Four years ago, California voters directed the government to update our state water system by passing Proposition 1, a $7 billion water bond that included clear guidelines for investing $2.7 billion in new reservoirs.
Voters expected billions of gallons of water to be added to our surface storage system. Sadly, with a dry start to winter and another drought looming, the state hasn’t spent a dime on the new storage it promised.
Standing in the way is the California Water Commission, which meets on Wednesday. So far, local agencies have submitted 11 water storage projects to the commission for approval. It rejected every single one.
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According to the commission, no proposal has met the requirements laid out in Proposition 1 to deserve funding. As one of the principal authors of the measure, I disagree.
The Sites and Temperance Flats reservoir projects are ready to break ground and have broad support from water agencies, the agriculture industry and conservation groups. The reservoirs will make water supplies more reliable, improve conditions for native fish and offer a habitat for migratory birds.
Temperance Flat, northeast of Fresno, could provide water for farms and families while bringing an environmentally friendly source of power and recreation to California. Instead, 53 billion gallons of water the project would yield in an average year is wasted as it is flushed out to the ocean.
If Sites existed today in Colusa County, California could have captured more than 586 billion gallons of water since Oct. 1 – enough to supply 13.3 million Californians for a year.
As this year’s rainy season fails to deliver, it’s becoming clear how important that extra storage is. As of Feb. 1, the Sierra Nevada snowpack was at just 24 percent of normal. The last time we saw numbers this bad, California faced the worst drought in state history. During that drought, California’s economy shrank by $2.7 billion and 21,000 Californians lost their jobs. Agriculture took the brunt of the blow. We can’t let that happen again.
The lack of urgency from bureaucrats at the water commission is putting Californians’ livelihoods in danger. If we are hit with another drought, the commission will be responsible.
California’s limited water supply threatens homes, businesses and farms. It has been four years since the water bond passed and California is still short on water storage. It’s time for the water commission to stop ignoring the will of the people and deliver the reservoir projects we were promised.
Frank Bigelow, an O’Neals Republican, represents the 5th Assembly District. He can be contacted at Assemblymember.Bigelow@assembly.ca.gov.