The Controversial but Critical California Water Bond: What You Need to Know

JUST SAYIN’-Each year that we ignore the reality of global warming is another year we get closer to extinction.  I am not usually such a pessimist, but I have come almost to the point of conceding that the world is naïvely hurling itself to its ultimate obliteration with an indifference that is mind-boggling! 

Only a few days ago, I saw a report on California's many vacation spots that feature water sports--boating, water and jet skiing, canoeing, and swimming. It reminded me of the white water rafting trip with my family some thirty years ago. We had the time of our lives in the pristine, rushing waters.  

That segment, however, was not concentrating on the good old days (when water was abundant).  Rather, it was predicting dire consequences (through multiple examples) of what would transpire if we continue to ignore the truth about our inexorably changing and rapidly more moribund environment. 

There is no doubt that California is experiencing a drought of Biblical proportions—and has for more than three years now!  Streams, rivers, and lakes are drying up so swiftly that their current features are virtually unrecognizable.  

It has been characteristic of our California legislature not to give up on efforts in which it ardently believes.  Thus, it has been focusing on slowing down and even reversing our myopic and rapid descent into irreversible environmental destruction.  As such, our lawmakers over the last several decades have been pursuing the passage of laws that directly address the problem. 

Interestingly enough and perhaps ironically voters in our state passed Proposition 1 way back in 1960, whose result created the State Water Project.  Between 1996 and 2006 a number of water bonds were approved, allocating millions of dollars for a variety of water projects. 

Now we are being asked this coming November to approve another water bond.  This one is also called Proposition 1 (formerly 43) but has been designed to do much more than previous ones.  It has, however, been so controversial that originally it was slated to be voted on in 2010 (tweaking a 2009 proposal) but was moved to 2012 and then finally to this year’s ballot. 

There were concerns on both sides of the aisle.  Some were concerned that there was too much pork; others, that it did not go far enough; environmentalists were distraught over the possibility that some of the covered projects would lead to the ruination of our eco-system, particularly in the Sacramento Delta region. 

Of major concern is the issue over the twin tunnels that were part of earlier versions.  Groups like The Sierra Club and Food and Water Watch have vigorously and vehemently opposed this project.  It is astonishing to me that both Governor Brown and Mayor Garcetti are clearly proponents of this plan (although many of us are making every effort to convince them otherwise).  

The Tunnel Project would entail “35-mile long, 40-foot wide twin tunnels to divert the Sacramento River.”   Despite some claims, they would primarily be used for farmlands in the Central Valley, and, a worse scenario is that another focus would include further authorization for god-awful fracking by the oil industry.  As I have mentioned in the past, LA has voted on a moratorium on fracking, and the State legislature is diligently working on a ban for the entire state.  Those who push fracking cannot be allowed to do an end-run around our wishes. 

If proper safeguards are not taken (and it is unlikely that they can be with regard to the tunnels' design if future tunnel proposals pass), salt water from the briny Pacific Ocean would likely leak into the tunnels which will be feeding our agricultural lands.  The claim that although such water would not be drinkable, it could nevertheless be utilized for crops, some of which have no business being grown here in the first place during the relentless drought we are experiencing (think once more about the almond trees that are  using more than their share of water).  We cannot accept even the slightest possibility of salinating our farmland (as fragile as it already is). 

Should the Delta Tunnel Project eventually go through, we all would be affected by an increase in our property taxes (based on decisions of the three major water agencies in the state that could raise about $25 million without our ability to vote on such an action).  What is worse, Southern California would benefit very little from the water for which we would be paying but not using. I wish our mayor would offer some insight into why he thinks this Delta Project would at all be worth our support! 

Having done my due diligence in researching this issue, I am coming out in strong support of the 2014 Proposition 1, officially known as The Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act.  One reason for my endorsement is that after endless negotiations between our legislators and other involved parties, a significant concession was made.  It was wisely decided that the Tunnel Project would be considered separately.  Whoopee! 

It is all too apparent that California (including our fair City) is faced with far too many water-related challenges.  We cannot afford to delay and defer decisions that we can make now to alleviate this potentially catastrophic problem.  Consider the following consequences if we do nothing quoted from Ballotpedia (which is sponsored by the non-profit, non-partisan and neutral Lucy Burns Institute): 

● Drinking water shortages and mandatory rationing

● Impaired water quality and contaminated groundwater basins

● Water cutbacks to family farms

● Lost farm jobs and reduced economic activity

● Extreme wildfire danger (think of the raging fires that occur each year, destroying homes and other properties, animals, and humans (not to forget the firefighters and other EMT professionals that put their lives on the line to protect us)

● Increased food prices (I see it every time I go to the market now 

Opponents of the present version seem only to speak in generalities, with nothing concrete to support their position. 

Proponents, however, have a lot to commend this proposal.  Of great importance would be its emphasis on state water supply infrastructure projects … think of the horrendous circumstances surrounding the recent rupture of a 90-year old pipe system under Sunset Boulevard, near UCLA flooding the recently renovated Pauley Pavilion and destroying hundreds of cars.  

We can further rejoice in the realization that thousands of jobs would be added to our employment figures as a result of these long-needed infrastructure projects! 

Other related projects would include “public water system improvements, surface and groundwater storage, drinking water protection [think of the green slime to which residents off Lake Eerie are exposed], water recycling and advanced water treatment technology, water supply management and conveyance, wastewater treatment [think of the seepage from fracking], drought relief, emergency water supplies, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and Bay-Delta Estuary sustainability.” 

It may not be a perfect bill--none of them are.  However, Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra from the Northeast San Fernando Valley put it succinctly when he stated, “The people got what they needed, maybe not what they wanted” but, in my opinion, the result is far better than the original plans … particularly now that the Delta Tunnels Project has been removed.  Remember also (as many have said before me) that the perfect should not be allowed to be the enemy of the good! 

I hear you ask, who will pay for this project?  There will be an offer of general obligation bonds as well as a provision for monies from the General Fund to pay off past, present, and ongoing water-related contractual obligations.  Furthermore, this bill will insist that the relevant non-state entities pay matching funds before they can purchase these bonds in the first place. 

When all is said and done, it is left to you, the voter, to gather as much information as you can between now and November 4.  Personally, I urge you to Vote Yes on Proposition 1 and then discourage any further consideration of the Delta Twin Tunnels Project. 

Just sayin’.


(Rosemary Jenkins is a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Alliance. Jenkins has written Leticia in Her Wedding Dress and Other Poems, and Vignettes for Understanding Literary and Related Concepts.  She also writes for CityWatch.)







Vol 12 Issue 67

Pub: Aug 19, 2014