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Water Storage Is Key Element Sought in Water Bonds
Additional storage capacities are essential if climate change
predictions should come true.

There are several water bonds being considered by the California Legislature, and one key factor being considered in all of them is a provision for infrastructure development, including new storage. Other critical provisions include drinking water quality, water supply for disadvantaged communities, Delta environmental sustainability projects, and regional water management projects and strategies.

An $11.14 billion water bond crafted in 2009 has been delayed twice due to economic concerns, but remains on the ballot for this November’s general election. Looming large in the minds of voters has been the enormous price tag and the reported “pork” provisions added to bring support from Southern California lawmakers. Recently, a flurry of alternative bond proposals have surfaced to replace the current bond offering, all with reduced price tags.

Agriculture — and almond growers/handlers in particular — are very interested in provisions that provide for increases in storage capacity. If climate change predictions come true, water policy experts say it will be more and more crucial that additional storage capacities be developed to capture and appropriately manage existing yields for environmental as well as agricultural, municipal and industrial needs.

In the present $11.14 billion bond, drafters were careful to include a continuous appropriations rider to safeguard the accomplishments of storage projects. Though present bond offerings include between $1.5 billion and $3 billion for storage alternatives, only a few of the present bond alternatives offer continuous appropriations.

Time is running short to enact alternative bond legislation. State legislators have until June 26 to draft a legislative measure to qualify for the November general election ballot. It is uncertain at this time whether legislators will indeed negotiate seriously to formulate, then forward, a bond proposal that can garner wide support throughout the legislature.

Of the eight-plus bond measures presently introduced, AB 1331, the $8 billion measure authored by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) is the furthest along in the legislative process. This bill, in its present form, includes $2.5 billion for aboveground and belowground storage projects and includes a “modified” form of continuous appropriation language. It also provides $1 billion for water quality, $1.5 billion for protection of rivers and watersheds, a total of $2 billion for regional projects and integrated regional water management, and $1 billion for the Delta sustainability projects. This bill can still be subject to further amendments and other changes.

A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll shows that 50% of current voters would likely support the current $11.14 billion bond on the ballot. One in three said they would outright oppose the bond, but this is the first time that a water bond in any form has passed the 50% threshold in polls. The Institute also indicated that voters are finally coming to grips with the indisputable fact that California is in a crisis, with 92% of those polled saying they are seeking to conserve water.

Unless an acceptable alternative is finally crafted to replace the existing bond measure, the current bond may face the prospect of again being pushed to the 2016 election. More information on the various bond proposals can be found at the California Assembly website.

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