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Related Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
California Voters Defeat Proposition 3, the Big Ag-Backed Water Bond
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Nov 8th, 2018 11:12 AM
The Sierra Club California, the primary opponent of the measure, celebrated the defeat of the proposition. The backers of the measure, including agribusiness, spent $5,653,034 on the Yes campaign while the Sierra Club spent less than $5,000 on the No Campaign.
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The voters of California decisively defeated Proposition 3, the controversial $9 billion water bond backed by powerful corporate agribusiness interests, in Tuesday’s midterm election.

52.34% of the voters, 3,568,010, voted No for the measure, while 47.66%, 3,248,415, voted Yes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. 

The bond would have authorizes $8.877 billion in state general obligation bonds for various infrastructure projects. The measure would have Increased state costs to repay bonds averaging $430 million per year over 40 years.

Opponents of the water bond include the Sierra Club California, Friends of the River, League of Women Voters of California, Save The American River Association, Food & Water Action, Restore the Delta and the Southern California Watershed Alliance. 

Supporters of the measure include the Western Growers, California Rice Industry Association, California Fresh Fruit Association, Stewart and Lynda Resnicks’ the Wonderful Company, Ducks Unlimited, the California Waterfowl Association, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) and California Trout.   

The Sierra Club California, the primary opponent of the measure, celebrated the defeat of the proposition. The backers of the measure, including agribusiness, spent $5,653,034 on the Yes campaign while the Sierra Club spent less than $5,000 on the No Campaign.

“We have said all along that there were some good ideas in Proposition 3,” said Kathryn Phillips, Director of Sierra Club California. “For example, there was  money for San Francisco Bay restoration and for improving water systems in disadvantaged communities in the bond.”

“But the vast bulk of the proposition would have turned water policy upside and put the general public and the environment at a disadvantage,” she said. “That’s why we became reluctant opponents of Prop 1.”

“Also, we were concerned about the pay to play aspect of the measure and how it was crafted behind the scenes,” stated Phillips. “That’s a lousy way to do public policy, especially public policy that is expending public dollars.”

“We spent less than $5,000, while they spent $5.6 million on the campaign,” she added.

Food & Water Action, the political affiliate of Food & Water Watch, celebrated the defeat of Proposition 3, noting that it would have favored corporate agribusinesses at taxpayer expense by funding dams and other infrastructure projects that would funnel more water to special interests.

“California voters were wise to vote down Proposition 3, a measure that would have saddled our state with $9 billion of new debt to send more water to corporate agribusiness,” said Adam Scow, California director of Food & Water Action. “California’s water problems cannot be solved until the state brings agricultural water use in harmony with the realities of our supply.” 

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, issued a statement crediting Sierra Club California for the defeat of the water bond:

"Credit for defeating Proposition 3 rightfully goes to Sierra Club California. Their leadership on this effort to stop Prop 3 has created yet another funding challenge for CA WaterFix and other environmentally-disastrous water projects. Moreover, defeating this measure has prevented Big Ag from receiving a massive handout without the proper legislative oversight. We are grateful for the Sierra Club's great work to stop Prop 3 and congratulate them on a job well done!" 

Unfortunately, Newsom’s first major action regarding water issues on the morning after the election does not portend well for those seeking to restore California’s imperiled salmon and steelhead populations.

The State Water Resources Control Board on Wednesday morning postponed a decision on a plan that would have provided increased water flows for the San Joaquin River and Delta after Governor-elect Gavin Newsom joined Governor Jerry Brown in signing a letter requesting more time for negotiations over the plan. For more information, go to: https://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/Gov-elect-Newsom-joins-Brown-in-wading-into-13371482.php