Sunrise on the Delta
Proposition 1 would authorize California to issue $7.12 billion in bonds.
These bonds would support much good and needed work, including watershed protection and restoration projects, regional water management plan projects, water recycling and treatment projects, cleaning up contaminated groundwater, etc. We’d love to vote to support this, but…
Unfortunately, the largest spending category by far is $2.7 billion for unspecified water storage projects. What makes this unfortunate, is that the proposed projects considered most likely to receive this funding are large new reservoirs whose benefits, even considering the seriousness of the current drought, do not come anywhere near justifying their costs. These billions, in other words, are likely to end up as nothing more than a huge public subsidy – corporate welfare at its finest – to the large agricultural interests who will be these project’s beneficiaries.
As the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance puts it, the Proposition “provides $2.7 billion for new, marginal, river-damaging, low yield dams benefiting special interests that will provide little ‘new’ water and would not be economically viable except for lavish public subsidies.”
But that’s not all.
There’s also the issue of “tunnel neutrality.” Proponents of the measure insist that none of the funds will be used to support the Governor’s controversial proposal to ship additional Northern California water south through tunnels constructed under the Delta. But activists supporting Northern California’s family farmers and the salmon fishing industry disagree. They point out that the Proposition earmarks $485 million for purchasing water to enhance the flows of rivers upstream of the Delta. Water that would then be available, at taxpayer expense, to be shipped through the tunnels to the San Joaquin Valley’s large water users. This would reduce the cost of environmental mitigation for the tunnel project while providing nearly half a billion in additional subsidies to California’s wealthiest water users.
Fishing and Delta advocates tried to solve this problem by asking the Proposition’s drafters to add the phrase “No water purchased under this division can be used directly or indirectly for exports from the San Francisco Bay Delta,” but this language was rejected. So much for tunnel neutrality.
In the words of Restore the Delta’s Executive Director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, “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.”
We’re afraid we have to agree. Vote No on Proposition 1