There’s enough pork in the proposed water bond to send it off to the slaughterhouse. But just how much carving will be done when Senator Darrell Steinberg takes out his knife to refashion the bond before it goes to the voters in 2014?
Steinberg said last week that he wants a smaller bond and he wants to de-emphasize water surface storage, meaning he wants fewer dams. That issue opens the old debate spurred by environmentalists desire for below surface water storage and the use of dams to provide adequate water needs for agriculture and industry.
The water bond first scheduled to appear on the 2010 ballot, then pushed back a couple of times for political reasons, will now be tied to Governor Jerry Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Some of the bond money would be used in conservation efforts as part of the overall plan to provide environmental safeguards while at the same time providing water to Southern California’s parched regions.
Ratepayers are expected to cover the cost of water use in the south, but state taxpayers would cover much of the cost of conservation efforts in the Delta through the bond.
A fix of the water delivery system is essential for California’s economic growth and continued agricultural preeminence. In this corner, the governor is on the right track with his plan.
Steinberg’s re-opening of the bond issue is also appropriate given the context of Brown’s new conservation plan and the pork-barrel way the bond was originally slapped together.
Items in the bond that have nothing to do with improving water deliverance or ecological protections were added to secure lawmaker’s votes. Examples include millions of dollars for public education projects on water issues, bike trails, recreation and interpretive projects and the acquisition of land that had nothing to do with water.
Steinberg’s effort to re-work the water bond must keep in mind the need to move the Delta Project forward to the benefit of people, agriculture, and industry while protecting the environment. That is a delicate balance, but the need for appropriate water management is sure to include the use of some dams.