At Heal the Ocean (HTO), we about dropped our drawers at The Indy‘s recommendation for a “no” vote on Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (“Water Bond”) on the November 4 ballot!
We agree with The Santa Barbara Independent that the building of new dams is not the solution to the drought and that dams are no good for the environment — but why did The Independent focus so narrowly on dams when the Water Bond never specifies that dams be built? Yes, there is $2.7 billion in this bond for water storage projects, dams, and reservoirs. Why did The Indy get stuck on the word “dams,” when building of dams isn’t likely, but by definition is included in the meaning of “storage”? Right now we need reservoirs to hold recycled water; right now we should be de-silting Gibraltar and Jameson to hold more water when the rains finally come. When it comes to “dams,” the Water Bond doesn’t say they will be built, and with today’s environmental safeguards, HTO doesn’t think a dam would get past CEQA.
The list of needs that are covered in this bond, which The Indy throws in as a P.S. list and which could “help right now — conservation, reuse, and recycling” are within this Water Bond in spades!
The $725 million for recycling projects, which is included in this bond, is of particular interest to Heal the Ocean because this is the crucial funding needed for converting wastewater plants, now discharging into the ocean, into recycled water plants with high quality water for use on land! (Carpinteria Sanitary District is already doing a facilities plan for producing recycled water with reverse osmosis, and there is no way this plant could be built without state financial help!)
There is also $520 million to improve water quality, reducing and preventing drinking water contaminates; $1.4 billion for ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects; $810 for regional water management plan projects; and $900 million to clean up contamination of groundwater that serves as a source of drinking water. All of these subjects Heal the Ocean has been working on 24/7.
Could this Water Bond be better? Yes. It was an enormous fight in the California Assembly (originally starting out as $11 billion) to get language that would successfully be approved by Governor Brown so that it could make its way to the November ballot. Heal the Ocean watched this fight with extreme interest, and with calls to our elected representatives for updates and information and with high hopes it would make the ballot. We were hoping the word “dams” would disappear also, along with a lot of “pork” that did disappear.
To get this Water Bond moving off dead center, everyone on both sides had to compromise. And that is the crux of the issue: compromise, the lack of which has stymied the U.S. Congress into paralysis and the inability to get anything done.
It will be a long, long time — if ever — before California again gets funding for crucial water projects like those offered with Prop. 1. To say “no” to this measure because the word “dams” is included within possible storage mechanisms is quite literally throwing the baby out with the bath water, if you will pardon our expression, and is so very damaging. Please vote “yes” on Proposition 1!
Hillary Hauser is executive director of Heal the Ocean.