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California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections

Legislature delays water bond until November 2014
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Jul 5th, 2012 4:45 PM
“My first choice would be to scrap this bond altogether and start over," said Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis). "It is still as unaffordable and pork-filled as ever. What California needs is a more sustainable proposal that focuses on our core needs while taking the state’s fiscal limitations into consideration—a proposal developed with all stakeholders at the table."

Photo of kids fishing courtesy of Restore the Delta.
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kids_fishing-300x130.jpg

Legislature delays water bond until November 2014

by Dan Bacher

The California State Legislature voted on Thursday, July 5 to postpone the controversial water bond from November 2012 to November 2014 "to improve its odds of success with voters," according to a statement from Assemblyman Henry T. Perea's Office.

Delta advocates have blasted the $11.14 water bond for funding questionable "habitat restoration" they say is designed to greenwash the construction of Governor Jerry Brown's peripheral canal or tunnel, an environmentally destructive and enormously expensive project to export more Delta water to southern California and corporate agribusiness.

Governor Jerry Brown called for a delay and changes in the bond, entitled the "Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012." Brown fears that the presence of the bond on the November 2012 ballot would make the voters less likely to approve his sales and income tax initiative, so it is almost guaranteed that Brown will sign the legislation, Assembly Bill 1422, to delay the bond.

Perea's Office claimed the decision to move the water bond was a "bi-partisan effort" with support from "a large coalition of stakeholders" including the Association of California Water Agencies, Western Growers, California State Council of Laborers, California Alliance for Jobs, Metropolitan Water District, California Conference of Carpenters, the California Latino Water Coalition and the Nature Conservancy.

“Investing in water infrastructure is vital for our State but in the current economic climate, the likelihood of voters approving this bond in November 2012 is low,” said Perea (D-Fresno), who authored AB 1422. "We need to make sure we give it the best chance for success.”

“We are all working towards the same goal of getting the water bond passed,” added Mario Santoyo of the Latino Water Coalition, an agribusiness "Astroturf" group whose birth Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger presided over (http://www.capitolweekly.net/article.php?xid=ybopgxc5lelik7). “The reality is, moving it to 2014 gives it a much greater chance of succeeding and that’s what we all want.”

The Legislature passed the water bond in November 2009 as a part of a water policy/bond package designed to create a clear path to the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel. If approved by voters in November 2014, it will fund investments in water supply reliability, groundwater quality, Delta sustainability, recycling, conservation and storage to provide coequal goals and watersheds, according to Perea.

“There is a saying in the Central Valley that ‘agua es vida’ – water is life," said Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, of Tulare, following the passage of Assembly Bill 1422. "As our water crisis grows more urgent by the day, it is more important than ever before that we protect the Valley’s lifeblood and provide a stable and abundant supply of clean drinking water for families and farmers."

However, Conway cautioned that "our efforts should not be mistaken as an effort to somehow boost the Governor’s tax plan, which I strongly oppose and will be campaigning hard across the state to defeat."

"Rather, our bipartisan effort is about ensuring that this historic water bond succeeds and that we secure California’s water future for generations to come," she concluded.

In contrast, Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), a steadfast opponent of the water bond and peripheral canal, voted for the delay in the bond to help the passage of the Governor's tax proposal.

“My first choice would be to scrap this bond altogether and start over," said Wolk. "It is still as unaffordable and pork-filled as ever. What California needs is a more sustainable proposal that focuses on our core needs while taking the state’s fiscal limitations into consideration—a proposal developed with all stakeholders at the table."

"But if this bond is to be put before the voters, it is critical that it not be this November, when it would steal focus from the Governor’s tax proposal. There is no greater priority than the state budget," Wolk emphasized.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, commented after the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildlife voted 6 to 0 on July 3 to move the bill forward.

"The water bond is a tool to move forward with the Delta Reform Act of 2009," she said. "If the water package was doing what it was supposed to do, the voters would be happy to vote for the bond. But the bond can't move forward because it is filled with pork and won't solve California's water problems."

"The bond has a significant amount of money - over $3 million - set aside for 'restoration' of the Delta. Yet the DFG Director has admitted that he doesn't understand the link behind the proposed Delta 'habitat restoration' and the restoration of fish populations," said Barrigan-Parrilla.

Delta advocates say the water bond, by including funds for questionable Delta "restoration," will help pave the way for the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). They say you can't "save" or "restore" the Delta by draining it.

They also point out that that there is no reason to indicate that the voters will be any more motivated to vote for the bond in 2014 than they were in 2012 or 2010.

Agency and independent scientists have pointed out that the construction of "new conveyance" to expedite increases in water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California will likely hasten the extinction of winter run chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species. (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/03/27/bdcp-study-independent-analysis-show-canal-could-hasten-species-extinction/)

"The common people will pay for the canal and a few people will make millions," summed up Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who is leading a campaign to stop the raising of Shasta Dam and to reintroduce winter run chinook salmon to the McCloud River above Lake Shasta. "It will turn a once pristine water way into a sewer pipe. It will be all bad for the fish, the ocean and the people of California."

This is the second time the bond has been delayed. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in 2010, fearing defeat of the unpopular measure by the voters, delayed the vote from November that year to November 2012.