California lawmakers haven't finished maneuvering to get a new water bond on the ballot in November, but opponents have already begun mobilizing.
Critics of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to build massive water conveyance tunnels under the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta are launching a political action committee to battle any water bond that could facilitate the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Their goal is to raise at least $1 million for the effort.
"If there's backdoor BDCP funding, we're going after it," said Steve Hopcraft, a spokesman for the anti-tunnel group Restore the Delta.
The water bond proposals flowing through the Legislature explicitly forbid any money going to the tunnels themselves, and the lawmakers pushing their bond measures have taken pains to disentangle the push for a new water bond from the deeply contentious Delta tunnels debate.
But the key water bond bills all include money for safeguarding and replenishing the Delta's ecosystem. For the BDCP to pass muster with regulators it must satisfy the so-called "co-equal goals" of water supply reliability and habitat restoration.
"Legally they cannot build the tunnels unless they fund the mitigation of it, and this is the mitigation," said Hopcraft. "The water exporters are paying for the construction and then they're sticking the taxpayers with the bill for all the mitigation of the damage."
Aiding the effort will be former state senator Mike Machado, a Linden Democrat, and Tom Zuckerman, an attorney for the Central Delta Water Agency and vocal Delta advocate.
If the Legislature does not act, Californians entering voting booths in November will have before them an $11.1 billion bond measure that was initially passed in 2009 but has since been pushed back twice. Advocates of a new bond say the 2009 measure is too costly and unwieldy to win approval.
PHOTO: Aerial photo of the region to be affected by the Delta water tunnels and intakes in the Courtland area on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.