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Let L.A. build Auburn Dam with Uncle Sam bailout money
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Here's an idea.

Now that the State Water Resources Control Board has officially yanked water rights for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to build the Auburn Dam on the American River, perhaps Sacramento should give Los Angeles the same deal that Washington, D.C., gave San Francisco.

That sweetheart deal Congress made in the early part of the 20th century gave San Francisco - the self-proclaimed environmental friendly Mecca - the right to destroy Hetch Hetchy Valley for an annual rental fee of $30,000. That allowed San Francisco full reign to destroy the valley. Of course, San Francisco leaders and boosters greased the proverbial skids.

Since Sacramento is desperate for income these days, maybe they could get the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and the Metropolitan Water District to rent the American River Canyon at Auburn.

Instead of a paltry $30,000, Sacramento could offer the American River Canyon up to Los Angeles for $10 million a year. The state could use the extra money. The economy could use the jobs from the dam construction. The Los Angeles Basin could use the water.

Before environmentalists start having a major coronary - especially the Sierra Club that happens to have Hetch Hetchy water piped into their San Francisco headquarters - there is a caveat. Los Angeles can be given a choice between building the dam on their own and door No. 2 - building massive desalination plants.

Let's face it. Los Angeles has a bigger problem looming than Obama trying to respond to all the extended hands without bankrupting the next 20 generations. Los Angeles has an insatiable thirst. Its water supplies are being cut via the California Aqueduct due to the drought, environmental issues and growing demand for water statewide. It faces a cutback in its Colorado River water eventually due to U.S. Supreme Court rulings giving states on the upper watershed superior water rights.

Sacramento could nail two birds with one stone either which way things work out. If L.A. goes with harnessing the ocean for its drinking water, it takes pressure off north state water sources.

If L.A. goes with the Auburn Dam and its potential to capture 1.1 million acre feet of water, it still takes pressure off existing water sources plus gives the state $10 million a year.

Having L.A. build Auburn Dam would give the state an additional bonus - improved flood protection for both the city of Sacramento and the Delta.

One might ask how L.A. could afford to build a dam in this day and age. The same way San Francisco could afford to build Hetch Hetchy almost a century ago. The initial investment ultimately reduces the costs to pennies on the dollar spent as time rolls on.

How, you might ask, do you get the environmentalists and other urban and farm interests counting on imported water from the north state to buy into L.A. building the Auburn Dam?

Easy. The additional flow of water south will resolve some environmental issues with the Delta. It also would provide some cushion for cutbacks in lean times for farmers and urban users in the East Bay. The more water storage, the less severe the impact when droughts occur.

Since Obama says he wants to take a page out of the Great Depression playbook of FDR, the Central Valley Project along with other great dam projects such as Hoover put a heck of a lot of people to work. The Auburn Dam would be the ultimate public works project. All Congress has to do is cut a check for another $20 billion. You don't expect L.A. to really pay for it when every major corporation from A to Z is lining up for taxpayer handouts?

Judging by how people are talking along the Potomac, $20 billion is chicken feed these days.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail