CALFED WATER FEES: Trick or Treat?
Instead of ghosts and goblins giving Northern California water
users the willies during this Halloween season, it is a new CALFED
funding proposal that has them scared. While it appears that the
CALFED program has received a renewed commitment from the federal
government in terms of financing its programs (see "CALFED
Balancing Act" article), a proposal to provide a steady stream
of funding to pay for the state share is being met with staunch
opposition from Northern California water users.
The troubling proposal being considered by the Bay Delta Authority
envisions placing this financial burden squarely on all water users
in the form of an across-the board fee, or tax, on all water use.
Family Water Alliance (FWA) is opposed to any such proposal that
would serve to tax the water users in Northern California, as this
proposal would have drastic consequences on our rural agricultural
To begin, if this fee were in the amount of eight dollars per acre-foot
(an amount that it has been speculated would be required), it would
drastically increase the cost of food production for our farmers,
who continue to struggle to survive on ever shrinking margins. As
an example, it has been estimated that the proposed water user fee
would increase the cost of growing rice by $40 per acre. Agriculture
is an industry that deals in a worldwide market, thus increased
costs (such as this proposed tax) cannot be passed on to the consumer,
thereby creating a competitive disadvantage for California farmers.
In our agricultural communities, where farming is the primary industry,
such a tax would result in negative economic impacts that would
ripple throughout the region.
Moreover, this ludicrous proposal would have the effect of asking
Northern Californians to pay for their own demise. CALFED is basically
asking water users in the North to fund programs that would result
in taking water from this region, for the purpose of exporting it
to another. Seldom is one asked to pay for the right to have one
of their most vital resources pilfered.
Further, this proposal asks us to fund programs that promote increased
land acquisitions in Northern California (a region commonly referred
to as the CALFED solution area) for the purpose ecosystem restoration.
Despite the fact that these programs bring with them various negative
third party impacts that have yet to be remedied or mitigated, including
reduced economic activity, lost property tax revenues, degradation
of the flood control infrastructure, increased environmental regulation
for routine farming activities, and crop damage.
Additionally, new water fees to fund CALFED cannot be associated
with any direct benefits for water users in Northern California.
Were such a proposal adopted, it would likely have the effect of
eroding any and all support for the CALFED program from these communities
and water users that are forced to suffer as a result. This would
result in jeopardizing the potential for the benefits this program
forecasts that would inure to the entire the state, including water
supply reliability, water quality, levee stability, and ecosystem
Included in the many varied interests throughout the region that
have expressed opposition to the Bay Delta Authority in regard to
this proposal, is a coalition of California Congressman, which includes
the following: Congressman Wally Herger; Congressman John T. Doolittle;
Congressman Dennis Cardoza; Congressman Devin Nunes; Congressman
George Radanovich; Congressman William Thomas; Congressman Doug
Ose; Congressman Mike Thompson; Congressman Robert Matsui; and Congressman
Calvin Dooley. In a letter written to Patrick Wright, Executive
Director of the Bay Delta Authority, and Gary Hunt, Chairman, and
signed by all of the foregoing Congressmen, the following sentiments
were expressed: "To be sustainable, any program for funding
CALFED needs to recognize the different circumstances in which various
water agencies operate, acknowledge the value of non-monetary contributions
to CALFED solutions, and fairly link costs and benefits. In addition,
the overall allocation of CALFED’s costs should reflect the
fact that the majority of CALFED benefits accrue to the State as
FWA concurs. Any such CALFED funding mechanism must take into account
the benefits provided to the state as a whole as a function of the
participation of Northern California water interests. A water fee
or tax on these communities and water agencies would be viewed as
a punitive mechanism for the good faith that has been shown to date.
As such, FWA opposes the water user fee proposal as an avenue for
funding the CALFED program.
FWA encourages you to voice your opposition to this water user
fee proposal, letters should be sent to the following address: Mr.
Gary Hunt, Chairman; Mr. Patrick Wright, Executive Director; California
Bay Delta Authority; 650 Capitol Mall; Sacramento, California 95814.
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