By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman email: [email protected]
In case you’re wondering what happened to the $2.76 Billion set aside for new dams in California from the November 2014 water bond the answer is simple…nothing
In fact, the scuttlebutt around Sacramento is that the money will continue to lie fallow because none of the contending projects—Temperance Flat near Fresno and Sites Reservoir north of Sacramento—can come up with the 50 percent matching funds to construct the much needed new storage projects.
Cynics are saying that this was the plan all along—bait the voters with promises of new dams in the middle of a drought to raise money for things like “land conservancies” and other environmental causes. It is true that the land conservancies got millions from the water bond already while, in addition to no dams, no serious water projects have been funded from the bond issue.
There is even talk about a new bond issue to be put on the ballot in 2018 that would “repurpose” the dam money for other things—maybe a tunnel or two to move more water from northern California southward.
Precedent for “Repurposing”
Nearly a half billion dollars of the Prop. 1 money comes from earlier bond issues, some passed more than 20 years ago, that were captured and “repurposed” by the 2014 measure.
More recently, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) decided in June to put an end to the 70-year-old I-710 extension fight by abandoning the last plan—a five-mile tunnel from Alhambra to Pasadena, ending at the 210 Freeway. The agency admitted they had only raised $700 million to do the job, not the $5 billion needed to complete the tunnel project.
The money they set aside for the 710 project was guaranteed through Measure R, the sales tax increase passed by L.A. county voters in 2008. The funds will be “repurposed,” but must be used in the same area and to achieve the same goal as the 710 extension under the sales tax.
Metro plans to spend about $100 million on some small stuff already covered by Caltrans in the most recent 710 Environmental Impact Review, including synchronizing traffic lights, improving freeway ramps, building new sound walls and adding bike lanes.
Metro plans to “repurpose” the other $600 million, but whatever they come up with will likely have to undergo a new environmental review process, so don’t look for anything to happen for at least ten years.