CAMPAIGN 2006: Proposition 84: Bond would preserve, restore state’s waterways
(10-10) 04:00 PDT Sacramento — Proposition 84 would split $5.4 billion in bond money between a laundry list of water-related projects and spending on natural resources preservation and restoration, including $400 million for state parks.
Among the spending proposed on water projects, $1 billion would be used to increase the supply of local water throughout the state to reduce dependence on imported water. Another $525 million would be devoted to reducing water pollution and improving water quality.
More than $900 million of the bond would be spent on projects that protect or restore rivers, lakes and streams, and nearly $1 billion would be spent on coastal areas and wildlife conservation. State parks would receive $500 million for improvements and land acquisition, and local parks would split $400 million.
“California is blessed with great habitat, great rivers, great oceans, great marine life. Our rivers, our lands, our waters are as important to the vitality of California as the rest of the infrastructure of this state,” said Mark Burget, California director of the Nature Conservancy, which donated $500,000 to the Prop. 84 campaign on July 6.
The bond was placed on the ballot independently of the five other publics works bonds — Propositions 1A through 1E — approved earlier this year by lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Burget and other backers say Prop. 84 complements the other public works measures with its investment in natural resources as well as its efforts to improve water quality and make regions of the state more self-reliant for their water.
Opponents, who have launched no campaign other than writing ballot arguments against the bond, say there isn’t enough spending on water projects and that the environmental groups backing the measure benefit financially from its passage.
“This should be called the ‘unwater’ bond or the ‘environmental protection bond’ or the ‘pay-to-play bond,’ ” said Bill Leonard, a member of the state Board of Equalization who signed the ballot argument opposing Prop. 84. “It’s being falsely sold as a solution to California’s water issues. It’s anything but that.”
Leonard said the foundations, conservancies and public interest groups that helped pay to gather signatures to place Prop. 84 on the ballot would be beneficiaries of loans and grants paid for by the bond.
“This is the most targeted pay-to-benefit ratio of any proposition I’ve seen,” Leonard said.
Burget and the “yes” campaign say no money is specifically earmarked for any group supporting the bond. The bond does provide funding for a variety of existing state water and conservation programs, in which some of the bond’s supporters are participants.
More than $1.3 million in contributions to the “yes” campaign come from the California Conservation Action Fund.
The largest single contribution to the fund came from the Peninsula Open Space Trust in Menlo Park, which gave $500,000. The Nature Conservancy donated $150,000 to the fund. The Save the Redwoods League, the National Audubon Society, the Big Sur Land Trust and the American Land Conservancy each donated $100,000
Nearly 20 percent of Prop. 84 — $1 billion — would be set aside for what the state calls “integrated regional water management.”
Begun with proceeds from a $3.4 billion water bond approved by voters in November 2002, this grant program administered by the state Department of Water Resources is aimed at making various parts of the state less reliant on importing water from other areas of the state.
For example, projects that reduced water demand or increased recycling in Southern California would be candidates for funding because they would make the region less dependent on water flowing through the environmentally sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
“Our goal is to push decision-making and priority-setting down to these regions on how to spend these allocations,” said John Woodling, project manager for the program at the state water department.
The state estimates that the bond measure could increase California’s water supply by 1.2 billion acre-feet. One acre-foot is 325,853 gallons — roughly the amount of water used by a family of four in one year.
Prop. 84 identifies 11 regions. The Bay Area would be eligible for $138 million, Los Angeles $215 million and the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers a combined $130 million.
Various state land conservancies — including California’s newest and largest, the 25 million-acre Sierra Nevada Conservancy — also receive funding in the bond. Sierra Nevada would get $54 million, its first major cash infusion.
State parks would receive $400 million for land acquisition or restoration and rehabilitation of existing parks, while programs that protect wildlife habitat and offer incentives to preserve ranch and farmland would receive $450 million.
The bond also earmarks $800 million for state flood-control projects, payments to local flood-control districts and a long-postponed mapping of the state’s floodplains.
Proposition 84 is a $5.4 billion bond measure, with $2.7 billion dedicated to a variety of water projects and the remainder to restoration and preservation of habitat, rivers and coastal areas. It is supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Association of California Water Agencies and various environmental groups.
What it does
Bond funds would be spent on programs and projects to improve water quality and supply, protect natural resources, improve state parks and finance regional land conservancies. Some funds would be given out by the state as loans or grants to local agencies or nonprofit organizations.
What it costs
Over 30 years, the bond would cost $10.5 billion to pay off principal and interest — $350 million in annual debt payments.
For more Information:
Legislative analyst description: www.lao.ca.gov
E-mail Greg Lucas at email@example.com.