March 1, 2016

The Porterville Recorder Editorial: Study new water initiative closely


The proposed ballot initiative being pushed by the California Water Alliance has some merit, but it also raises some serious questions.

On its surface, taking money from the High Speed Rail project, which is increasingly losing support, and putting that money into more water projects, sounds like a good idea. But, forming a new state agency to oversee water issues sounds like creating an entirely new bureaucracy that could only end up costing taxpayers.

The Alliance is collecting signatures now in hopes of getting the measure on the November general election ballot. While it seems to have support, some farm groups have come out against it, warning it would divert $2.7 billion in water-storage money which was approved by voters when they approved Proposition 1. They say that action would further delay projects such as Sites Dam near Sacramento and Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River above Fresno.

There is probably a lot of support for diverting money from the High Speed Rail project which seems to be having trouble getting out of the station. That project is already expected to cost a lot more than promised, not run as fast as promised and fares appear will be much higher than promised. Little has been done since voters approved the $9.9 billion ballot measure in 2008 and it will be years before any trains are moving, if at all. Lawsuits have been filed to block it, support by lawmakers is cooling and no federal or private funds are expected.

However, the supporters of the water bill will need to convince ag groups that the bill will not upset what progress has been made to develop more water storage in the state. And, they will have to convince voters it will not divert money from Prop. 1 to unintended projects.

We expect the measure to pass simply because of the growing unhappiness with the High Speed Rail project, but voters will have to study the new initiative to ensure it does more good than harm.

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