Your Water Update

On Friday, I was privileged to speak with former Assembly member John Laird and Senator Lois Wolk on the issues facing California’s water future.  Well, today, some sort of water plan was released as SBX7-1, and SacBee has a copy of the language in PDF. It’s 163 pages, and to be quite honest, I’ve not yet had the chance to get fully through it.

The key of this is that the financing has not been worked out.  There is supposed to be some sort of a Big 5 meeting to work on financing in the next few days, but Speaker Bass has already inticated that she is growing weary of the negotiating in the dark and would like a more open process.  

But as John Laird said last week, the key to this deal is the financing. Without subsidies from the state’s general fund, the big deals for the Westlands and Metropolitan Water Districts simply do not pencil out for their customers. The SoCal Water agencies are feeding off the Delta, setting the stage for a big political firestorm.

There were quite a few developments today beyond the simple release of the plan. Accompanying the release of the plan was the news that the San Francisco Public Utilies Commission, which is SF’s water district, has decided to back the bill as it currently stands.  This is a break from previous statements, including a letter they signed indicating opposition to what was only a slightly different package at the time. The support of the SFPUC, a very strong water district that also controls the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, gives Sen. Steinberg’s bill a shot to win over some Northern California legislators. Whether it’s enough to get the votes is up in the air.

Meanwhile, in a story for the Capitol Weekly, the two powerful SoCal water agencies that originally pushed for a Peripheral Canal, the Westlands and Metropolitan Districts, think that this bill moves us closer to such a concept. Some say that’s not the case, but hopefully by the time something passes, we can at least get a definitive answer about whether this does further the concept of a peripheral canal.

One thought on “Your Water Update”

  1. Does open the possibility for a canal with many mentions of conveyance studies. It is no more specific than that that I saw.

    As you and Mr. Laird accurately point out, the devil is in the financing. This bill provides $3 billion for the public portion of the dams Schwarzenegger is pushing. But it appears to only kick in if there is matching local participation–a condition a Senate staffer told me is unlikely to be met. With all the nearly bankrupt cities and counties in California, I see his point.

    I have read elsewhere that Schwarzenegger has already said he will not sign this bill unless it is accompanied by another that sets up $9 billion in state general obligation bonds to pay for the dams and the canal. I have not, however, seen that bill yet. Nor have I heard word of when it is expected to be released.

    Frankly, I cannot see how anybody in Sacramento can ask Californians to shoulder the kind of cuts they’ve made so far, the college fee hikes, and the loss of services. And then seriously propose to add $12 billion in additional debt to the general fund. I’m already outraged that they cut corporate taxes for the six largest companies in the state by $2.5 billion a year in the midst of this budget crisis. This added outrage, I hope, would raise a firestorm of protest.

    An Assembly staffer told me the Assembly is “NOT” ready to vote on this bill yet, but warns that could change quickly. I hope it will not change until the Senate, Assembly, and California voters get the chance to see the spending bill for all this.

Comments are closed.