A coalition of local leaders gathered Thursday at the Friant-Kern Canal near Millerton Lake to formally launch the Yes on Prop 3 campaign in support of a state water bond they say would bring billions of dollars in much-needed relief to the central San Joaquin Valley.
The speakers included Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno; Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford; Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno; state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford and Fresno Mayor Lee Brand.
“For far too long, we’ve been left out of too many bonds,” Valadao said to open the news conference. “This is a direct funding source that will actually deliver dollars to the community here.”
Proposition 3 would authorize $8.9 billion in general obligation bonds for various infrastructure repair and maintenance programs, wastewater treatment upgrades, safe drinking water improvements and environmental conservancy efforts such as fishery improvements and groundwater replenishment.
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The coalition praised specifically a section that would use $750 million to repair the Friant-Kern and Madera canals.
It also voiced support for a provision that would send $250 million to “disadvantaged communities,” many of which are located in the Valley, for wastewater treatment. Another $500 million would address communities that have lost access to safe drinking water, many in the Valley.
Costa, one of few Democrats in attendance, said the bipartisan Proposition 3 “goes a long way in fixing our broken water system.”
“It invests in our future, and you know – that’s the challenge living in California,” Costa said. “We’re living off the investments our parents and our grandparents made generations ago. This is an important step forward.”
Patterson noted that nearly half of the $8.9 billion would be used in the Valley one way or another, which he said is rare because Central California is often left behind in statewide initiatives.
He also foreshadowed grim times for local agriculture should the bond measure not pass.
“Absent this action, almost one-third of the land currently farmed locally could very well go out of production,” Patterson said. “It will devastate our economy. It will kill jobs, and it will put local services in deep jeopardy.”
Proposition 3 requires a simple majority to pass in November. July polling from the Public Policy Institute of California indicated 58 percent of likely voters surveyed would support the new water bond.