Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Coming California Water Rip-Off

The California Legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have approved a convoluted “water deal” that is supposed to quench the thirst of California individuals, farmers and local governments.

Yet beyond the hype, this water deal — which goes to the voters on the November 2010 ballot – will not build more dams and doesn’t fix California’s worsening water crisis. At its core, the water deal is fiscally irresponsible. It would mean more bureaucracy and more government ownership of land. It would actually remove existing dams without providing guarantees to build new ones. It gives $6.4 BILLION in our taxpayer dollars to liberal environmentalists’ projects. And it raises the price of water on us all, taxing us for alleged "overuse".

Sacramento’s bad water deal will raise your rates if you have a yard or children. Regular users will suffer, the government will control more land, and the environmental wackos will control more government. Why don’t we have enough water? It because, under pressure from utopia-seeking "Wild and scenic river" environmentalist groups, the liberal Democrats who run the California Legislature and our RINO Republican governor refuse to build more dams to store water year-round.

Having water throughout the year requires storage during the dry months. Yet California hasn’t built a new dam since 1968, despite the population doubling since that time. What’s in the new water plan you get to vote on next year? Pork for the same environmental groups that oppose new dams!

Here is what the water deal claims about itself, followed by what will really happen:
1. “Authorizes an $11.14 billion bond measure to pay for dams, underground water banking, water recycling, Delta restoration and dozens of regional projects.”
Sounds good, right? But BONDS ARE NOT FREE MONEY. We cannot afford another $11.14 billion in debt, which will cost more than twice that amount to repay. Unlike the federal government, California has no way to print money or inflate away the value of its debt; we have no choice but to pay back every penny, with interest. Even if there are catastrophes and crises in the future, we still need to pay back this pork-barrel bond first. That is fiscally irresponsible.
2. “Provide assurances about a proposed Delta water diversion canal. It would prevent the Department of Water Resources from starting construction until the Water Resources Control Board approves a diversion permit for the project....That diversion permit must specify ‘flow criteria’ that set new stream-flow requirements to improve Delta habitat.....Water contractors must sign contracts to pay for the canal project and to offset property tax losses to Delta counties.....The canal, as proposed by the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, must help endangered species recover, as required by the Natural Communities Conservation Plan, a higher standard than species protection, called for by current federal rules. Without this enhanced standard, state funding can’t flow.”
Despite all the hype, this bond does not authorize or require the construction of the peripheral canal. Like a magician re-directing the public’s attention while secretly pulling a “magic” coin from his pocket, this water bond is designed to trick both sides into seeing what they want to see about the peripheral canal. People who want the canal think that this bond will smooth the way for it, even though it does very little to accomplish that goal. People who don’t want the canal think that the bond deal will kill it by placing even more legal obstacles to prevent its construction. The former are wrong, the latter are correct.
3. "Create new Delta Stewardship Council, which must prepare a comprehensive, long-term ‘Delta Plan’ by Jan. 1, 2012. The council can require state agencies to follow the Delta Plan....Reform the existing Delta Protection Commission so that it expands Delta recreation; promotes agriculture; seeks federal status for the Delta as a ‘place of special significance’; and promotes emergency preparedness, appropriate land use and strategic levee investments.”
THERE IS ALREADY A DELTA PROTECTION COMMISSION; WHY IN THE HELL DO WE NEED A DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL??? This horrible deal creates a new layer of government, which will not only waste taxpayers’ money, it will make it more difficult to resolve our water problems because there will be one more hurdle to getting anything done.
4. “Create Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, which will receive funds and make grants for habitat restoration activities from a pool of $2 billion set aside for Delta sustainability, restoration and conservation projects. This can include flood protection projects and ecosystem restoration associated with Bay Delta Conservation Plan. However, no bond money may be used for canal planning, construction, operation, maintenance.”
Yet another duplicative layer of government! This new conservancy guarantees that there will be yet another agency to create new hurdles to prevent common sense solutions to our water problems. What is worse, the primary mission of this new Conservancy is to acquire even more public lands in a state where three-fifths of the land is already owned by federal or state government. Only about 8% of our state is currently available for development, but the Legislature is creating another Conservancy to put even more land off limits to economic activity. If history repeats itself, this new Conservancy will squander taxpayers’ money to purchase private land from special interests at inflated prices, and then barbed wire fences will be erected to keep the public off lands that they paid for. (Anyone who is not familiar with this process should visit the huge tracks of public lands that were acquired several years ago in the Sutter Buttes in Colusa County. Aside from the millions spent to acquire the land from private owners, the state’s only “investment” in the last few years has been to install locked gates and “Keep Out” signs.)
5. “Provide $400 million for ‘drought relief’ that may pay cities for water that’s instead used to improve Delta flows; $250 million for a Klamath River dam removal project (plus up to $20 million to offset Siskiyou County economic impacts); $60 million for salmon migration projects in Sacramento River watershed; and $50 million in matching grants to improve upstream wastewater treatment.”
This is an eco-Luddite's wet dream, along with more special interest “pork” spending that California taxpayers cannot afford. It makes no sense for taxpayers in San Diego or Redding to pay for so-called drought relief in the Bay Area. Removing the dams along the Klamath River is criminally insane. It costs boatloads of money, destroys the local economy, exacerbates our electricity crisis, and does not necessarily help the salmon at all. The California Republican Party just unanimously passed a resolution against this particular act of insanity, so it will be interesting to see if any Republican legislators paid attention.
6. “Require 20 percent water conservation statewide by 2020; provide several paths to local water agencies for achieving this; agencies that fail will not be eligible for state water grants.”
The conservation mandate implies that water saved in one part of the state is automatically available to water users everywhere else, but that concept is ridiculous. In many cases, all the water “saved” will simply flow into the ocean, just as it would have done if it had been “used” and then treated. There is no net gain and no purpose served, excite to expand the size and power of government bureaucrats. Worst of all, San Francisco and many Democrat coastal strongholds are exempt from this statewide conservation mandate! What does that tell you????
7. “Increase statewide debt load, though half of the bonds can’t be sold until after 2015 to minimize negative impacts.”
The last thing we need is more debt for our state! How do we know that conditions will be better in 2015 than they are now?
8. “Provide $1.9 billion for regional water management; $1.5 billion for watershed protection projects; $500 million for groundwater protection projects; $500 million for water recycling and conservation for urban and agricultural users.”
Nothing that actually increases supply other than water recycling! Moreover, we have passed at least four other water bonds in the last decade that did this sort of thing. Add this to the $2 billion allocated for “Delta sustainability, restoration and conservation projects,” and the usual Luddite "environmental" groups that are more concerned about fish and plants than people will get $6.4 billion in this terrible deal.
9. “Require statewide monitoring of groundwater supplies, starting Jan. 1, 2012.”
This might be the most insidious part of this water deal: when you strip out the rhetoric and focus on what they are really trying to do, you find out that this is nothing but a thinly-disguised scheme to increase taxes. For years, the liberals have sought every possible excuse to force people with private wells to pay taxes on the water they are pumping out of their own ground at their own expense. It appears that they have finally achieved their goal. The bond talks about “groundwater monitoring” as if it will be done by the Tooth Fairy at no cost to property owners, but the reality is that property owners (or the people who own the water, at least) will be forced to pay taxes for government bureaucrats to install water meters, check the water meters, and threaten people who use “too much” of what is by property rights their own water.
10. “Allocate $3 billion for potential new dams, but only the ‘public benefit’ portion of those projects, such as ecosystem flows, flood control, recreation.”
This is another magician’s trick. The water deal will not build any new dams, even if it appears that it creates a hypothetical possibility that dams will be built if an infinite number of conditions are met.

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