This column was originally published in Fox & Hounds on Friday, April 27
Many of my Central Valley legislative colleagues are furious that the staff at Governor Jerry Brown’s Water Commission have rigged the system so the recently announced proposed funding for Temperance Flat Reservoir is just that – flat.
It’s not surprising that environmentally-oriented staff at the California Water Commission (and other state agencies such as the State Water Resources Control Board or the multitude of regional water boards) would come down in favor of fish over people.
I hate to say it but it also won’t be surprising to see Brown and his appointees on the Water Commission go along with their staff recommendation and stiff the Central Valley.
Governor Brown has never respected the Central Valley as demonstrated by his stubbornness against spraying for the medfly during his first stint as Governor to more recently forcing an unwanted High Spending Rail onto us which is destroying our family homes, businesses and farms.
Even Brown’s “Twin Tunnels” project to divert water from the Delta is now really just aimed at helping his friends in Los Angeles. Most of this water will flow through the Central Valley non-stop to Southern California.
The Proposition 1 water bond (which was approved by 67% of the voters in 2014) was originally drafted and passed by the legislature back in 2009. For a variety of mostly political reasons it was postponed going on the ballot for five years and ultimately parred back from an $11 billion water bond to one of only $7 billion before it hit the ballot.
Most critical was that the original amount dedicated to water storage projects (such as Temperance Flat or Sites Reservoir) was cut from $3 billion to $2.75 billion. Brown and even some rogue farm groups had tried to cut it back to under $2 billion. (That foolish idea was beaten back by Central Valley legislators but that’s another story.)
Adding insult to injury, the Water Commission’s staff recently recommended giving almost $1 billion to Sites Reservoir but only a lousy $170 million to Temperance Flat.
Why the funding gap between the two?
Again, Brown’s long history of treating the Central Valley with neglect and disdain is partly to blame.
The other reason is that Brown has announced when he leaves office next year he will retire to family-owned land up in Colusa County that is being “modernized” with money his Dad made from Indonesia oil deals decades ago. Colusa County unsurprisingly is also the home of the proposed Sites Reservoir.
To the detriment of those needing water from Temperance Flat, Brown is using state funding to curry favor with his future neighbors in Colusa County who overwhelmingly support building Sites Reservoir.
As the late Speaker Tip O’Neill once said – all politics is local.
There is a little bit of good news for the area of the Central Valley I represent – of the Proposition 1 money set aside for water quality and improvement projects, over $52 million (29%) has already gone out to water projects in Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. An additional $121 million is still in the pipeline for these four counties.
Thank goodness for small favors.
Andy Vidak proudly represents the residents of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties.