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Water package is more litigation, less irrigation

POSTED November 10, 2009 9:06 p.m.
Last week, the California Legislature passed a water package that many lawmakers are lauding as the solution to our state’s problems.  What this dysfunctional legislature really passed is three more layers of unneeded bureaucracy along with a bond that will not create a drop of water for at least 15 years — if at all.
The $11.14 billion bond is actually more than a $22 billion bond when it is fully paid for by the taxpayers.  It was billed as the bond to build water storage and save the Delta, but out of the entire bond less than half is set aside for the Delta and water storage projects – which may or may not be realized, and the rest goes to regional projects and good old fashioned pork.
The State will have to spend $500 -$800 million of the General Fund annually to service the debt incurred by the bond, should it pass.  On top of the $20 billion deficit we’re already facing next year, this means we’ll have to make more cuts or raise taxes while papering over problems for future generations of Californians.
The State’s credit card is maxed out and yet my colleagues passed an $11.14 billion bond for what amounts to less than $3 billion in potential bricks and mortar, which isn’t much when you consider the fast rise of inflation and the slow pace of government to build anything on-time. This creates more litigation and less irrigation.
The next governor will select the members of the commission in charge approving any storage projects. If he is bent on obstructing dam construction, he can simply appoint environmental extremists who will prevent any attempts to fix our water storage problems. These members can then fritter away the money set aside for water storage, thus defeating the reason for passing a bond in the first place.
Many environmentalists supported this package because they want to stunt the growth of the state by shutting off the water spigot. In doing so, they are content with thousands of Californians leaving this state a year, instead of promoting sensible water policy and economic growth.
Now, whether or not California voters decide to pass this water bond, we’re left with a state takeover of our water resources in the Delta, and little say in how it is managed. It essentially creates a Coastal Commission for the Delta.
Some are celebrating this package as a bipartisan compromise, but this deal simply highlights the dysfunction of this institution.
The Legislature declared there is a problem with the governance of the Delta, claiming there are too many agencies with overlapping jurisdiction, creating confusion and gridlock.  But rather than streamlining these regulatory agencies, this Legislature “solved” the problem by creating an extra layer of bureaucracy to oversee the dozens of other bureaucracies.
After witnessing this year’s budget fiasco, somehow I don’t think the voters would agree that the problem with the State government is that it’s not big enough.  But that is exactly the message Sacramento sent by approving this water package.
This is the creation of the late night slight of hand politics that has become the norm in Sacramento. These dead of night “deals” end up in a lose—lose for everyone involved.
I did not support and will continue to oppose this deal, because it is bad for the Delta and worse for California.
— Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, represents the 26th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Ceres, Denair, Escalon, Linden, Lockeford, Manteca, Modesto, Ripon, Stockton and Turlock.                                      

 

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