$7.5 billion water bond measure up for debate
Experts discuss the pros, cons of the bill
By Michael Sullivan 08/28/2014
California is in crisis mode with the drought, though it doesn’t seem to be bothering too many people. Water usage actually went up over the last year, even in the city of Ventura, which went up 5 percent. But for those who are concerned about water supply and storage, Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond (formerly Proposition 43, which was a $11.1 billion water bond bill) will be an option on the ballot this November.
State lawmakers changed the amount of money for the bond in the last hours before it was added to the ballot, thinking taxpayers/voters wouldn’t pass it and thereby changing it to Prop. 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. Because that just happened last month, the jury is still out for at least one outspoken critic of Prop. 43, the Sierra Club of California.
Kathryn Phillips, director of the Sierra Club California, said the club needed more time to analyze the new proposition. But for starters, she said that the bond still had language in it that would focus too narrowly on projects she says are bad for the environment, including the fact that storage projects would need to have recreational value. Those particular projects include building two dams and razing one in the Central Valley, she said.
“Building or razing dams would cause the environment irreparable damage,” Phillips said. “They are an expensive waste of money and would not solve the water supply problem.”
Phillips said the Sierra Club of California would announce its position after Sept. 3 on its website at www.sierraclub.org/ca.
The California Farm Bureau Federation has come out in favor of the measure, though locally, the Farm Bureau of Ventura County hasn’t taken an official position. Chief Executive Officer John Krist, of the local bureau, stands by the bill, however, recognizing the fact that a similar measure — Prop. 84 — approved by voters in 2006 allocated funding that improved water quality and supply issues in Ventura County. He voiced his concerns if the bill does not pass.
“We would have squandered a tremendous opportunity,” he said. If we don’t address “these longstanding issues in a time of crisis when impacts are obvious,” he doubted that we would muster the ability to do it again, at least not in the near future. “Water isn’t something we want to talk about or think about, as long as it is coming out of the faucet.”
The harsh reality, however, is that the cost of water isn’t high enough to inspire change.
“A small number of water purveyors have done too good of a job,” he said. “Water is reliable and doesn’t cost too much. Water should cost more than it does.”
Matthew Fienup, an economist at Cal Lutheran University Center for Economic Research and Forecasting and specializing in land use issues, agrees with Krist, but went on to say that more needs to be done to address the demand problem.
“I am somewhat ambiguous about the proposition but we need to raise prices to address the demand issue, change the attitude and laws regarding the use of recycled water, and we need to address the long-term supply problem,” he said.
Economists Bill Watkins and Fienup, both with the center, wrote a piece on the impacts of the drought. To read the report, go to www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2014/08/california-drought-share-emergency.