Governor of Two Minds

California finds itself in simultaneous — conflicting and confusing — statewide emergencies. Depending on Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s whim, we are either enduring a drought emergency or a flood emergency.

On the one hand, there is the State of Emergency Declaration of a Statewide Drought, issued January 17, 2014 by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. and never rescinded. 

On the other hand, California is also subject to the State of Emergency issued January 23, 2017 for flooding with impacts to 50 of the state’s 56 counties, from San Diego in the south to Siskiyou and Del Norte in the north. 

These mutually exclusive mandates make nonsense of public policy and meaningful disaster response.

For instance, even as Brown issued his declaration for flood relief, his appointees at the State Water Resources Control Board signaled the board’s intention to keep their drought water conservation restrictions in place through October.

Yet now, as state agencies tell us our rainfall has exceeded the state’s total annual average and our statewide snowpack exceeds 104% of full-year average — as levees fail, reservoirs spew millions of acre-feet of precious water, and the cleanup begins for homeowners flooded from their residences — Governor Brown’s drought emergency continues unabated.

Which is it, Governor Brown? Is California still in a drought or flood emergency?