Water and Rail in the Central Valley

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

California’s Central Valley has been the focus of two big issues that have grabbed legislative attention – water and the high-speed rail. Is it possible that the two could come together in a political mix?

Hovering over the debate about replacing the water bond that is slated for the November ballot is the question: Will the people vote for the current bond? General consensus coming out of Sacramento is “no.” The reason: the $11.1 billion bond is too large and filled with pork that doesn’t directly affect water concerns. The governor has led a public education awareness campaign on California’s debt and this large bond would just add to the state’s debt.

On the other hand, the voters are also aware of an issue that could boost the bond regardless of the cost: California’s devastating drought. Voters, wary of the drought, likely would respond positively to any water measure on the ballot without concern for the details.

The $10.5 billion water bond that stalled in the senate yesterday is only slightly smaller than the bond already scheduled for the ballot. For some perspective on the size of these bonds, both are about twice as big as the last water bond California voters passed. Proposition 84 in 2006 was a $5.4 billion bond for water projects.

Any replacement bond requires a two-thirds vote and one demand Republicans in the state Senate require for their vote is that more water reach the Central Valley farms.

Also considering relief for the state’s water problems, especially in the Central Valley, is the United States Congress.

Like California’s legislature, Congress has stalled on a water relief package with the house wanting one version, the senate another and no conference committee meeting to sort out the differences.

Of course, the other big issue that involves the Central Valley right now is the high-speed rail. Which makes one want to keep an eye out for political maneuvering that could involve the high-speed rail and water.

The high-speed rail got its cap and trade money in the state budget but Congress says no more federal money.

Many farmers in the Central Valley do not want the high-speed rail but they do want water. Newly elected Majority Leader in Congress Kevin McCarthy is from the Central Valley. He said no more money for the high-speed rail. But he said the Valley must get its water to protect produce grown there and jobs.

Into the picture steps California Senate pro-tem–elect Kevin de Leon to say the high- speed rail should begin construction in Los Angeles and San Francisco, not the Central Valley. If such a change occurs, jobs related to the rail move away from the Central Valley with its insufferable unemployment rate hitting 40-percent in some places.

Maybe I’ve watched too much of the House of Cards but are there pieces that the Brown Administration might try to move to get the rail on more solid financial footing with the feds?

Let’s keep our eyes open on the water negotiations that would satisfy Republicans thirst for water to the Central Valley farmers in a way that softens up Central Valley congressional Republicans’ stance on federal guarantees for the rail.

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.