In June, California voters will decide whether to approve another bond issue that is supposed to help with our state’s water woes.

Known as the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018 (SB 5), the new proposition ostensibly provides another $4.1 billion for drought and water issues, but, in reality, the Legislature earmarked most of the funds for creating and maintaining parks in poor urban communities.

According to the bill language, projects for clean drinking water and statewide drought “resilience” will get $250 million, flood protection endeavors will receive $550 million, regional drought “sustainability” and water recycling work will get $390 million and groundwater “sustainability” schemes will get $80 million.

That totals $1.27 billion for actual work and leaves $2.93 billion for playground acquisition and improvements for “disadvantaged communities.”

Flood Protection Solutions

Flood protection solutions funded by the bill include reconnecting rivers to their historical floodplains, building levees and redirecting floodwater to groundwater basins in the Sacramento River basin, with some emphasis on protecting residents of the Central Valley from recurring floods.

On the drought protection side, some of the projects eligible for the bond’s funding include preventing groundwater contamination, increasing streamflow and building more treatment plants that can recycle wastewater into potable water for groundwater recharge.

But there is also a slew of other goals included in S.B. 5, like creating bike paths in rural areas and protecting Native American artifacts and sites. Included in the bill are hundreds of millions of dollars for purchasing land for wildlife protection, protecting and restoring beaches and cleaning up contaminated groundwater.

The new bond also promises to fund a new “management plan” for the Salton Sea, an accidental lake south of Palm Springs. The landlocked “sea” was the result of engineering miscalculations in an irrigation canal in 1905. A cut made in the bank of the Colorado River to increase water flow that year overwhelmed the canal and the river flowed into the Salton Basin (a graben of the San Andreas fault) for two years.

SB 5 is the fourth water bond put before the voters since 2002 totaling $15.5 billion for “clean water, water supply and parks.” No new dams for water storage have been built during that period and none are contemplated in the new proposition.

ECA’s Government Affairs Committee is reviewing this new water bond and we’ll report back on their findings. In the meantime, contractors are wondering: Where’s the $5.4 Billion in Project Money From the Water Bond We Passed in 2014?

By Brandon Pensick, ECA President
Email: [email protected]