[env-trinity] Sacramento Bee 7/5/10
bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Jul 7 09:32:49 PDT 2010
What's next for the water bond?
By Dan Walters
It appears certain that the $11.1 billion water bond, the centerpiece of a
historic water policy agreement championed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger,
will be removed from the November ballot.
Concerned that the bond measure would be rejected by angry,
recession-battered voters, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature's water policy
leaders agreed last week that it should be postponed at least until the 2012
election - much as an earlier high-speed rail bond issue was postponed until
it could win passage.
It is, however, not quite that simple. The effect of postponement would be
to take Schwarzenegger out of the equation since his stint as governor will
end in six months. And the water deal's critics are already demanding that
postponement should include a rewrite, which could mean prolonged wrangling
or utter collapse.
As written now, the bond measure is a typical product of legislative
deal-making, which means it forgoes logic and equity in favor of political
It's loaded with unconscionable pork - such as a quarter-billion dollars for
Schwarzenegger's pal, billionaire Warren Buffett, to underwrite removal of
dams on the Klamath River that have absolutely no connection to California's
Even more importantly, it would use general obligation bonds to finance
water projects that should be financed with revenue bonds repaid by those
who receive the benefits, not by a deficit-riddled state budget.
It is another test - not unlike the budget, in fact - of Capitol
politicians' ability to deal with serious issues without resorting to
trickery and payoffs. Would it be possible for Schwarzenegger or his
successor, plus the Legislature, to write a water measure that addresses the
state's very real water problems but also does so equitably and logically?
The answer, unfortunately, may be no. One reason is that California's
decades-long water debate is not really over water but over controlling land
use, pitting development advocates against those who want to stop, slow or
change development patterns.
That's why there's been a deep split among environmental groups over the
current deal, between those truly interested in the water supply and the
environmental health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and those who see
land-use policy as the chief issue.
If a do-over on the bond issue is politically impossible, however, where
does that leave the elements of the water deal that have already been
enacted, such as a vast change in the governance structure of the Delta?
Perhaps, as it were, up the creek without a paddle, unable to move without
bond money to lubricate the process.
This may be another of those made-in-California political knots that cannot
be untangled because the political structure demands a level of trust and
accord that the issue itself, by its nature, renders impossible.
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax
415 519 4810 mobile
bwl3 at comcast.net
bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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