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Water Bond Delayed

The much anticipated vote for the state’s water bond may have to wait until November 2012. The $11.1 billion Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act was negotiated last year, but depending on the results of a Legislature vote, may be pulled from this November’s election and reinstated in 2012. The Legislature must have a two-thirds “yes” vote to pass the postponement.
Governor Schwarzenegger expressed his concern and support stating that, “After reviewing the agenda for this year, I believe our focus should be on the budget — solving the deficit, reforming out of control pension costs and fixing our broken budget system. It’s critical that the water bond pass, as it will improve California’s economic growth, environmental sustainability and water supply for future generations.”

The water bond is a measure to improve the broken California water system, including $455 million for drought relief projects, disadvantaged communities, small community wastewater treatment improvements and a safe drinking water revolving fund; $1.4 billion for “integrated regional water management projects”; $2.25 billion for projects that “support delta sustainability options”; $3 billion for water storage projects; $1.7 billion for ecosystem and watershed protection, and restoration projects in 21 watersheds; $1 billion for groundwater protection and cleanup; and $1.25 billion for “water recycling and advanced treatment technology projects”.

The bond would specifically help fund a portion of the Fish Passage Improvement Project at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam. According to Jeff Sutton, General Manager of the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, the project is already underway and will provide a host of benefits for the fisheries and the entire westside of the Sacramento Valley. “Despite the rumored delay of the Water Bond, the State, TCCA, and the United States Bureau of Reclamation (the federal lead agency on the Project) all remain committed to assuring the timely completion of the Project by Spring of 2012, at which time the NMFS Biological Opinion requires termination of gate operations at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam”. Sutton also added that the entire TCCA Board of Directors voted to support the Water Bond.

Other members of the agriculture community, although anxious for the potential benefits of the water bond, generally understand and support the delay. The delay would mean more time for the economy to heal, easing many voters’ concerns. A delay would also allow supporters more time to educate the public about the positive impacts of the bond and the states dire need for the improvements. California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger summed it up stating, “We’re disappointed that the vote may be delayed, but we understand why. There are many good water system improvements in the bond, including funding for new surface storage, but there may be a need to take more time to inform voters about the benefits of the bond measure. It’s the right package, but this November may be the wrong time.” ■

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