News about a California drought always reminds me of a man I used to know, long ago and far away.
Walter Hickel was governor of Alaska in the early 1990s, when California was going through a water shortage, as it is now. Hickel, who already had been a wealthy developer in Alaska for decades, proposed back then building a pipeline to move fresh water from his state down south.
As a newspaper reporter there, I covered Hickel and the state Legislature. To most people, his idea sounded crazy – improbably expensive and probably impossible. Hickel always liked to say he was a big thinker; others said he was a reckless dreamer; plenty called him crazy. On many issues before and after this one, he was a lightning rod of WTF controversy long before Alaska ever heaped Sarah Palin on the country. (And, despite his eccentricities and polarizing views, he seemed like Churchill in comparison.)
The “giant garden hose to California” — thousands of miles of giant pipe on the ocean floor — made an easy punchline. A preliminary study suggested it could cost $150 billion or more. (If you want to know more about it, visit the governorwallyhickel.org.)
Today I saw a headline from California about maybe building a desalination plant to make Pacific Ocean saltwater drinkable. One article from CNBC is headlined Drought of ’15: Desalination won’t save California.
Another headline, from The Alaska Dispatch News in February, asked: With California enduring record-setting drought, is it time to revive Hickel’s water pipeline dream?
From the article:
But it’s not even on an option on the table for the California Department of Resources according to a recent interview between the department and Wired.
Wired calls the idea “still crazy” and said the cost would be too high, as much of the water would go towards agriculture. But it also mentions the possible affect a pipeline could have on Alaska fisheries, and even raises the question of what could happen if our unofficial state bird — the mosquito — makes it into the pipeline.
“What kind of health risks would we face if the larvae from Alaska’s Jurassic-sized mosquito snuck into the pipe?” Wired asked.
Good point. Sorry, California.
RELATED: An op-ed piece on Hickel I wrote in The Seattle Times back when
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