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Farm groups cheer California water bond proposal

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

Farm groups in California hailed the $7.5 billion water bond measure agreed to by Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers. The measure, which will appear on the November ballot, would include $2.7 billion for storage.

Capital Press

SACRAMENTO — California farm groups are pleased with the $7.5 billion water bond measure crafted by Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers, which would include $2.7 billion for storage.

Groups such as the California Farm Bureau Federation insisted that whatever new bond measure was negotiated this year maintain the $3 billion for dams and reservoirs included in the original $11.1 billion bond passed by the Legislature in 2009.

But as the measure was being scaled back to make it more palatable to voters, most agriculture advocates believed they got the best proposal they could hope for.

“I feel good about it,” said California Citrus Mutual president Joel Nelsen, who has been involved in negotiations with Brown and lawmakers for the past several weeks.

“I think we got a lot,” he told the Capital Press. In addition to money for storage, “there are a lot of other things in there that will help individual growers, such as more money for the groundwater issues that exist in the valley,” he said.

As it is, the bond measure that passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature on Aug. 13 and was promptly signed by Brown would likely provide money for the long-discussed Sites Reservoir west of Maxwell, Calif., as well as another reservoir northeast of Fresno.

Other provisions would include $900 million to replenish and clean up groundwater, $810 million for drought preparedness, $725 million for water recycling and $520 million to cleanse some small communities’ drinking water supply, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The measure was a compromise with lawmakers after Brown proposed a $6 billion bond, including just $2 billion for storage.

“The $2 billion just wasn’t going to cut it,” Nelsen said. “Even if it passed, we had nothing. Certain farm groups went for $2.5 billion, but it didn’t guarantee either specific storage facility to be built and there was no cross-valley connector, so there was no way to move the water from Point A to Point B. I told the governor that for the rest of us, it wasn’t good enough.”

Nelsen said some money in the bond would be set aside for regional conveyance to move water to the east side of the valley.

CFBF president Paul Wenger noted that language in the measure would prevent future Legislatures from redirecting money from storage to other uses. In a statement, he said the bond would reverse “30 years of neglecting our water-storage system.”

Western Growers president and CEO Tom Nassif agreed, declaring in a statement that the legislation putting the measure on the ballot “is an essential first step in adding capacity to our state’s existing storage infrastructure.”

The measure will appear on the ballot as Proposition 1. Since 1970, California voters have approved 15 of the 16 water bonds they’ve been asked to consider, the Mercury News noted.

Nelsen said he was glad to hear Brown pledge to campaign for the measure.

“I’m confident that … as more people are impacted by the drought, more people will recognize why this bond measure is so important to the future of California,” Nelsen said.


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