It’s that season. Orchards are blooming. The grass is greening after the winter rains. The petition gatherers are lined up outside your favorite box store. Ah yes, it’s the season of urgency and problem fixing. Unfortunately in the case of the Dam-Train ballot measure, significant harm would be done in an effort to do some good.
While the idea of shifting bond money from high-speed rail to additional water storage projects seems both timely and practical, the initiative undermines the foundation for the water system in California and delays critical water storage projects like Sites Reservoir already underway.
Peel the first layer of the measure back and you see a constitutional amendment for water rights prioritization. Poorly written and confusing, it would at a minimum send the issue to the courts as the Legislative Analyst’s Office has concluded. As a result, the water rights system that is the foundation for Sacramento Valley agriculture, the environment and urban users alike would be in jeopardy.
Secondly, the ballot measure not only takes all of the high-speed rail bond money, it also takes Proposition 1 dollars for building additional water storage. For over a year and a half, water districts and counties have been working diligently to prepare plans for submission for funding under Proposition 1. If the Dam-Train ballot measure passes, allocation of these dollars would be delayed for who knows how long — not what we need to prepare for the next drought.
Finally, the proponents of the ballot measure have repeated stated that all of agriculture is supporting their effort. This is hardly the case both in the North as well as in the San Joaquin Valley. In the Sacramento Valley, the Northern California Water Association, California Rice Industry Association and many water leaders have come out in opposition to the measure for the reasons stated above. In the San Joaquin Valley, Nisei Farmers League, Temperance Flat Joint Powers Authority and many county leaders also stand opposed.
So as you consider signing the petition on that clipboard, make a decision informed by all of the facts and with the knowledge that water leaders and agriculture leaders in the Sacramento Valley are opposed to this initiative.
If you want, don’t support the train. Let’s build more storage. But don’t jeopardize water rights or delay the progress to build Sites Reservoir.