California Proposition 1 Water Bond is Bait & Switch

California Proposition 1 Water Bond is Bait & Switch

The $7.5 billion California Proposition 1 Water Bond (Assembly Bill 1471, “Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014”) on the November ballot promises to provide more above ground water storage for the first time in 40 years in order to gain a broad support from Democrats and Republicans.  But a close look at the language in the proposition reveals that the initiative is another legislative “bait and switch” that will not complete a single major water storage or delivery system.

According to Bruce Colbert, Executive Director of the Property Owners Association of Riverside County, Proposition 1 limits to $2.7 billion the portion of the bond that is supposedly earmarked for “public benefit” from water storage projects, including dams, reservoirs, and groundwater storage.  The “public benefit” is then defined as ecosystem improvements, water quality, flood control, or recreation. 

The language of the proposition then limits “public benefit” cost share of a water storage project to “not exceed 50 percent of the total costs” of the project. And the language further states that ecosystem improvements must comprise at least 50 percent of the total public benefits of a project,

In other words, the Water Bond only funds a quarter of the cost to construct any above or below ground water storage. To finish any project will require higher taxes or user fees to pay for the other 75% of any water storage project’s costs.

State and federal water officials are studying five major reservoir projects in California:

• Sites Reservoir in Colusa County, which would be filled by water pumped from the Sacramento River at a cost of $3.8 billion;

•   Temperance Flat Reservoir on the San Joaquin River at a cost of $2.5 billion;

•   Raising Shasta Dam to increase capacity at a cost of $1.2 billion;

•   Raising the dam at Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa at a cost of $1 billion; and

•   Raising the dam at San Luis Reservoir in Merced County at a cost of $360 million.

But the text of the Water Bond also states, “A project shall not be funded…unless it provides measurable improvements to the Delta ecosystem or to the tributaries to the Delta.”  Therefore, key decisions on funding would be made by Governor Jerry Brown’s politically appointed California Water Commission (AB 1471). 

Consequently, the Water Bond provides no immediate relief for the state’s water woes. 

Most people thought that in the third year of a California drought the state’s politicians would come together to sponsor a real improvement in water storage.  

Unfortunately, Proposition 1 is just another bait-and-switch folly.

Chriss Street suggests that if you are interested in the folly of California public policy


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