lawns with xeriscape gardens and irrigation systems with drip systems that use less water.
Our communities can use new technology to capture rainfall that we’d otherwise lose. We can install solar panels over canals, which would significantly reduce evaporation and produce clean energy. People on their own can use cisterns to collect water.
We can do all these things and continue to work on additional water storage facilities, whether they’re dams, aquifers, rain catchment and filter systems, and conservation.
There’s no reason why we must choose one type of technology over another. Let’s use every tool we have available to us, fitting the ones that work to the communities that need them.
Steps like these, taken over years, are necessary to fix both the state’s fire and water problems.
People need to acknowledge they have personal responsibility, whether it’s staying active in a Firewise community or replacing a grass lawn. We need to regularly speak to our elected representatives at the local, state and federal levels on these issues, and ensure the people we put into these offices reflect the goals we have.
If we can start taking these small steps now, we should see bigger steps over the next several years.
And that will be something to celebrate.
The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com
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