By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman email: [email protected]
Have you been wondering where the $7.545 billion approved by voters 18 months ago was spent? Me too, so before meeting with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, during a trip to Sacramento April 29th, I wanted to be prepared to discuss Proposition 1 (which he authored) in an intelligent way. Prop. 1 was supposed to help replace our aging waterlines, provide additional treatment and storage for stormwater runoff, flood protection, groundwater, etc.
Here’s What I Found
The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) administers this bond money that was approved by the voters over 18 months ago. Knowing that this could be a great opportunity for ECA members, we requested that someone from the CNRA attend the membership meeting and discuss this bond so we could hopefully bid on some of the work that would be generated by this bond.
The CNRA representative was reportedly ill and didn’t show. Not to be deterred ECA met with Janelle Beland, the Under Secretary for CNRA, to show our concern and interest in anticipation of work for our contractors and affiliates of the ECA when she attended a water conference in Southern California.
In July of 2015 during a visit to Sacramento I stopped in and visited with Janelle again and she was kind enough to show me around the office of CNRA, introduced me to the administration staff including the Secretary/Director John Laird. I thanked them for their time and stated our eagerness to start work on any projects that might come from this bond.
During my research for the meeting with Speaker Rendon, I went to the website of the CNRA and discovered that as of March 15, 2016 only $163,681.57 had been spent so far, .0022 percent of the original $7.545 billion.
Disbelief, disheartening, disgusted, dumfounded, depressed, I don’t know what adjectives best describes my thoughts after researching their website to find where the money has gone.
Speaker Rendon seemed embarrassed by this lack of action. We think we can count on him to shepherd appropriations from the bond funds through the legislature this session to really get the money into projects.
The CNRA points to a 56-page spreadsheet showing where the money is “allocated” but that isn’t the same thing as money actually spent on projects. Millions of the allocation will go for “administration” and other non-project spending like “research” and “climate change.”
ECA will continue to investigate and question where the money is and when we can get to work.