Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

State needs cost-effective water bond

By Lois Wolk
The Legislature will return to Sacramento in January and will immediately face a trio of questions about water.

* Can California break the gridlock and move forward on investing in a sustainable water supply for our future?

* Can legislators from every region of the state come together on an affordable plan that benefits everyone?

* Can we find common ground on the highest-priority solutions that support local and regional self-reliance while we avoid the expensive and controversial large-scale projects that voters will reject?

I believe the answer to all these questions is, “Yes, but it won’t be easy.”

In 2009, the Legislature passed an $11.45 billion water bond. It was too expensive and too controversial to ever pass with the voters. It was filled with pork and was seen as a threat to Northern California. Well-intentioned as it was, it should now be set aside.

It’s time to start over with a clean slate.

It’s time to focus on financing the most cost-effective local and regional projects that will deliver a more clean and reliable supply of water for all communities.

And it’s time to step away from funding projects that are prone to the controversy, delays and cost overruns we have seen recently in other major infrastructure projects. Voters aren’t in a mood for that.

The state should use its bonding capacity and low interest rates to provide financial assistance to local and regional projects that provide greater water supply independence while reducing reliance on environmentally fragile watersheds like the Colorado River, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Klamath. The state also can provide technical assistance, set priorities and support strong, integrated regional water planning.

I have written SB 42, a $6.5 billion water bond that focuses on the most critical and broadly supported water needs: regional and local water supplies throughout the state; critical drinking water needs; delta ecosystem restoration and stronger levees to improve water delivery; groundwater and surface water storage that provide public benefits; and better flood protection.

SB 42 doesn’t fund everything. It doesn’t fund enormous tunnels or large projects that lack consensus. But it does fund a great number of water supply improvements for every community in the state, including new water systems, surface and groundwater storage projects, groundwater cleanup, recycling and conservation. Only the most fiscally competitive projects will be funded.

So what’s the hard part? The hard part is that once you write a financing plan, everybody wants more. They hire lobbyists. Earmarks start popping up. They want a reservoir here, a tunnel there, a water museum there.

Before you know it, it grows by billions — just as it did in 2009. And if they think they can’t get the votes they even threaten to kill the whole deal if they don’t get their way.

Just as we’ve seen in Congress, that same behavior can and does happen in the California Legislature. The final result is gridlock and nothing gets done.

It doesn’t have to end that way. In the months ahead, as this measure moves through the Legislature, my colleagues and I will be listening to you. We will want to know what is important to your community. We also need to live within our means.

Bonds are not free money. They must be paid back, both principal and interest.

Those payments come directly out of the general fund, the same dollars that fund our schools, health care and public safety.

Let’s be successful this time.

— State Sen. Lois Wolk, a Democrat, is a longtime Davis resident. This piece was published originally in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Special to The Enterprise

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Discussion | 7 comments

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  • Rick WoodDecember 16, 2013 - 9:15 am

    Good leadership from Senator Wolk.

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  • Frances BurkeDecember 16, 2013 - 10:16 am

    This is so common sense. Thank you Senator wolk for your Thoughtful plan. As voters and consumers we need to do what we can to advance SB42.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mike WadeDecember 16, 2013 - 10:33 am

    State Sen. Lois Wolk's water bond proposal is insufficient to meet California's full future water needs. Experts agree that we need more storage to capture water during wet times for use when it is dry, like this year. Revamping the existing bond to cut out unneeded spending is a good idea. Slashing the items we need for real water supply reliability is is not. Mike Wade California Farm Water Coalition

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  • Jerry CadaganDecember 16, 2013 - 11:38 am

    Mike --Please tell us in detail who will pay for the new storage you believe is so important. And tell us whether you have evidence that new storage facilities are more cost effective than measures such as recycling. Thanks.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jim LeonardDecember 17, 2013 - 9:21 am

    Lois supported Measure I which was unneeded and a boondoggle. The only people who benefit are herself and her cronies. Davisites get stuck with the bill for an unneeded water treatment plant. Deep groundwater is enough as was attested to by U.C.Davis' refusal to get on the Measure I bandwagon; water from its deep water wells was good enough for it. River water, on the other hand has more claims than there is water. We'll be lucky to get any. Lois' attempt for regional partnership is most likely a 'wolf in sheep's clothing' scenario.

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  • JeanDecember 17, 2013 - 11:23 am

    The following is a statement from UC Davis regarding their continued participation in the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Project: UC Davis has been actively involved with the Davis-Woodland Water Supply Project since its inception in 1994, when the application for a permit to appropriate Sacramento River water was filed with the State. Since then, the University has participated continuously in project activities to bring Sacramento River water to the region. Since 2010, UC Davis has had a contractual agreement with the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency that (1) assigned the campus’ rights to Sacramento River water to the Agency and (2) provides an option for the campus to contract with the Agency for project water. The University has until 6 months after the start of water delivery to exercise the option. If the University exercises the option the agreement calls for the campus to reimburse the cities of Davis and Woodland for its share of capital construction costs and to pay its share ongoing operational costs.

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  • Rich RifkinDecember 17, 2013 - 4:28 pm

    "I have written SB 42, a $6.5 billion water bond that focuses on the most critical and broadly supported water needs." …… Most important thing to know when Lois Wolk acts in her capacity as a legislator: She has as much integrity as an elected official can have, given the extremely corrupt and unethical system of government we have. As a result, when Sen. Wolk lays out a case like she has above, I believe there is good reason to trust her. …… Unfortunately, as everyone who observes our tin-pot legislature in action, most Democrats are terribly corrupted by the unions and trial lawyers which finance their party; most Republicans are corrupted by the businesses, farmers and professional groups which give them money. So our system ends up taking from the many in order to serve the few. Until we have publicly financed campaigns, the rot in Sacramento will continue.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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