California State Senator Bob Huff and Board of Equalization vice-chair George Runner are among an immense group of people who are supporting a potential water priorities ballot measure which would supposedly cost the state no extra funds to implement and would redirect almost $10.7 billion from a controversial High-Speed Rail Project as well as a water bond measure to new ways of dealing with the state’s growing water shortage.
California Water Alliance is supporting this amendment to the state constitution because they believe it will open up more water for the environment than ever before and establish those priorities for the future.
In order for it to get to that point, it will have to pass the signature gathering process, through which it is currently undergoing. If the measure receives roughly 586,000 signatures by the April 26 deadline, it will be placed on the November ballot.
The campaign has reached 25% of qualified signatures by the first week of March, which according to California Water Alliance puts it right on track.
CalWA Executive Director Aubrey Bettencourt explains why her group has thrown its full support behind this measure:
“It’s a rare chance for the people of California to tell the state to get its priorities straight. High Speed Rail is an unpopular boondoggle and a reliable water supply means more to the people and economy of this state in light of the current drought than ever before. Californians want to prepare the state for inevitable new droughts yet to come.”
The state is currently facing a four year drought that has stripped its citizens of enough water to go around. Government officials are scrambling for answers, and this coalition believes that the proposed measure would be that answer that gets water to the people, then to the farms and the environment.
CalWA says this measure would provide the state of California with five critical benefits:
- It moves people and food security to first in line for using water by making them the top priorities in California’s Constitution.
- It redirects $10.8 billion previously approved by voters for High Speed Rail and Water Storage to new water facilities that will serve Californians for a lifetime.
- It puts project selection and operating decisions in the hands of elected regional water experts equally representing all areas of the state rather than leaving them to political appointees with agendas contrary to what a majority of people want or to decisions and interpretations by the courts.
- It protects and preserves the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta Estuary with co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.
- It creates no new debt or additional tax burdens for the State or to taxpayers.
Additionally, CalWA believes this would create a high number of engineering, construction, scientific, recreation, farming, industrial, and business jobs.
A major aspect of the plan would also involve funding statewide construction of local storm-water capture, wastewater treatment, and water recycling projects. It would clean and recharge groundwater with new, modernized storage and treatment facilities and create sustainable management programs.
Protection of the environment would also be a priority. It would fund projects that deliver at least 2.5 million acre-feet more water for critical environmental ecosystems.
California Water Alliance has reiterated the point that this would be at no additional cost to the taxpayers, instead reallocating $8 billion from the previously authorized High Speed Rail Bond Funds and $2.7 billion in previously authorized water bond funds (Proposition 1).
A January 2016 poll from Stanford University found that 53% of voters, if voting today on the issue of ending the High Speed Rail Project and spending that money for water storage projects, would vote in favor.
Californians have already been greatly affected by the drought, and CalWA believes this measure would be the best way to solve this problem.
Those interested can also learn how to view and sign the petition here.