In 2014, I asked you to support Proposition 1, $7.5 billion water bond written during one of the worst droughts in the state’s modern history.
It certainly wasn’t perfect. I would have preferred significantly more than the $2.7 billion it provided for water storage, while others would have eliminated water storage funding entirely. But Prop 1 was a product of compromise and negotiation – something we need a lot more of in today’s political climate.
In typical Sacramento fashion, we had ignored a problem until it became so large that we could not possibly ignore it anymore. If there was a silver lining to the drought, it was that water became a priority again.
For the last half-century, California has rested on the water investments made by the generations that came before us. As our population boomed, we looked for ways to make what water we had go further, rather than make the bucket bigger for everyone. Water efficiency standards and limits on the football field size green lawns they are so fond of in Los Angeles helped, but these are band-aids covering a much larger wound.
The fact is that as California’s population continues to rush toward 50 million people, we need more water.
To make things worse, and despite claims from environmentalists to the contrary, we have also failed to address the realities of the changing California climate on water. As we get less precipitation as snow and more as rain, we can no longer rely on the snowpack to act as our largest natural reservoir. Instead of holding our water supply in the mountains during the rainy season and delivering flows of snowmelt when it’s dry, we get flooding and mudslides when it’s raining and rivers that dry up too soon.
Voters saw the problem, and nearly 5 million voted to pass Prop 1 – the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act.
I wish I could say the story ends there – but it doesn’t.
Those who wanted to eliminate any funding for water storage when the bond was being written are going back on the deal. Working through the California Water Commission – the agency tasked with selecting the storage projects that will receive funding – they are arguing that no storage project offers enough “public benefit” to deserve state investment. That is, except for one or two projects that will give more water to San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the rest of the Bay Area – where many of the environmentalists happen to live.
These are the same people who argue the state should spend billions of public dollars subsidizing Tesla, renewable energy projects and the Amazonian rainforest in our quest to lead the world on climate change policy. When it comes to adapting our water storage infrastructure to the realities of climate change, apparently there is no “public benefit.”
Governor Jerry Brown and his appointees at the California Water Commission must remind these hypocrites that a handshake is a handshake; a deal is a deal. We had this fight and settled our differences nearly four years ago. Now it’s time to drop the act and start building Temperance Flat and Sites Reservoir.
Adam Gray represents the 21st Assembly District which incudes Merced and part of Stanislaus counties.