Hanford is a true San Joaquin Valley city.
It is in northeast Kings County east of the well-beaten path of Highway 99.
The livelihood of its 55,000 residents are connected in some fashion to California’s No. 1 industry — agriculture.
Despite the expectations of Coastal Californians or those who lump it with “Fly over America” Hanford is teeming with a decent amount of cultural activities — ranging from a visual arts center to the Kings Symphony Orchestra now in its 53rd season.
You are likely not to find a lot of people there who were dreading the approach of high noon on Friday. Some 54 percent of the voters went for Donald Trump compared to 40 percent for Hillary Clinton.
That’s not to say there aren’t concerns about a Trump presidency. Immigrant farm labor is vital if California is to continue to produce more than half of this nation’s fruits and vegetables and an even larger share of its nut crops.
But now that Trump is president, all indications point that someone in a position of authority will finally hear their voices on two critical issues — high speed rail and water.
Kings County has been at the forefront of fruitless efforts to essentially expose the California High Speed Rail project for the fraud it has become.
This isn’t about Gov. Jerry Brown’s vision as much as it is about shoving something down your throat that brings more minuses to the table than the so-called pluses for those out in the provinces between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The most laughable part of the high speed argument that voters bought hook, line, and sinker back in 2008 is the fact it will be a great economic stimulus for a region the Congressional Research Office has dubbed the New Appalachia. The jobs are fleeting at best and are tied to servicing the workers that would be needed to build what some perceive as the Brown Boondoggle.
Yes, a high speed station was dangled in front of Hanford as an option. But is so far down the list that that a California Grizzly Bear has a better chance of being found alive than a Hanford stop happening.
High speed rail is not a great public works project with economic impacts on the San Joaquin Valley the way Highway 99 and Interstate 5 have been. Its business model is based on moving people as quickly as possible from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It is not going to be a milk run like Amtrak’s San Joaquin that you can catch in Hanford.
Rest assured that congressmen from the valley will be pointing out to the Trump Administration and incoming Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao the latest round of good news about high speed rail, California-style.
An internal risk analysis by the Federal Railroad Administration shows the first 118-mile segment is on track to run 50 percent over budget and miss more deadlines. Uncle Sam has promised $3.2 billion to jumpstart the high speed service that appropriately will run from the land of Mickey Mouse in Anaheim to San Francisco’s Monument to Cost Overruns also known as the Transbay Transit Project.
According to the FRA the first segment won’t be done until 2024 and it will cost $6.4 billion — $3 billion more than promised.
This is earth shattering news because government agencies have a nasty tendency to low ball costs. And the FRA is friendly toward the project as directed by the Obama Administration that kept extending the deadline for the federal dollars to be spent. They also advanced them money — instead of requiring matching dollars as was originally mandated when the $10 billion in voter approved bonds from 2008 became mired in litigation.
Keep in mind the San Joaquin Valley was targeted first because the boosters of high speed rail both in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. thought it would be the easiest and least expensive section.
That in itself should tell you the $64 billion price tag is a fantasy and that $128 billion might be more in reasonable.
As far as water goes, Trump nailed it in his typical fashion saying the drought was manmade.
Nailed may be a bit generous. It was more like he pounded it on the head and then bent the nail as it was going into the point he was making.
California doesn’t have infinite water supplies and research based on tree rings points to mega droughts as the norm and not the exception.
But Trump is right as much of the pain has been inflicted on how water is managed to the benefit of fish, cities, farms and the environment.
Water policy from the highest levels of government when it comes to the San Joaquin Valley has been driven the same way high speed rail has — down the throats of the people of New Appalachia without any consideration given to their needs or the impacts on their lives.
While some may be looking for Trump to disrupt things in Washington, many people in Hanford are just hoping he’ll help derail an out-of-control train speeding to No Where.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.