On November 4, 2014, the voters of California approved Proposition 1, The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act that guaranteed $7.5 billion in water project funding, including $2.7 billion to build dams needed to enhance our water supply in times of drought.
Two droughts and eight years later the state continues to waste time over the construction of at least one dam to meet the primary aim of Prop. 1. It’s been 42 years since California added our last storage facility, the New Melones dam in Gold Rush country, built by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since then, California’s number of thirsty people has grown from 23,667,902 to more than 39,538,223 according to the Census Bureau.
Two Republican State Senators, Andreas Borgeas (Fresno), chair of the Agriculture Committee and Jim Nielsen (Roseville) vice chair of the Budget Committee co-authored Senate Bill 890 to establish a Water Storage and Conveyance Fund, providing $2.6 billion to complete funding requirements for Sites Reservoir on the Sacramento River and augmenting by $685 million the budget to repair the state’s failing system of canals and aqueducts that transfer the water from the dams to our faucets. They would pay for this work with 1.5 percent of California’s current $45 billion budget surplus.
SB 890 would combine with Prop.1 funding and money from the new federal infrastructure program to fund construction of the Sites Reservoir, and six other “projects” which survived the little-known California Water Commission’s selection process, only to be bogged down with more environmental pushback and insufficient funding to meet inflation driven construction costs.
Senators Borgeas and Nielsen face two big problems in guiding their solution to California’s water shortage through to passage.
First, they are Republicans swimming in a Democrat Sea in Sacramento. In the current legislative session, the Democratic Party holds 31 out of the 40 seats, which constitutes a 78 percent majority, a threshold that allows the party in power to pass anything it likes.
The second problem is that California’s Democrat Party has a super majority, composed of “urban environmentalists,” which means while they love the environment, the only thing they know about water is that it runs when they turn on the tap.
This was evident when the super majority passed SB 307 back in 2019, authored by State Senator Richard Roth, (DRiverside), that set the precedent to kill any California Environmental Quality Act approved project by loading it up with novel additional regulatory burdens beyond CEQA.