Dan Walters

Dan Walters: Hopes rise as winter rain brings green spring

Heavy snow falls as a Caltrans snowblower clears the Donner Pass Road onramp near I-80 on March 7. Heavy winter rain and snowstorms have provided California with much-needed relief from years of drought.
Heavy snow falls as a Caltrans snowblower clears the Donner Pass Road onramp near I-80 on March 7. Heavy winter rain and snowstorms have provided California with much-needed relief from years of drought. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

The National Weather Service distributed a remarkable photo the other day – a satellite view of California showing just how green it has become after heavy winter rains.

The occasion was St. Patrick’s Day, but the photo’s true meaning was the vernal equinox’s age-old promise of renewal.

California is green again, except for its deserts and its snow-covered mountains, and its reservoirs are, for the first time in years, holding healthy amounts of water – so much, in fact, that releases are being increased to make room for melting snow.

Farmers can look forward to water for their crops – not as much as they’d like, perhaps, but much more than they have been receiving. They can cut back on pumping from the state’s rapidly declining underground aquifers.

Urban dwellers, meanwhile, will again be allowed to water their lawns without guilt.

Spring’s promise, however, is not confined to water.

Down in Arizona, where it’s not so green, the state’s baseball teams are preparing for the season to begin in a few weeks. The San Francisco Giants, the state’s most successful team of late with World Series wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014, are looking forward to another even-numbered year and the possibility of continuing their string.

An even-numbered year also means it’s an election year – a presidential election year, in fact. There are hundreds of politicians hoping to hold their spots on the political ladder, or even move up. And most remarkably, California could play a meaningful role in the presidential nominations of both parties for the first time in decades.

The state’s political junkies – and its political media – are abuzz with the possibility that neither party’s nominee will be decided by June and the outcomes could hinge on how well the candidates fare in this most populous and politically unique state’s primary.

Bombastic billionaire Donald Trump could nail down the Republican nomination in California or could be denied enough delegates to win, thereby making the GOP convention in Cleveland something more meaningful than the four-day-long infomercial it usually is.

The Legislature is taking its annual spring break to mark the equinox, which means, for many, junkets to exotic locales sponsored by special interests.

But when politicians return to the Capitol, they’ll begin making their annual decisions on the state budget. And those who want to spend more money are hoping that they’ll have more to spend once the all-important income taxes are counted after the April filing deadline and the misnamed “May revise” of the budget is released.

Even if there is more to spend, however, Gov. Jerry Brown may be disinclined to spend it.

The budget is a reminder that the buoyant hopes of the equinox can fade when the mercury rises and summer beckons.

The June primary may not turn out to be as meaningful as the political junkies hope, the state’s revenues may stagnate as the economy slows, and a June swoon can dash any baseball team’s pennant hopes.

The only summer certainty this year is that we will have water – and that, by golly, will make it a better year.

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