ECA has been part of the group pushing for the state to release the bond funding approved by the voters nearly four years ago. We’ve received good news for a portion of the heavy civil construction segment—the State Water Commission says it’s going to spend the $2.6 billion approved by voters.
The money will help fund eight reservoirs and other water-storage projects, including the Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley and a small groundwater “bank” in south Sacramento County. Temperance Flat in east Fresno County got less than a 20th of the money needed to actually build a new dam.
The new reservoirs are seen as a way of adding to California’s ability to store water, although buried in the bond legalese is a provision that says the funds can’t solely be used for storage projects, but must include concepts that provide “public benefits”—especially environmental projects to provide more water for fish and other wildlife.
“The entire commission is eager to get all of this money out the door and fund these projects as fast as possible,” said Armando Quintero, the commission’s chairman. They have been holding public hearings and are supposed make a final determination in July.
Reduced Funding Eligibility
Water agencies promoting 11 different projects applied for a share of the Proposition 1 money, but in early February the Water Commission declared that most of them weren’t eligible for nearly as much funding as they requested—awarding roughly a fifth of the funding requested.
Lawmakers and others said the commission was thwarting the will of the voters; one legislator reportedly appeared at a commission meeting dragging a little red wagon full of petitions demanding the money be spent in full.
On April 20th, the commission said eight projects now are considered eligible for almost $2.6 billion in total. That roughly matches the amount of available dollars. Voters authorized $2.7 billion in spending, but the pot shrinks to just under $2.6 billion because of bond-finance “administrative” costs and other expenses the state skims off the top.
The commission says political pressure had nothing to do with the 180-degree change in their position…the applicants have done a “better job” of making their case for the funds according to the bureaucrats in Sacramento…once again demonstrating “process” tops needs of California citizens…until we speak up.
NONE of the storage money will be spent south of Bakersfield, under the bond rules, but we may get some of the water!
By Wes May ECA Executive Director
Email: [email protected]