Public discussions of a revised state water bond for the 2014 ballot were launched Tuesday with release of "proposed principles" by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.
An $11.1 billion bond issue was approved by the Legislature at the behest of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009, coincident with approval of a process that resulted in a proposed twin tunnel project to carry water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
While the tunnel project would be financed by water users south of the Delta, the bond would pay for a number of ancillary projects, including the beginning of work on two new reservoirs, and thus is a battleground for proponents and opponents of the tunnels.
The bond issue was to go on the 2010 ballot but was postponed first to 2012 and then again to 2014 as legislative leaders and Schwarzenegger's successor, Jerry Brown, concluded that it would likely fail. They say the bond issue should be made smaller and eliminate some specific projects that critics termed "pork."
The committee staged a brief discussion of the one-page outline that hinted at the political conflict over how large the bond should be and how the funds should be allocated.
One principle would "prohibit earmarks to specific water projects," which would appear to bar the specific allocations for the two water storage projects that Republicans, backed by farm groups, had insisted on including in the 2009 version, as well as some of the local projects that were placed in the bond for political purposes.
The latter included removal of two power dams on the Klamath River and a parks project in the district of Rep. Karen Bass, who was speaker of the Assembly when the bond was being written.
PHOTO: Water flows back into the Klamath River on Aug. 21, 2009, outside Keno, Ore., after being diverted by J.C. Boyle Dam upstream and running through the powerhouse shown here to make electricity. PacifiCorp announced Sept. 30, 2009 the terms for giving up four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath so they can be removed by the government to help struggling salmon runs. Associated Press/ Jeff Barnard