Initial Assembly Proposal Would Slash Water Bond
An initial $5 billion version of a retooled state water infrastructure bond was unveiled August 15 by Assembly Democratic leaders with five broad categories that appear to fall well short of what water industry officials have identified as needs in any scaled-down 2014 measure.
Members of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee heard Assembly Member Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) outline elements of the framework released earlier in the week by a working group of nine majority Assembly Democrats.
Its funding components would total less than 45% of what is included in the current bond proposal that was enacted in 2009.
The framework identifies five broad categories of programs and projects that would be allocated $1 billion each for a total bond measure of $5 billion. The broad categories include:
- Clean and safe drinking water.
- Protecting rivers, lakes, steams and watersheds.
- Climate change preparedness and regional self-reliance for water.
- Delta sustainability.
- Storage for climate change.
The Association of California Water Agencies reported that Rendon, who chairs the committee and leads the working group, said the framework was developed as part of a reflection of “the diversity of the state.” Two rounds of public comments have been received to date, he said, and the next round will focus on further documenting funding needs.
CALLS FOR STORAGE
Assembly Member Henry Perea (D-Fresno) said he was glad to see a commitment to clean and safe drinking water in the framework, noting that groundwater contamination continues to be a key issue in many parts of the state but he identified storage as another critical component and said the amount allocated to it must be meaningful.
“We have to make sure we have enough storage to capture water we so desperately need so our cities and farms can grow,” Perea said. “We are at a starting point in the discussion, but I wanted to put a marker down to say how critical it will be for me to ensure storage is funded in a way that’s meaningful and allows above- and below-ground projects to be built, not just in the valley but wherever it makes the most sense.”
Storage needs were also cited by Assembly Member Adam Gray (D-Merced).
‘TOOLS WE NEED’
“It is critical that we invest in it,” said Gray. “Storage, coupled with improved conveyance, will give us the tools we need.”
Any change in the present $11.2 billion bond proposal, enacted by the Legislature in 2009, would require a two-thirds majority.
During the public comment period, representatives of the Friant Water Authority, ACWA and other water agencies echoed the need for storage to help meet the co-equal goals of improved water supply reliability and ecosystem health.
They also provided context on the current bond measure as an integral part of the 2009 comprehensive water package.
Many California water agencies earlier this year participated in an ACWA process to prioritize where bond funding should go and came up with a package of $8.2 billion, including $2.25 billion for Delta sustainability and $3 billion for storage. Those two suggestions add up to more money than the Assembly’s initial plan proposes altogether.
The Friant Water Authority board continues to favor storage and co-equal Delta goals of water supply and the environment as crucial parts of a bond package. That position is parallel to ACWA’s proposal for the bond to focus on Delta fixes, storage and regional programs.
The existing bond, currently scheduled to appear on the 2014 general election ballot, included continuing allocations for three major storage projects, including the proposed Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir on the San Joaquin River.
The other storage projects would be Sites Reservoir, an off-stream facility in Colusa County, and enlargement of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County.