Saturday, February 17, 2024

NIMBY or Not

 For those that don't know, NIMBY stands for Not In My Back Yard, a catch-all term for objection to a public good, but only in that neighborhood. Think about building low-cost housing in a city. Residents of upper-class neighborhoods usually love the idea in the abstract but protest about being near them.

The same thing happens with building infrastructure like roads, government buildings, Mosques, Jewish Temples, prisons, etc. In California, it is NIMBYism that drives housing prices up because most homeowners are in low-density neighborhoods and object to denser buildings like apartments or condos. They don't object to the idea, only that they have to live near it.

Actually, in California, to fight local NIMBY, the state government passed a law that requires municipalities to allow small mother-in-law units on a homeowner's property.

I bring this up because Montana suffers from a massive influx of people. Partially started during Covid, when rich people could afford to scoop up housing driving the cost of homes in Montana to soar. I think the TV show "Yellowstone" is also helping to drive the moves because Montana looks gorgeous in it. To be honest, Montana is gorgeous.

Anyway, a judge just killed a housing project, not from NIMBYism, I think, but due to correct ecological reasons. The judge did not allow the project to go forward as it depends on groundwater pumping for its water supply. Groundwater pumping taps an aquifer already under pressure from urban and farming communities. It was once thought that the Ocawlla Aquifer could last forever. It is a remnant from the last ice age. A titanic aquifer across the great plains. But one that has suffered from over-pumping from Texas to Nebraska to Montana. This water in Montana has been critical as the state has suffered from moderate to severe drought for years. If the aquifer goes dry in Montana, that means the end of farming and livestock.

The judge isn't saying no more growth, just no more growth dependent on groundwater pumping.

I think it makes sense.

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