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Could a Water Pipeline from Alaska Save California from Drought?

Walter Hickel, Wally Hickel, Alaska, water, pipeline, Los Angeles, Southern California, drought

Walter Hickel was Alaska’s governor twice. He died in 2010 at age 90.

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.)

Alaska, map, Wasilla, Denali, McKinley, wildlife, beautiful scenery, hunting, fishing, salmon, bear, moose, cabin, camera, Facebook, video, family, wolf

My brother-in-law Vince casts his line in one of Alaska’s countless rivers.

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

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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Requiem for a Teacher

I learned Thursday that my favorite teacher from high school died recently. A friend from back then messaged me on Facebook, but he didn’t share any details about what happened or what our former teacher’s life had been like since we last saw him in 1980.

Pete Mindock, Gateway High School, obituary, Jay Croft, storycroft, Atlanta

Mr. Mindock behind a typewriter, feet up

I found an online obituary in The Denver Post. Esophageal cancer, diagnosed a year ago, killed Pete Mindock on Oct. 14. He was 64 and left a wife and two adult children. His memorial service will be Friday in Denver.

Pete Mindock changed my life. He was the journalism instructor at Gateway High School in Aurora, Colo., a suburb of Denver, in the late ‘70s when I was a teen-ager. He was also a real-live sportswriter at The Denver Post. And he might’ve been the first adult who ever told me, and showed me, that I was good at something.

He led the kids in producing an award-winning school newspaper. When I joined the staff as a sophomore, the editor was a senior who grew up to become a Washington Post and Time magazine reporter. I met my best friend there, and he went on to lead digital communications at PBS. It was with them all that I started to form my identity as a reporter and writer.

I remember Mindock as what they used to call a “man’s man,” naturally masculine and not sentimental, but playful and a tad vain. When you earned a compliment, it meant something. When you let him down, that did, too. He called me “Jaybird” sometimes. We called him “Smindo,” his log-on at The Post, until he made us cut it out.

Mindock taught me to value the precision of language, the responsibility of the media and what my role in the world could be as a storyteller.

He hated clichés. So I shouldn’t say that he and the Medallion gang opened a whole world to me. But they did.

They gave me an idea of what I wanted to be and how to become it.

Mindock left the school the summer before my senior year. I don’t think I ever saw him again. His obit informed me he had become a successful financial adviser for more than three decades, a lifetime beyond teaching and reporting.

I hope this is not a sentimental piece. But I sobbed in my office when I heard Pete Mindock had died.

I pulled out the yearbooks Thursday night and found what he’d scribbled to me, 35 years ago at the end of my 10th grade year. He ended it with this:

“Seriously, Jay, good luck and remember. Short sentences, short paragraphs and be honest. – Pete Mindock, ‘79”

It’s still good advice.


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What Does ‘F.E.A.R.’ Mean to You? 3 Little Tricks to Keep It in Perspective

images-8I heard a young woman the other day say, “The word ‘fear’ just stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.'”

And this was someone who should know, having overcome cancer and a stroke to now be starting her promising career as a motivational speaker.

Then this morning, I heard someone unknowingly pick up on the idea by saying, “When I encounter fear, I can F— Everything and Run or I can Face Everything and Recover.'”

Conflict. Decision. Action. The essence of little dramas we all live every day, and big ones that shape history. Some people make the same choices over and over, while hoping somehow for a different result. Sometimes we let fear stop us, sometimes we fight it — and sometimes we persist in doing what we must, even while we’re scared. That’s what adventures are made of — myths, archetypes, even. It drives us as storytellers or grips us as an audience.

I like how these two people came up with a way to diminish fear with simple word games. Try one of these little tricks the next time you find yourself afraid and see if it works for you.

You probably have nothing to fear but, well… you know.

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