Fulfill the Promise of the Water Bond

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Maybe I was naïve. Back in October 2014 I wrote a column in F&H promoting the passage of the Proposition 1 water bond on the November ballot chiefly because money in the bond would be dedicated to water storage, something desperately needed as California faced a drought. One of our readers commented under the article that I was naïve to believe that money would ever be spent for water storage, that dams were an anathema to the powers that be in Sacramento. More than three years after voters approved the bond the $2.7 billion set aside for water storage is still unspent.

Yesterday, Republican Assembly members presented petitions to the state Water Commission demanding that water storage be built at the Sites Reservoir north of Sacramento and Temperance Flats in the San Joaquin Valley.

Given that our dry winter means another drought is around the corner, the question for the water commission is “what is taking so long?”

The commission issued a report last month claiming that none of the 11 water storage projects under consideration were ready for funding because they lacked clear public benefit. Water is a public benefit and the more water when dry spells hit, the better. Ample water is not only important for all citizens but also, in the end, more water is less costly for consumers.

My column in 2014 emphasized the Proposition 1 bond was a direct descendant of previous state bonds that built dams and water projects, which helped California grow and prosper.

While it was Republican legislators lead by Republican assembly leader Brian Dahle who petitioned the Water Commission for more water storage yesterday, in my piece I quoted well-known Democratic political leaders who sponsored and praised California’s water storage efforts in the past.

Governor Pat Brown led the fight for the bond to fund the State Water Project. Pat Brown set out to, in his own words, “correct an accident of people and geography.” As I wrote in the piece, “Pat Brown’s State Water Project stored water behind dams and moved the water to where it was needed. The storage aspect of Proposition 1 is essential for building up the water supply as the drought deepens.”

President John F. Kennedy visited California twice within a year to dedicate two dams, the San Luis Dam and the Whiskeytown Dam. The president spoke of dams as “the wise decisions that were made by those who came before, and the wise decisions that you are making now.”

Californians voted to continue those wise decisions for more water storage years ago with Proposition 1. It is time for state officials to fulfill the promise of those bonds.

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