Agriculture

Lawmakers seek to leverage $12bil Calif. surplus for water projects

Will California’s historic budget surplus mean the drought-ridden state will finally see the flow of dollars to water projects?

That’s the goal of a new bill being tendered by Sens. Andreas Borgeas (R–Fresno) and Jim Nielsen (R–Red Bluff).

The pair of Republican lawmakers rolled out Senate Bill 890 on Tuesday, seeks to create a Water Storage and Conveyance Fund, an eight-year funding vehicle to help fund badly-needed water projects beyond

In the bill, the authors note that California’s last water bond, 2014’s Proposition 1, has yet to yield a single complete water storage or conveyance project. This comes in the face of California’s Water Commission having allocated $2.7 billion for water storage alone along with appropriating the remaining of bond proceeds to other state-level water initiatives.

As it stands today, the Golden State sits on a $12 billion budget surplus.

In total, the Borgeas-Nielsen water bill seeks to allocate $2.6 billion toward the completion of Sites Reservoir, the state’s largest long-range dam project in decades.

Beyond the hefty price tag to launch Sites Dam, the bill would allocate $230 million in grant funds for the Friant Water Authority to restore capacity on the Friant-Kern Canal.

Last week, Friant water officials officially launched their project to restore capacity on the 33-mile middle reach of the canal in Tulare County.

The bill contains a second grant of $140 million to the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority for capacity increases on the Delta-Mendota Canal.

It also includes appropriations in the amount of $145 million to increase capacity on the San Luis Field division of the California Aqueduct, and $70 million to increase conveyance capacity for the San Joaquin division of the Aqueduct.

“Over the past 40 years, California has not completed a major water storage project of statewide significance despite the state’s population nearly doubling,” the Republican lawmakers wrote in an Op-Ed for CalMatters on Tuesday.

“Without substantial new investments and commitments to capture, store and move water throughout the state, whole communities will be subject to water scarcity and farmers will be unable to produce adequate food supplies, threatening food and national security.”

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.