The Legislature has a rare opportunity to fund critical water projects using part of the state’s $12 billion budget surplus.
By Jim Nielsen
State Senator Jim Nielsena Republican from Roseville, represents California’s 4th Senate district.
Andreas Borgeas, Special for CalMatters
State Senator Andreas Borgeasa Republican from Fresno, represents California’s 8th Senate district.
In the past 40 years, California has not completed a major water storage project of statewide significance despite the state’s population doubling.
Without substantial new investments and commitments to capture, store and move water across the state, entire communities will face water scarcity and farmers will be unable to produce adequate food supplies, threatening food security and national.
California’s failure to plan for drought conditions is forcing farmers to fallow hundreds of thousands of acres — many on the brink of ruin. In addition to the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers, workers, truckers, veterinarians, packers and others who make up California’s agriculture industry, we need to look at our own food security.
We cannot simply conserve or recycle our way out of current and future droughts. More water storage and infrastructure is a fundamental part of the solution.
As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee (Andreas Borgeas) and Deputy Chairman of the Budget Committee (Jim Nielsen), we feel a great sense of urgency to find solutions to the mismanagement of the water system of California. That’s why we’re introducing Senate Bill 890 to help facilitate the construction of water storage by making significant investments in California’s surface water storage and transportation infrastructure.
Specifically, SB 890 would establish the Water Storage and Transportation Fund, providing $2.6 billion to meet site reservoir funding needs and increasing the budget to repair the Friant Canals by $685 million. -Kern and Delta-Mendota and the San Luis Field and San Joaquin divisions. of the California Aqueduct.
Proposition 1, approved by voters in 2014, earmarked $2.7 billion for above-ground water storage projects. One such project – Sites Reservoir in Northern California – would help the state store an additional 1.5 million acre-feet of water. However, bureaucracy, environmental pushback, and insufficient funding to meet rising construction costs prevented him from making any meaningful progress. Not a single new drop of water has been stored since voters adopted this initiative.
Another example is last year’s Senate Bill 559, a bipartisan bill that would have provided significant funding to repair several Central Valley transportation systems, including the Friant-Kern Canal. The southernmost third of Friant-Kern has lost 60% of its ability to carry water, and farms, towns and rural communities that depend on the canal are losing up to 300,000 acre-feet of water per year in deliveries.
Similarly, the diversion capacity of the Delta-Mendota canal has decreased by 30% at its terminus. With knowledge of these major shortcomings in our transportation systems, the majority party stripped SB 559 of its funding for these projects, despite the state possessing a huge budget surplus.
The Legislative Assembly has a rare opportunity to fund these critical water infrastructure projects using a portion of the $12 billion in excess taxpayer revenue already collected. Under state law, when revenues exceed the state’s spending limit — the Gann limit — infrastructure projects can be funded using general fund revenues.
Senate Republicans are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature to dedicate some of the state’s surplus funds to storing much-needed water. Completion of the site reservoir and repairs to the Central Valley canals would go a long way to preserving public health, protecting the environment, and maintaining economic viability.
In addition, heads of state must remove bureaucracy and obstacles that block or kill water storage and transportation projects behind the scenes. We must protect people and communities while ensuring stable food supplies and national security.
State Senator Andreas Borgeas also wrote about measures to reopen the California economy as the pandemic took hold.