California Republicans Demand the State Start Building Promised Reservoirs

San Luis Reservoir (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)
Joel Pollak / Breitbart News

California Republican state legislators showed up to the California Water Commission (CWC) this week to demand that $2.7 billion of Proposition 1 Water Bonds be spent to build new reservoirs.

California Assembly Republican Minority Leader Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) presented the CWC with a children’s red wagon stacked high with petitions signed by 4,000 registered voters demanding that the Democrat-controlled CWC accelerate building new above-ground water storage, which had been agreed to in exchange for for Republican bipartisan support for the $7.5 billion Proposition 1 water bond. in 2014 Under the arrangement, Republicans were promised that $2.7 billion of the $7.5 billion bond issue would be available to fund the state’s first new reservoirs to be built in 40 years.

But as Breitbart News noted on Feb. 13, the CWC denied all 12 of the proposed new reservoirs, because each projects’ cost/benefit scores were under 1, meaning that the construction costs would supposedly exceed each reservoir’s benefit value.

Examples included the Sites Dam and Reservoir, off the Sacramento River. It was projected by Central Valley water districts and agricultural proponents as scoring a cost/benefit ratio of 2.11, since it was projected to create $3.5 billion in benefits for 3.6 million people at a cost of $1.66 billion. But CWC scored the reservoir a failing “0.4” ratio, claiming benefit values of just $662 million.

The blanket CWC rejection of above ground storage came as a shock to Republicans, because the California Bond Accountability website reported that the CWC had already approved about $3.97 billion of Prop 1 spending on an array of Democrat-proposed ecosystem enhancements, watershed restorations, and new groundwater storage projects.

Republicans have been emphasizing that new reservoirs are crucial, because California may already be in a new drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s report as of Feb. 20, about 92 percent of the state is abnormally dry, and 20 percent is in severe drought.

But the lack of water could create an immediate crisis, due to the combination of warm January weather, followed by rain and freezing temperatures this week that threaten to destroy a major portion of California’s $6 billion almond crop and kill up to 130 million trees.

The unusually warm mid-winter Central Valley temperatures — in the 80-degree range — caused almond trees to begin flowering three months early this year. That was followed by extreme cold: for instance, AccuWeather predicted that Central Valley temperatures would plunge to a far below freezing 27-degrees by early Friday morning. There is a substantial risk that the deep frost could destroy the flowering buds, and then threaten to kill tree roots and local pollinating bees.

The CWC will not issue its final scores for costs and benefits regarding above-ground water storage reservoirs until their July 24 meeting in Sacramento.

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