Responding to recent water bond proposals by the State Senate and Governor Jerry Brown, Restore the Delta (RTD) on July 8 said that “any state water bond that includes mitigation for the damage from the tunnels project is not ‘tunnels neutral’.”
“The tunnels cannot be built without hundreds of millions of dollars to fund ‘mitigation’ or ‘restoration’ of the project's damage, damage the water-takers refuse to pay, and are foisting onto taxpayers," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD executive director. "Naming mitigation ‘restoration’ does not cure its purpose: helping to pave the way for the tunnels. We also know that existing Delta restoration projects have not produced the positive results for fisheries that they promised. A bond with more restoration money, will simply result in throwing good money after bad.”
“Tunnels-enabling funds would doom the water bond that we all need to address our water crisis. We call upon the governor and legislature to omit any funds required to mitigate or restore tunnels damage."
She noted that "tunnels neutral" equals levee repair, while "tunnels enabling" equals the restoration of wetlands and habitat to compensate for tunnel construction and taking of needed river water flows to the Delta.
To recap recent events regarding the water bond, State Senator Lois Wolk on Thursday, July 3 reintroduced a revised Senate Bill 848, responding to requests by Governor Jerry Brown for a more scaled-down bond.
The bill is set at $7.5 billion, $3 billion less than her previous $10.5 billion bond measure, but $1.5 billion more than the $6 billion bond that Governor Jerry Brown outlined in a series of private conversations with legislators after Wolk’s previous bond failed to get the necessary two-thirds supermajority vote to move it forward.
The legislature is currently in recess, but Senator Darrell Steinberg vowed that "we intend to come back in August and do our very best to get this done."
“This revised version of SB 848 responds to the Governor’s desire for a smaller bond while remaining a comprehensive approach to addressing the state’s critical water needs,” said Senator Lois Wolk. “At $7.5 billion, SB 848 maintains funding for statewide priorities including water quality and supply reliability projects. The Senate bond continues to help communities enhance their water supply and prepare for drought. It funds storage projects at the same level proposed by the Governor. And, critically, it continues to be tunnel neutral.”
Wolk said the revised Senate bond includes $7.5 billion in funding for a “broad range of projects to address California’s critical water needs.” Categories were cut by a proportional amount, with the exception of funding for some high priority areas including groundwater sustainability and recycled water.
Wolk and other Senators say the 2009 proposal, which includes funding to mitigate the harmful environmental impacts of the BDCP, needs to be replaced since it will face almost certain doom at the ballot box in November.
The current water bond on the November ballot was created as part of a water policy/water bond package passed by the Legislature in a special session called by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in November 2009. The water bond was rescheduled twice, first in 2010 and then again in 2012, due to strong opposition to provisions in the bond that facilitate the construction of the twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
The Governor’s Office has to date declined to comment on the specifics of his water bond proposal or Work's revised bill.
Jim Evans, spokesman for the Governor's office, said, "Generally, the administration doesn’t comment on pending legislation."
He said the last comment he sent to me - which was generally about water bond discussions – still holds:
"The Governor is concerned about ongoing debt service and its impact on future budgets."
However, Brown's outline for a $6 billion water bond to replace the $11.1 billion bond currently on the November ballot has been widely circulated to legislators, stakeholders and the media.
His outline for the "Water Action Plan Financing Act of 2014" includes $2 billion for storage, $1.5 billion for watershed protection, watershed ecosystem restoration and state settlements, $1.5 billion for water quality and water supply reliability, $500 million for the Delta and $500 million for statewide flood management.
The outline claims the Governor's water bond would be "BDCP (Bay Delta Conservation Plan) neutral," but Restore the Delta disagrees. They released proposed bond language that would have taxpayers foot the bill for the damage from the tunnels project.
The group said the tunnels cannot be built without hundreds of millions of dollars to fund “mitigation” of the project’s damage, damage the water-takers refuse to pay, and are foisting onto taxpayers.
“The governor’s water bond is not ‘tunnels neutral,’ and his declaring it so does not make it true,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD executive director. “Much in the same way the proponents of the tunnels project named it the ‘Bay Delta Conservation Plan,’ (BDCP) and classified construction of the massive 35-mile long tunnels their primary ‘conservation measure,’ the governor is perverting the meaning of the English language."
"We are not fooled, and neither will the taxpayers who will pay the bill be fooled. This tunnels-enabling provision would doom the water bond we all need to address our water crisis," Barrigan-Parrilla stated.