Water & Drought

Valley politicians promote water bond to voters

The California Latino Water Coalition gave thanks Wednesday to a wide array of individuals -- most notably a bipartisan group of state lawmakers -- for their roles in forging a $7.5 billion water bond that will go to voters in November.

As state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, noted in his remarks, those who paved the way included former state Sen. Dave Cogdill, a Modesto Republican who worked on the original 2009 bond.

That $11.1 billion water bond never went before voters. It was twice postponed when officials feared voters would reject the proposal because of its size and the inclusion of pork projects that had nothing to do with water.

This year, legislators reached a bipartisan consensus on a revamped proposal.

For all the congratulatory gladhanding at the Sunnyside Country Club on Wednesday, however, several people noted that the job is only half done.

Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, a Fresno Democrat, said reaching legislative consensus on a new bond proposal is just "phase one of a very big, momentous occasion. I say phase one because the voters still have to vote this coming November and that is why we're here today -- to educate the voters, make sure the voters understand what's really at stake with this water bond."

It was a recurring theme during the news conference.

"Guess what?" said Assembly Member Frank Bigelow, R-O'Neals. "This day is the day it starts. This is the day we start campaigning statewide to see this bond passed in this November's election."

Cannella called it "a turning point in California. Now it's important that we get this passed in November."

As such, a campaign blitz will come over the next few months, Perea predicted.

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to campaign for the bond, Perea said. And he plans to tap his own ballot measure fund -- which had close to $80,000 as of June 30 -- to pay for a Fresno television ad campaign supporting the project.

Several prominent central San Joaquin Valley farmers and ranchers were on hand Wednesday, and that community is likely to play a major role in helping bankroll the campaign.

The bond proposal includes $2.7 billion for storage projects, which was important to the Valley ag industry and to the regional legislative delegation. Local supporters want that money for the Sites Reservoir in Colusa County, as well as Temperance Flat northeast of Fresno.

"We think we can do it for $2.7 (billion)," Cannella said.