Water Bonds Burn Taxpayers

by Lou Binninger

Since liberals took over the California legislature they have been concerned about water – storing less, using less for humans, and letting more go untapped to the ocean. In the last 50- years there have been no dams built while the population doubled and farms were abandoned after being deprived of a water allotment.

As liberals “re-wild” California and prepare the state for Governor Brown’s Global Warming Armageddon, conservatives have been smitten with the Stockholm syndrome. They repeatedly vote to borrow billions via water bonds and get no more water storage or water for farming.

Finance counselors advocate saving in good times to survive future difficulties. However, liberal legislators see no sense in holding back more water during winter to prevent drought or deluge.

In November 2006, 64% of voters passed “Proposition 1E -The Disaster Preparedness and Flood Protection Bond Act authorizing $4.09 billion in borrowing to rebuild and repair California’s most vulnerable flood control structures to protect homes and prevent loss of life from flood-related disasters, including levee failures, flash floods, and mudslides and to protect California’s drinking water supply system by rebuilding delta levees that are vulnerable to earthquakes and storms.”

On the same ballot, 53.8% said yes to “Proposition 84 - The Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act” creating an additional $800 million in debt.

None of these nearly $5 billion included work at Oroville Dam but there was money to spend on “Sustainable Communities & Climate Change Reduction, Planning and Design Protection of Rivers, Lakes, and Streams, Forest and Wildlife Conservation, Protection of Beaches, Bays and Coastal Waters, Parks and Nature Education Facilities.”

It’s now 12 years later and some of the 2006 funds have yet to be spent.

However, in 2014 after a severe drought, neglected dams and insufficient water storage more than 67% of fearful voters approved “Proposition 1 -The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act authorizing $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds to fund ecosystems and watershed protection and restoration, water supply infrastructure projects, including surface and groundwater storage, and drinking water protection.” This act also included “Climate and Drought Preparedness,” code words to address the governor’s climate disaster phobia.

Breitbart writer Chriss Street wrote in a September 4, 2014 piece “that a close look at the language in the proposition reveals that the initiative is another legislative ‘bait and switch’ that will not complete a single major water storage or delivery system.” The $2.7 billion for water storage in essence offers to fund 25% of a project and only if it can prove a payback or “public benefits to taxpayers in recreation, ecosystem improvements, water quality and flood control.”

These benefits ($1 per $1 of state contribution) are defined not as how much water a reservoir can hold, but rather how much it improves recreation - boating or hiking, flood control and environmental conditions, such as helping endangered salmon populations come back by providing cold water to streams during dry periods.

The bond also states, “A project shall not be funded...unless it provides measurable improvements to the Delta ecosystem or to the tributaries to the Delta.” Any submitted proposals to use the funds must clear Governor Jerry Brown’s select California Water Commission.

“We’re not paying for water. We’re paying for public benefits,” said Chris Orrock, a spokesman for the California Water Commission. “As defined in Prop 1, water is not one of those benefits that we are funding. We’ve been very clear at every step.”

Four years later and they are just beginning to vet proposals for storage increases. Remember, the Empire State Building was erected in a just over a year. As Street wrote, the political game is rigged against new dams, plain and simple.

Now, environmentalists and their poll takers believe the voters racked by a 5-year drought and then torrential rains are still up for more bait and switch borrowing for water. In June 2018, the Legislature’s new $4.1 billion ballot measure will fund water recycling, construction of flood-control levees and cleanup of polluted waterways.

However, close to half the bond money would have little or nothing to do with water projects. Some would go to park acquisition and maintenance, much of it in Southern California. Money would be allocated for trail construction and land conservation in the Bay Area. Low-income communities would be given priority for the funding.

An $8.9 billion measure if it qualifies for the November 2018 ballot would not add storage. It would support more recycling, groundwater and clean-up programs. It would also pay for traditional water projects such as improved canals for farm irrigation in the Central Valley with a spiff of $200 million for Oroville Dam repairs and millions more for other reservoir upgrades to persuade Nor-Cal voters.

With $12.43 billion borrowed already and 2006 funds remaining to be spent and no sincere effort to build new dams, why do citizens keep voting yes? The voters are ideological hostages and joined the perpetrators to survive. It’s called the Stockholm syndrome.

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