Capitol Alert

Time for another water bond? Draft language floating

In this July 2, 2015 photo, groves of citrus trees sit below a barren hillside in Tulare County, outside of Porterville, Calif.
In this July 2, 2015 photo, groves of citrus trees sit below a barren hillside in Tulare County, outside of Porterville, Calif. AP

It hasn’t been a year since Californians approved a $7.5 billion water bond. But with drought still ravaging the state – and Democratic-heavy turnout expected in November 2016 – a former Brown administration official is mulling asking voters to approve a follow-up measure.

Gerald Meral, a former deputy secretary of the state’s Natural Resources Agency, sent draft language for “The Water Supply Reliability and Drought Protection Act of 2016” to water agency officials, environmentalists and others in recent days.

In an email to associates over the weekend, Meral said his organization, the San Francisco-based Natural Heritage Institute, is considering sponsoring a bond on the November 2016 ballot to “fund programs which were not funded or were underfunded” in the water bond last year.

The draft language leaves the amount of the measure blank, and Meral said Sunday that he doesn’t know how big it would be.

“Not too big,” he said. “We shouldn’t get carried away.”

The follow-up bond would include funding for water recycling, water conservation, groundwater desalination and watershed management, among other measures. It would also provide money for property owners to install drought-tolerant landscaping, with extra incentives for low-income homeowners.

“The public seems pretty receptive to doing something about water,” Meral said. “Whether they still will be next year, who knows? … We’re looking at it, anyway.”

The proposal does not include additional money for storage, a priority of many Republicans, except for grants to local agencies to repair reservoirs principally used for flood control.

Before retiring from the state in 2013, Meral served as the chief steward of Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial proposal to build two tunnels to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south.

The draft measure includes language prohibiting bond money from being used for Delta conveyance facilities.

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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