Legislators Punt Bond Into 2014 Session
Flurries of legislative debate this year over possible state water bond revisions failed to translate into action before lawmakers adjourned until next year.
That lack of action came as no surprise.
Neither of the two leading legislative contenders – one in the Assembly and the other in the Senate – appeared to have anything resembling the two-thirds support required to modify the existing bond that is currently scheduled to appear on the November 2014 ballot.
No movement was evident except for some late amendments. Both will be two-year bills.
AGAIN NEXT YEAR
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said issues surrounding water infrastructure and water quality need to be addressed when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
The existing water bond would total more than $11 billion.
An Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) working group earlier this year proposed an $8.2 billion bond that would maintain key elements of the original bond plan – including funding for new reservoirs such as Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River above Friant Dam.
Proposed storage development funding reductions in the legislative proposals apparently reflected opposition from some environmental interests to new reservoirs.
An Assembly bill recently introduced by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee would have significantly reduced activities and funding into a $6.5 general obligation bond.
The proposed bond is based on a framework developed by a working group headed by Assembly Member Anthony Rendon (D-LAKEWOOD).
It would fund clean and safe drinking water projects ($1 billion); protection of rivers, lakes, streams and watersheds ($1.5 billion); climate change preparedness for regional water security ($1.5 billion); Delta sustainability ($1 billion); and water storage for climate change ($1.5 billion continuously appropriated).
The Senate’s water bond candidate, a $5.6 billion measure authored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-DAVIS), was amended September 11 to propose a $6.475 billion water bond for the 2014 ballot.
Wolk’s measure would fund safe drinking water projects ($1.5 billion), water quality and watershed protection projects ($1.8 billion), flood control and stormwater management ($1.3 billion), water system operation improvements, including storage ($1 billion).
The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and Environmental Quality Committee have set a joint hearing on September 24 from 9-11:30 a.m. in Room 4203 of the state Capitol.
The Friant Water Authority’s board-adopted policy position earlier this year shifted from endorsing the original bond and now calls for the water bond to include three broad goals:
• Providing safe and clean drinking water for all Californians, including supply reliability.
• Implementing the co-equal goals of improving Delta ecosystem health and water supply availability and reliability.
• Enhancing statewide water system management, including new surface and groundwater water storage.
Friant is supportive of the ACWA water bond proposal as it includes these three elements and most of the core projects in the original bond while eliminating earmarks which have been labeled as pork in the news media.