On 13 August 2014, CSPA assailed Governor Brown’s $7.1 billion water bond as a poster-child of pork barrel politics, a rejection of 21st Century solutions and a return to the failures of the Dam Building era. Contrary to claims by the architects of the bond, it represents an enormous underground subsidy for BDCP’s Delta tunnels.
The bond provides $2.7 billion for new, marginal, river-damaging, low yield dams benefiting special interests that will provide little “new” water and would not be economically viable except for lavish public subsidies. To persuade the dam lobby to support the bond, Gov. Brown increased funding for dam construction by slashing funds allocated to recycling and groundwater cleanup by more than 36% from the previous version of the bond. Recycling and groundwater remediation would create “new” water in the near-term, promote regional self-sufficiency and reduce dependence on the Delta.
California is staggering under the weight of $777 billion in debt and voters have already approved $128 billion in bonds that must be repaid by taxpayers. The bond would displace public investments in needed schools, roads, public health and safety and divert taxpayer money to purchase water the citizens of California already own.
Under California’s Constitution, water in rivers and streams, like the air people breathe, belongs to the people of California as part of the public trust. Private interests have a right to use the public’s water, as long as the public’s ownership in rivers is protected. This bond requires taxpayers to enrich a few wealthy water users by purchasing water the public already owns, at inflated prices, to protect the public’s rivers and environment.
The bond violates the “beneficiary pays” principle: special interests, not taxpayers, should pay for projects that benefit special interests. If the special interests will not fund these ill-conceived projects on their own, taxpayers should not be required to do so and then purchase the water at high prices.
It further violates the principle that projects must mitigate adverse impacts. The state and federal water export projects have failed to mitigate for the diversion of massive quantities of water from California waterways. The bond is a transparent attempt to use taxpayer funds to relieve the projects of their mitigation responsibilities.