[env-trinity] San Jose Mercury News 11-6-09
bwl3 at comcast.net
Sat Nov 7 12:19:31 PST 2009
Editorial: Flaws in water deal make bond hard to swallow
Mercury News Editorial
Posted: 11/06/2009 07:34:02 PM PST
Updated: 11/06/2009 07:34:05 PM PST
California's comprehensive water package may go down in history as Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's greatest bipartisan accomplishment. But the plan has
a deep flaw, and it depends on voter passage of a whopping $11 billion bond
measure next November - a stretch indeed if there's any organized opposition
and if the economy, especially job growth, is still weak.
That any agreement was achieved is little short of a miracle in this
political climate in Sacramento. Both Democrats and Republicans compromised,
a sadly rare occurrence, so it's painful to second-guess the deal. But one
provision does the state a disservice: While urban areas will be asked to
cut their water use 20 percent, agriculture, which uses 80 percent of the
state's water, is not required to work for conservation.
Anyone who has seen the sprinklers spraying into 100-degree sunshine on
summer afternoons in the Central Valley knows that ag could save some water.
More conservation in the plan could have reduced the need for costly and
environmentally damaging dams that ran up the cost of that bond, which will
require up to $700 million a year in general fund dollars to service the
Of course the danger of doing nothing to fix the Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta is greater: some $40 billion in economic impact when a flood or
earthquake inevitably brings down the deteriorating levees, more than a
thousand of which now protect fertile farmland and thousands of lives.
Restoring the health of the delta, which supplies about half of Silicon
Valley's water supply, is Job One. But the cost of that is just over $2
It's a shame the bond ballooned so large because the governor and the
Legislature did very well on the rest of the reforms, including the idea for
a new governing board for the delta, provisions to monitor groundwater
throughout the state and the introduction of new conservation targets for
urban water users.
The groundwater monitoring legislation could eventually lead to smarter
controls and better conservation, even for agriculture - but there's a
reason that farmers in the Central Valley are among the most enthusiastic
supporters of the water deal. They pretty much skate.
It was inevitable that any deal trying to please environmentalists, farmers
and urban water districts would have some flaws. It's possible that, by next
fall, in an improving economy, and with more study to understand just what's
included in that massive $11 billion bond - and what possibilities still
might exist to press ag for conservation - the plan will seem reasonable
overall to ensure a steady and safe water supply.
But the risk to the levees is so great that an alternative bond proposal for
next November's ballot might be in order. If voters seem unlikely to agree
to do it all, including dams and a possible peripheral canal around the
delta, surely they'll see the wisdom of at least doing the essentials such
as fixing the levees. It's something to think about over the winter.
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land
415 519 4810 cell
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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