The water bond and the tunnels

windlessWater bond still faces tunnel stumbling block

by Brian Leubitz

There is little disagreement that our water infrastructure needs some work. Across party lines and the north-south divide, there is a consensus that we need to invest in our water system. The amount of the bond package is still in dispute, but those are minor disagreements.

But the one big stumbling block are the twin tunnels that Gov. Brown wants to build to bring water to Southern California from the Delta. The administration released a report on the potential job gains from the project:

The study’s author, Dave Sunding, a UC Berkeley agricultural and resource economist, predicts that construction of what is called the Bay-Delta Conservation Project would create an average of about 15,500 jobs a year over a decade of construction and habitat restoration. Once built, the project to make water supplies more reliable would spur an additional estimated 19,600 jobs a year over 50 years, he said.

“In the short, medium and long range, the Bay Delta Conservation would provide economic benefits to California,” said Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the Department of Water Resources. “The plan is essentially an insurance policy against species extinction and inadequate water supplies.” (LA Times)

To call these figures controversial is a big understatement. The job figures are being called highly speculative, on both construction and the long-term prospects. The tunnels, which were rejected by the voters during Brown’s first stint as governor in the 80s, are back again with the same controversy. Like then, the questions of drought are still very much present. If our current drought continues, or another, more vicious dry spell hits, there simply won’t be any water there.

Sen. Lois Wolk, who represents much of the Delta has been trying to move past this issue, and is taking the right tack. She is working hard to get a water bond on the ballot without any sort of authorization for the tunnels. And in the NBCLA clip below the fold, this is what Sen. Steinberg is endorsing, and warning against a bond that includes them.

The tunnels are a big conversation of their own, and tying the bond up with that political melee could backfire at the ballot. But with the deadline for the ballot getting closer, we should have a resolution soon.