Monday, April 18, 2011

Lightfoot Makes Them Pay For What They’ve Done

Old Photo of Jones Pumping Plant, circa 1958


Tonight, before they drove their bomb to the Jones Pumping Plant, Lightfoot felt the need to tell them why the pumps had to go. Again.

He stood next to the river, his back to the water, in his Indian getup, lecturing: “The salmon fed the Miwuk for centuries. They caught enough to dry…”
The rest of the gang sat on the ground and swatted at mosquitoes, which were plentiful and so aggressive they pushed through the thick layer of repellant the gang had slathered on. The pests seemed to ignore Lightfoot, much to the other’s disappointment; they were sure he wouldn’t be so long-winded if he was being eaten alive like they were.
“Then the white man came. He dammed the Tuolumne in 1923 and 1926, and once more with the New Don Pedro Dam in 1971. And he thought, in his arrogance, he could ‘manage’ the Tuolumne, improve on Nature’s perfect wisdom.”
Donaldson tuned Lightfoot out and mentally reviewed his part in tonight’s mission: he was to drive the truck bomb. Driving the bomb wasn’t dangerous, it wouldn’t explode unless it was detonated, but if the cops pulled him over he’d go to prison for a long time while the others went free.
“The mighty and noble salmon might have survived the white man’s dams, but when the white man decided to send water from the Tuolumne to southern California, they sealed the salmon’s fate.” Lightfoot’s face filled with grief that quickly morphed to rage.
“In 1951, the white man installed six 25,000-horsepower pumps near Tracy. These killer pumps siphon the Tuolumne out of the Delta and push the water through 15-foot-diameter pipes at a rate of 768 cubic feet per second.” He spat the numbers out.
The numbers meant nothing to Roberts, who was also trying to ignore Lightfoot’s ranting. How much water was in a cubic foot? He didn’t know and didn’t care. Lightfoot had him riding in the truck with Donaldson, to keep an eye on him. “If he suddenly grows a conscience, shoot him and drive the truck yourself. If he gets sick or has a heart attack, push him out and take over.” Lame.
“The pumps draw water from the Delta and lift it 197 feet into the Delta-Mendota Canal. There’s no salmon in the Delta-Mendota Canal. Do you know why? Because the pumps cut the salmon to pieces!!!
The group had heard the speech so many times they were ready for Lightfoot’s outbursts; no one flinched. The first time Lightfoot delivered the Pump Talk, Griffith did some fact-finding research—for all the shack didn’t have, it did have a broadband Internet connection.

He learned the California Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that operated the Jones Pumping Plant, which they would hopefully blow up tonight, went to great lengths to stop fish from getting sucked into the intake canal that took water to the gigantic pumps. Various types of fish-screening devices were used and were, for the most part, fairly effective. A fish had to be less than one and a half inches long to make it through the screens.

So Lightfoot’s speech about the salmon getting cut up in the pumps was bullshit. When he told this to the others, everyone except Danny, they had all had a good laugh.

What Griffith didn’t tell the others was that while the small immature fish—the babies—couldn’t get through the screens, they often couldn’t get away from them either: the screens cut the fish up, not the pumps. Lightfoot was right, his timing was just off.

* * * * *  

Thankfully for the gang, the end of Indian Class is seconds away. Do you think Lightfoot’s “sermon” sounds rehearsed? It does, for a good reason: He’d typed and memorized it before giving it the first time. And he’s no Winston Churchill.

Lightfoot blames the decline in Tuolumne River Chinook salmon on the two dams controlling the river and the massive siphon pumps in the San Joaquin Delta. But the dams didn’t build themselves, and the pumps didn’t drop out of space and land in the Delta like some piece of space junk: humans were responsible, so humans had to pay for what they’d done.

The O’Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy was constructed and is operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The Don Pedro Dam belongs to the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts. Lightfoot targets the three utilities for revenge, specifically, their general managers.

THE MIGHTY T begins when Danny, a member of Lightfoot’s gang who’s crazy-good with a sniper rifle, and just plain crazy, targets one GM from the top of the twelve-story DoubleTree Inn in Modesto. He hits his target and empties the rest of the clip into the plaza below. (Read Chapter 1 to see what happens to Danny when he’s no longer useful to Lightfoot.)

The pumps in Tracy are run by the State of California; far too big a target for Lightfoot. Who would he send his gang to kill, the governor? Turning the 150-foot-long pump building into rubble will have to suffice. Those pumps won’t be killing salmon for years after he’s done with them.