Tim Quinn, director of the Association of California Water Agencies, recently said, “We’ve got to get the public out of this mindset that ‘If I spend the money, I get lots more water.’ ”
That’s why we oppose Proposition 1, the California water bond. It is poor public policy to burden taxpayers with $14.4 billion (including interest) for a water bond that nets very little new water. Prop. 1 adds to our $770 billion in taxpayer indebtedness and will crowd out funding for public schools, roads, health and safety.
Prop. 1 does next to nothing to address near-term drought relief. It dedicates just 13 percent of its funding to conservation, stormwater capture and treatment, and recycling for the entire state. Prop. 1 marks $2.7 billion for “continuous funding,” meaning the funds flow without legislative oversight for three dams that will increase the state’s water supply by 1 percent – in 10 to 15 years, when the projects would be completed.
If Prop. 1 passes, the state will spend $360 million a year for the next 40 years to build projects that will not solve our water problems, but will benefit wealthy agriculture corporations who want more access to water. California taxpayers should not go into debt to build projects for billion-dollar farming conglomerates.
According to a June 3, 2014, report in The Sacramento Bee, Temperance Flat, Sites Reservoir and an elevated Shasta Dam will only net 316,000 acre-feet of new water in an average year for a total cost of $7.5 billion. The feasibility study for Temperance Flat allocated 73 percent of the costs to taxpayers, saying the dam will benefit salmon. The idea that we build dams for fish is ludicrous. The real beneficiaries would be private agribusiness interests who will receive water from Temperance Flat.
Funding for Temperance Flat and the other two dam projects is a bad public investment. The water takers don’t want to pay for these dams because they know the benefits are minimal. They are happy to foist the cost onto taxpayers.
Prop. 1 also contains $1.5 billion for “conservancies,” much of it pork spending that produces no new water and is unrelated to water: bike trails, hiking trails and agency administrative costs. Hundreds of millions in pork was included to win specific legislators’ votes. And there’s no language specifying how it is to be spent.
Prop. 1 forces taxpayers to buy water the public already owns to protect fish. That water will be used to increase supplies for export to huge agribusinesses. Whether or not Fresno area residents believe that more water should be sent through the Delta to their region, the idea that specific industrial farming operations would be shifting to taxpayers nearly $1 billion in general obligation debt to fix the damage they cause does not square with the notion of fiscal prudence.
Prop. 1 shortchanges sensible measures like water recycling and groundwater cleanup that would have provided new water. These projects were slashed by 36 percent in the final bond.
Prop. 1 misspends the money needed for investments in water infrastructure throughout California. It is fiscally irresponsible to build new dams and fund bike trails while leaving local water pipes to leak up to 10 percent of the water we currently have. It makes more sense to stop leaking water before spending to build new dams and bike trails. Prop. 1 sabotages, delays and diverts funding from meaningful efforts to address California’s continuing water crisis.
Bottom line: Proposition 1 panders to special interests at the expense of the public. It provides no drought relief, it eliminates public oversight, and it steals funds from essential public programs – including education and road maintenance. It is pure pork. California taxpayers must not be forced to assume additional debt and sacrifice their access to public water, their fisheries and recreational waterways simply to build infrastructure for politically connected farming conglomerates.