Our View: Gov. Brown’s water bond falls far short of what’s needed

08/06/2014 6:26 PM

08/06/2014 6:26 PM

So let’s get this straight. It’s OK with the governor to spend $9.95 billion for a bullet train that will speed from Los Angeles to San Francisco, but he can’t fathom spending a penny more than $6 billion to provide more water for all 36 million Californians and a $45 billion ag industry that is literally begging for it.

This is not about the merits of high-speed rail. When it first came up in 2004 we saw the potential for jobs in our Valley, and we still do.

But more than we need fast trains, more than we need better roads, even more than we need better classrooms, we need more water. And if Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t prepared to spend more than $2 billion on creating additional storage, then he isn’t serious about helping us find that water.

The governor said Tuesday that he doesn’t believe Californians will support the $11 billion bond currently scheduled to be on the ballot in November. Voters have become more parsimonious, he said, so he is proposing a $6 billion deal.

That reluctance is exactly why we need our very popular governor to help make the case, to help everyone understand that this water emergency could become the new normal. Instead of pulling back, he should be raising his voice and calling for even more money for storage. That’s called leadership.

But that’s not what he’s providing. Brown said Tuesday he wanted a “no-frills” water bond. No frills means no new dams. His scaled-down version would cost only $6 billion, but of that, only $2 billion would go toward building additional storage. Bluntly and emphatically, $2 billion is not enough. Not even remotely.

We’ve already seen the numbers. Estimates for Temperance Flat Reservoir near Fresno and Sites Reservoir northwest of Sacramento are above $2 billion each. What the governor proposes won’t build either of them, much less both.

The need is apparent. Witness the ferocious arguments over what’s left behind state and federal dams. Check out the battles over groundwater, which is finally being recognized for the precious resource it is. The state is signaling that it wants more water to flow down the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers to help fisheries. And then there’s the fight over those twin holes in the Delta that Gov. Brown wants to pour money – and the Sacramento River – into.

As snowpacks and glaciers fade into the past, we will either find ways to capture more water when it’s available or we simply won’t have any during the hot summers ahead. Dams are the only proven way to capture and keep that water.

There’s still time to negotiate a better water bond. If the governor won’t lead, our legislators must.

“We have to build two reservoirs,” said Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, “and $2 billion won’t build one. So what’s the point? Why put a bond on the ballot that produces no water?”

There must be enough money in this bond to build more storage. Otherwise, it’s just not good enough.

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