Governor Jerry Brown will sign legislation this evening to put a water bond before voters this November.
The Legislature passed the water bond, strongly opposed by family farmers, Delta residents, Tribal leaders, fishing groups and majority of the state's environmental groups, in spite of an intensive campaign today to get key legislators to vote against it.
The $7.5 billion water bond will facilitate the construction of the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history, the $67 billion peripheral tunnels, under the ironically named "Bay Delta Conservation Plan."
Brown will sign the bill upon receipt of legislation in the Governor's Office in Sacramento, according to a press advisory.
State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) applauded the passage of Senate Bill 866, legislation to replace the existing $11.14 billion water bond set for the November ballot with a $7.5 billion water bond crafted by the Governor and Democratic leaders in the State Legislature. She claimed the bipartisan agreement, authored by herself and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), provides a "comprehensive approach to meeting the state's future water needs, in addition to meeting urgent needs in all regions of the state."
“This is a very different bond than the pork-laden one currently on the ballot, which helped some regions of this state, but hurt others," she claimed. "This bond is good for the Delta and all of California, and it’s affordable. SB 866 not only meets the state’s greatest and most urgent water needs, it includes hard-won victories for the Delta including language to ensure this bond is BDCP neutral and includes no funding that can be used to pay for the Delta tunnels or tunnel mitigation projects."
"Also included are requirements that Delta communities have a voice in decisions on projects in the Delta—as well as first-ever funding for the Delta Conservancy and the opportunity for the Conservancy to demonstrate that it can deliver on the important charge it was given in 2009," Wolk added.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta Executive Director disagreed that the bond is "tunnels neutral." She responded to the passage of the bill by stating, "The passage of a water bond with BDCP funds for flows is unfortunate."
"Instead of presenting a tunnels-neutral water bond, the governor has chosen to risk our water project bonds by tying his tunnels to it. There are so many projects we all can agree on. Leaving this section in the bill was a big mistake," she emphasized.
"We urged the governor and legislature not to make this a referendum on the tunnels, which is a minor portion of the bond measure. We submitted this simple language that would have eliminated our opposition:
"No water purchased under this division can be used directly or indirectly for exports from the San Francisco Bay Delta."
Barrigan-Parrilla said, "The fact that this language was rejected proves that the money will go for tunnels-enabling flows. We are not fooled and neither will the voters be."
RTD explained that the governor’s bond measure is NOT “tunnels neutral” because it contains $485 million to buy water to replace what will be pumped into the tunnels.
“Charging taxpayers $485 million to replace water sent through the tunnels to enrich mega-growers in Westlands and Kern Water Districts is nuts,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “With that Ponzi scheme included, this bond will become a referendum on the tunnels."
The governor’s flow language would allow public funds to be used to purchase water that could be diverted into the Delta tunnels.
“The half-billion dollars in funding for purchase of water upstream of the Delta, and later diverted into the tunnels is a massive transfer of wealth from the rest of us to a few mega-growers who hog 70% of the water exported from the Delta,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Water transfers are needed by the BDCP for mitigation -- essentially they can’t operate the new tunnels without putting more water in the River, which the BDCP will purchase – at taxpayer expense – from water districts and growers in the northern Sacramento Valley.”
Restore the Delta board member and water law expert John Herrick, said, “Legally it is the obligation of the projects to protect these fisheries and return their populations to pre-project or other levels. Until the projects have undertaken and accomplished this restoration of the fish populations, no public funds should, or can be legally used to recover the fish. Hence, any proposal for state or federal funding of new habitat for fish rearing or purchased water for fishery flows is a transfer of the projects' contractors' obligations onto the general public. Such a transfer is not just bad policy, it is illegal.”
The Department of Fish and Wildlife would use up to $485,000,000 from Sections 79733 and 79737 to buy water that would be dedicated under Water Code Section 1707 for in stream use in waterways upstream of the Delta. However, once that water reached the tunnel intakes it could be diverted into the tunnels. The new wording does not prevent that. This water would be available for export from the Delta the same as any other water purchased by the exporters. The public would be paying for that benefit to the exporters.
Now that the water bond will be referendum on the tunnels, everybody must help get the voters out to the polls to defeat this pork barrel water bond!