Meanwhile, Back On The Ranch…

While most of us were focused on election returns, the legislature approved the big water deal that includes a bond of $11 billion. That’s up $1 billion from the previous version, as Los Angeles demanded and won more funding for conservation.

As usual, Republicans held up approval of the package in order to win more concessions and score more political points. One of the concessions they won includes weakened penalties for illegal water diversion:

Republicans won a major concession as Democrats agreed to sever an enforcement bill from the water package that cracked down on illegal diversions of water, boosted fines and increased the power of the state water boards — provisions long demanded by environmentalists….

Assembly Republican Leader Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo opposed the water-rights bill, in part because of the tough enforcement provisions that sharply increased the authority of state water boards, according to Capitol sources in both parties familiar with the negotiations. Blakeslee was not immediately available to comment.

The bill also included fines of $5,000 or more per day for illegal diversions and allowed the water boards to initiate their own investigations rather than act on complaints. One provision allowed fines pegged to the “market value” of water, which environmentalists said could result indaily penalties far exceeding $5,000.

Republicans had also pitched a fit about funding for a Sacramento tolerance center Sen. Darrell Steinberg had included in the bills. At $10 million, the cost was negligible compared to the overall package, but Republicans couldn’t resist the chance to make Democrats look like pork barrel spenders – especially since doing so helped hide the far larger “pork” spending in the form of $3 billion for unnecessary dams that Republicans won in the water bond.

Assemblywoman Alyson Huber’s efforts to pass an amendment requiring legislative approval to build a Peripheral Canal failed, meaning that under the current deal, a new Delta Stewardship Council, with a majority of members appointed by the governor, would have the power to approve a canal. Both Westlands Water District and LA’s Metropolitan Water District said the deal “paves the way” for that canal.

Since the water policy bills have been de-linked from the bond itself, it seems even more likely that the bond will go down in flames next year when voters are asked to approve it. A combination of progressive opposition to new dams and concern over the impact of the debt service on other general fund programs will likely combine with moderate and conservative unease about $11 billion in spending to sink the bond.

The only way this could pass is if there’s a consistent effort across the state to convince people that the bond is essential to their future, that the cost of doing nothing is greater than the cost of the bond. So far, that case hasn’t been made, and it’s difficult to see how it will be, given that this whole deal is motivated by little more than the desire of Westlands to cut in line and for MWD to have everyone else in the state subsidize their sprawl.

8 thoughts on “Meanwhile, Back On The Ranch…”

  1. I watched the assembly session.  Thank you to all the Calitics members and other Progressives who worked to elect Alyson Huber.  She impressed.

    Actually I disagree with Robert a bit.  This was not so much an issue of Repubican vs. Democrats but the citizens of the Delta and the Sacramento River watershed against the rest of the state. Republican Bob Berryhill from Ceres made more sense than Jared Huffman or Mike Feuer.  On KQED just now,it reminded Michael Krasny of Chinatown.

    And Steinberg was so stupid as to try and insert his own pork pet project in to the bond issue just so he could claim to having done one thing for his district.

    This is really CALFED all over again, the promise of a grand solution and the reality of overlapping authorities, little real power, language that will keep every decision in the courts favoring the rich and powerful and no funding other than year to year budget bill appropriations that are subject to the 2/3’s rule of the minority.  

  2. What’s kind of amazing is that about 2/3 of Orange County, where the ground water basin has been well managed, and we have invested in the world’s largest reclamation plant, doesn’t really need norcal water if we conserve a little and use our existing dams for water in addition to flood control.

    Two million folks here, conservative, moderate, and liberal can say no to this bond measure.

    Most of our legislators have sold out, but the voters, not so much.

  3. I can see the headline now in all the financial reports. Instead of looking at local solutions. Rather than reach for proven conservation methods. Our legislators have once again sold out to the forces of big business and big money and betrayed the people of California.

    You could argue that we all eat the agricultural products of the Central Valley. Or you could note that almost none of the population centers along the coast of the state will ever see a drop of this water. None of the counties north of the capital will either. The folks who live in the eastern mountains will see no benefit from this spending. That water rights holders have sold the subsidized water they do get to developers instead of farming with it, and made millions from the sale.

    But you cannot argue the fact that every resident of the state will pay for it. We will pay for it in cuts to every state service that makes California worth living in–from firefighting to road repairs, parks, schools, and so much more.

    I swear I’m so mad I could smack each and every elected official who voted for this. And I just might!

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