Squid Speaks

Wading In…In between naps, Squid spent too much time over the weekend eating shrimp-flavored popcorn and tracking the social media firestorm created by comedian Michelle Wolf, who on Saturday night delivered a searing 20-minute set at the White House correspondents’ dinner, during which she called White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a liar, to her face.

Wolf’s statement, though true, inspired attacks on social media by some members of the media, who accused her of not playing nice (also true).

(Wolf, at the start of her speech, said the press “should have done more research before you got me to do this.”)

Truth has been on Squid’s mind of late, especially as it relates to the Salinas Valley’s groundwater.

On April 24, officials from the Monterey County Water Resources Agency presented the 2017 seawater intrusion maps to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. Those maps, which resemble a tie-dye version of North Monterey County, show where seawater has invaded the valleys aquifers underground—basically filling the space where overpumping has occurred—and made them unusable for irrigation or drinking.

The advancement of the intrusion wasn’t nearly as bad as Squid thought it might be, but it was still evidence of a dire, existential problem that’s getting worse every year. (If county water officials did just make a tie-dye map and sing kumbaya, the presentation would surely be less contentious, but instead the supes were tasked with trying to find real solutions.)

Most troubling was the expansion of the so-called “islands” of intrusion in the 400-foot aquifer, which are created by vertical migration from seawater in the 180-foot aquifer above.

The board voted 3-2 to enact an emergency moratorium on new wells in the “impact area”—which refers to, roughly, the area already impacted or immediately threatened with seawater intrusion—and a limited moratorium on news wells the deep aquifer, which is an ancient, finite water source about 900 feet below ground.

Which is really like taking no action at all: The policy will allow for “replacement wells,” meaning where a well has already gone bad, you can drill a new one.

It’s the same old kicking the can down the road Squid’s seen for years, and ignores the basic fact that growers continue to pump groundwater in unsustainable amounts, which is what led to the seawater intrusion in the first place.

County Supervisor Mary Adams (who along with Supervisor Jane Parker dissented) uses a metaphor to talk about the otherwise complex hydrology: It’s like a milkshake.

If two people put their straws in—even at opposite sides of the glass—the milkshake is going to get lower. "If you ask the northern part of the valley not to drill new wells, but you allow the southern part to continue—well, it's one river. You can’t chunk up the river,” Adams says.

That’s the reason Squid does not share milkshakes. And also the reason that Squid is suspicious of people who blow hot air: The only reason the milkshake wouldn’t get lower is if someone uses their straw to blow bubbles instead. And Squid has seen the consequences of that alternative: It makes a mess.

To make matters worse, the board also voted to allocate $1.5 million for a study of the deep aquifer at a time when the county is facing a budget deficit of $36 million

That could pay for a lot of services that county residents, including thousands of agricultural workers, rely on. It could also pay for a lot of milkshakes.  

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