Two years ago, I introduced a measure to replace the doomed pork-laden water bond from 2009 with a trim, focused and non-controversial bond that could win voter support and address California’s critical water needs, without threatening the Delta region by funding the Bay Delta Conservation Plan or the Delta tunnels.
Last week, after months of pushing and pulling and tough negotiating – with an injection of leadership from Gov. Jerry Brown – the Legislature finished that work and put a new $7.5 billion water bond on the November ballot.
If approved by the voters, it will be a victory for all of California and produce important benefits for decades to come.
This victory was possible only through the determined leadership of Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and the governor, as well many other legislators and their staffs from both sides of the aisle. In a rare demonstration of collaboration, the Legislature came together with near unanimous support to deliver a water bond that is fiscally responsible, meets critical water needs across the state, and importantly, has nothing to do with the highly unpopular $25 billion Delta tunnels proposal.
This bond funds critical water needs throughout the state:• It includes the most significant investment in groundwater treatment in California’s history, including money to clean up groundwater in the San Gabriel Valley, in the Los Angeles region, on the Central Coast and elsewhere in the state.
• It provides funding for the public benefits of new storage, including potential storage in the Sacramento Valley.
• It provides funds for critically needed drinking and wastewater treatment projects for the estimated 1 million Californians who, shamefully, still do not have access to clean drinking water.
• And it funds water recycling and stormwater capture projects – investments in regional water supplies that will help communities throughout the state respond to drought and climate change, and reduce their reliance on expensive imported water from the fragile Delta.
Just as important, especially in the Delta, this bond provides significant benefits without also funding the proposed tunnels and sparking a north-south water war.
The Delta community won strong protections in this bond:• It will have a voice in every Delta habitat project. This bond specifies that the state will coordinate and consult with the city or county in which a project occurs.
• It funds the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy and gives it the opportunity to deliver on the important charge it was given in 2009.
• It includes protections that ensure that funds will not be used for the design, construction, mitigation, operation or maintenance of Delta conveyance facilities.
• It ensures that any bond funds used for environmental flows will be long-term, will not supersede any regulatory requirements, and will not be used to support the Delta tunnels.
• Furthermore, the Delta region will receive funding for levee improvements, water supplies and ecosystem restoration.
This bond is a compromise. No one got everything they wanted. But all of California gets what it needs. Last week was a historic moment that demonstrated government, at least here in California, can get things done when partisan politics are set aside.
I urge all voters, especially those in the Delta region, to finish this work in November and vote yes on Proposition 1.