Thursday, November 11, 1999
In Classical Greece, you could lose much more than your honor by being too ambitious--by exhibiting hybris. You could lose your friends, your citizenship, your freedom, your kingdom, and--by virtue of losing favor with the gods--your life.
If only the ancient Greek tenet of sophrosyne ("nothing in excess") lived on today. Bill Gates wouldn''t be having so much trouble with the government. Dozens of developing nations wouldn''t be in financial ruin. And Cal-Am wouldn''t still be talking about building a new dam on the Carmel River.
You really have to wonder what it would take to get Cal-Am to forget about the dam. In 1995 voters rejected, by a 3-to-2 margin, a financing plan for the thing. That was followed by a stern finger-wagging from federal officials charged with protecting endangered species. But that wasn''t enough. Now it seems the election of three firmly anti-dam candidates to the water board--one of whom unseated a well-known, pro-dam incumbent--wasn''t enough either.
As far as (San Diego-based) Cal-Am and its parent company (New Jersey-based) American Water Works are concerned, it seems as though the views and wishes of the people of the Monterey Peninsula don''t mean squat. Cal-Am and AWW execs still want to build their new dam.
Whose water is it anyway?
"Cal-Am''s purpose, let''s face it, is mercenary." That was no hygienically challenged eco-freak lambasting a money-hungry corporation. That was water board candidate Marc Beique--who strongly supported the dam in his unsuccessful race against Molly Erickson.
We at the Weekly have observed a lot of hybris over the past decade. Few things, though, have offended this community more than the relentless efforts by Cal-Am--backed by the water board--to build a new dam in the face of increasingly exasperated opposition from the voters. And, if their shrinking numbers say anything, the steelhead trout and red-legged frog are fed up, too.
It''s time for Cal-Am and the water board to focus their energies on more economically, environmentally, and socially desirable water solutions. It''s time for sophrosyne. The oft-repeated assertion by the water board and Cal-Am that they''ve "studied" 73 alternatives to the dam is a myth, evidenced by their failure to share such studies with the public.
So we''ll say it again, in the hopes that Cal-Am will get it: The majority of voters have said repeatedly they don''t want a new dam. They want something else, something better, something smarter.
We''ve heard the arguments so often they''ve almost lost their meaning. "The Peninsula can''t absorb any more growth...We have to stop urban sprawl...We don''t want to become another Silicon Valley..." Sure, everyone''s worried that a new dam--even a "no-growth" one--would further turn up the development spigot.
However convincing and sound they may be, such arguments tire under the weight of provincialism. So here''s a new happy-hour talking point: "Since when did we elect Cal-Am executives to public office?"
We challenge Cal-Am to withdraw its dam application before the water board. If the company refuses to do so, the water board itself should reject Cal-Am''s application. And the state--in particular, the Public Utilities Commission--should set Cal-Am straight. Meanwhile, the new board, by next spring, should present a plan to its constituents setting out workable alternatives to reduce the amount of water taken from the Carmel River Basin.
You almost wish an oracle positioned above Lovers Point would put an end to all of this. With divine direction likely not in the offing, the burden falls on us to make sure we get what we want. Peninsula residents deserve a more creative water solution than a $127-million-plus hunk of concrete.