By Brent Hastey, Yuba Water Agency Board Chairman
In November, voters will face a string of initiatives. As the chairman of the Yuba Water Agency and the president of the Association of California Water Agencies, I encourage you to take a good, hard look at Proposition 3, the Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018.
The Yuba Water Agency Board of Directors voted to support this proposition earlier this year, but ultimately each voter should consider the pros and cons of this measure.
If approved by the voters, the State of California will sell $8.9 billion in bonds to upgrade, repair and modernize California’s water infrastructure. Bonds are not taxes. They are used by governments to supplement their budget to finance projects that meet specific requirements. All state general obligation bonds, such as Proposition 3, require voter approval in California. And none of these funds can be used to fund any part of the California WaterFix project (the Delta twin tunnels).
What Prop 3 could do is provide significant social, economic and environmental benefits for the people of Yuba County. It would make funds available for groundwater management, to improve fish and wildlife habitat, and to meet many other needs. One of the biggest potential benefits for our region is funding for projects that can significantly reduce our flood risk, which is critical to our economic revitalization. Our planned $160 million secondary spillway at New Bullards Bar Dam is an example of a project that could receive significant funding from Proposition 3. This essential project will lessen our flood risk and enhance the safety of the dam.
Our region has been well served by prior bond measures. In the last 20 years, our community has successfully leveraged hundreds of millions in state bond dollars with local and federal funding for important projects. For example, the Feather River Setback Levee, which reduces flood risk in Plumas Lake, Arboga, Linda and Olivehurst and includes more than 1,500 acres of riparian habitat, was largely funded by state bond money.
More recently, our community received a $1.26 million dollar grant from the Department of Water Resources to supplement local funds to help improve drinking water supplies in Gold Village, a disadvantaged community.
Prop 3 is supported by a broad array of agricultural, business and conservation interests, and water organizations such as the Association of California Water Agencies, the Northern California Water Association, Ducks Unlimited, the California Waterfowl Association and hundreds more.
Its opposition, led by the Sierra Club in California, believes that the proposition benefits special interests and not enough Californians to ask all citizens to pay for it. They also express concerns about how the funding will be overseen.
Whatever your thoughts on this issue, the most important thing is that you vote on November 6.