California's new redistricting commission has been moving the lines of 177 congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts, but who knew it could move a mountain -- and the state's tallest mountain at that?
The online political maps devised by the Citizens Redistricting Commission place Mt. Whitney right in the middle of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, about 125 miles northwest of its true location. The commission relied on a commonly used mapping service provided by Google to supply background information such as roads and cities, and the mistake is in Google's data.
Mount Whitney is not only California's highest peak at about 14,500 feet (its precise elevation is a matter of technical dispute) but the highest in the 48 adjacent states.
The cartographic error was brought to the commission's attention in a letter from Linda Green, executive editor of the Visalia Times-Delta and two other California newspapers. But Green made an error of her own.
"Your maps contain errors," Green wrote the commission after it published its maps, which are to be finalized next Monday. "For example, in Central California, Death Valley is placed east of Visalia. It is south, then east. Mount Whitney is placed directly east of Modesto. It is not -- it is almost directly east of Dinuba. I hope you can fix these errors. They undermine the trust anyone can put in the maps."
Actually, the commission maps accurately fix the location of Death Valley National Park, just 80 miles east of Mount Whitney and 281 feet below sea level, while placing Mount Whitney much too far north -- not that the error affects how districts were drawn since the peak has no human population.
Commissioner Vincent Barabba said Tuesday that the final maps would be corrected to place Mount Whitney in its correct location before publication. The Sacramento Bee's interactive redistricting site also uses Google's maps and therefore misplaces Mount Whitney as well.
The commission's maps can be found here.
PHOTO CREDIT: Climbers position themselves at a campsite below the east face of Mount Whitney near Iceberg Lake. Paul Richins / Sacramento Bee file photo, 2004.