CalTrout has been actively involved over the past few weeks, and especially over the last couple of days, in the water bond negotiations. On Tuesday, Curtis Knight, CalTrout’s Conservation Director, was in Sacramento as part of a diverse group that met with the Governor to put forth a water bond proposal.
After final negotiations last night, the Governor and legislative leadership voted on and approved a $7.545 billion bond. The ongoing severe drought in California underscores the need to invest in innovative, long-term solutions to California’s water future. CalTrout believes the Water Bond of 2014 provides the right balance of investment to facilitate sustainable water management in California. Here are some highlights…
- $1.495 billion—Protecting Rivers, Lakes, Streams, Coastal Waters and Watersheds
The Water Bond will support priority on-the-ground watershed restoration work, with funding distributed in a way that will ensure an equitable investment of these funds across the state, from our coastal wetlands to our inland rivers, lakes and streams. Funding will go to existing conservancies and for the first time ever the Department of Fish and Wildlife will receive allocated funding. It provides funding for the state’s obligation for Klamath dam removal ($250 million), fish passage, addressing impacts of climate change, watershed restoration projects, land acquisition and instream flow enhancements (acquisition of water rights).
- $810 million—Regional Water Security, Climate, and Drought Preparedness
Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM), including funding for water recycling, groundwater management, water supply and other projects. While CalTrout has had mixed success working within the IRWM framework, we recognize the value of this program, and support inclusion of significant funds for its continuation. CalTrout is actively involved in IRWM projects in the Eastern Sierra.
- $2.7 billion—Statewide water System Operational Improvement and Drought Preparedness
This is water storage which could potentially lead to new dams and was the sticking point for many Republicans. They wanted $3 billion for Los Voqueros Reservoir expansion, building Temperence Flat (on San Joaquin above Millerton Reservoir) and Sites Reservoir (off channel storage west of Colusa in Central Valley). To build any of these surface storage project would also require a substantial user (water districts, irrigations districts) pay match.
The Water Storage provision remains the most controversial for CalTrout. We remain concerned about how and where water storage dollars will be appropriated. We understand priorities for where to spend these dollars are on two projects—an expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in the East Bay and newly constructed Sites Reservoir, an off channel reservoir west of I-5 in the Sacramento Valley. The other project that gets mentioned is Temperance Flat, a new dam just above Millerton Reservoir (Friant Dam) on the San Joaquin.
These funds can also be used for groundwater storage, conjunctive use and reservoir re-operations—important points we lobbied for. Groundwater storage has huge potential and needed to part of this mix.
- $725 million—Water Recycling
This section was very important to Southern California legislators—storm water runoff, salt water intrusion mitigation, etc.
- $900 million—Groundwater Sustainability
Another important section that provides funding to implement groundwater reform legislation we are actively supporting. Groundwater treatment, storage and sustainable management. Conjunctive use of surface and groundwater supplies is critical to preparing for future droughts in California. The Water Bond is coordinated with pending groundwater management reform legislation.
- $520 million—Clean, Safe and Reliable Drinking Water
- $395 million—Flood Management
We worked hard on this section to make it not just about levees. We secured language that calls for projects to be multi-benefit projects—public safety and river healthy. This ties into our work at Knagg’s Ranch and provides potential funding for future floodplain projects.
During drought times we need to find collaborative solutions that work for people and fish. Trout, steelhead and salmon are important indicators of watershed health and are important drivers of many rural and coastal economies. Work done to improve the status of these species directly benefits safe drinking water supplies, water quality, and the economic health of all Californians. We believe this water bond is a step in that direction.