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Jim Metropulos:"Vote ‘no’ on the water bond Vote ‘no’ on the water bond

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: March 31, 2010 10:33 p.m.
Updated: April 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.

What if you could vote to save money, water and the environment all at once?

This November, Santa Clarita Valley voters will get a chance to vote on a huge $11.1 billion infrastructure bond. I hope you will join the Sierra Club in voting “no” when you see the bond this fall. Many simpler solutions within our reach are far less expensive than dams, and are faster and more cost-effective to implement.

Between homes and farms, California is thirstier than ever. So why vote “no” on a water infrastructure bond?

Vote “no” because this bond is not the best way to spend Santa Clarita taxpayer money. With our state staring down dire financial problems and the prospect of another budget deficit, this bond would obligate taxpayers to pay back more than $800 million in bond debt every year for the next 30 years.

These payments would further stress our general fund, providing $800 million less for schools, parks, social services and police protection and fire services. It seems unwise to add these huge annual payments to a budget with a projected shortfall of $21 billion by 2011.

As the Legislature struggles to balance the budget in future years, you and your neighbors will see cutbacks to much-needed school, police or fire department services in order to provide the debt service for this bond.   

Vote “no” because the state already has money to spend. Since 1996, California voters have approved more than $14.3 billion in water-related bonds. The Sierra Club supported and — voters approved in 2002 — Proposition 50, a $3.4 billion water bond, and Proposition 84, $5.4 billion water and parks bond, in 2006. To this day, $7.1 billion of those bond dollars have not been spent.

Shouldn’t the state spend this money prior to asking the voters to authorize more water bonds? It simply does not make financial sense to add more bond funding when similar funding is already available for many of the proposed projects.

Vote “no” to promote common sense. This bond would also not address our water problems in the most efficient way. It allocates only a  relatively small amount of $250 million for conservation and $1 billion for water recycling programs, but includes $4 billion to build new dams and expand existing ones.

California can’t afford $4 billion to finance environmentally destructive projects. Dams harm fish and other wildlife, reduce biodiversity and harm the natural habitat.

Vote “no” to save water. Dams are terribly inefficient. Each year more than a half-million acre-feet of water evaporate from reservoirs, unused.

A Temperance Flat dam would divert water from the San Joaquin River, and the off-stream Sites Reservoir would divert water from the Sacramento River. Both these projects could potentially be funded from the water bond and would take years, if not decades, to complete — not to mention substantial additional funding from the taxpayers. If built, neither of these projects would provide more water to the Santa Clarita Valley.

Vote “no” to provide water for your community. Many of the answers to our water woes can be addressed much more economically in our own communities.  

Santa Clarita water agencies have already moved to promote assistance for families in replacing old, inefficient toilets, washing machines and shower heads, and dedicated revenue streams for repairing and replacing leaking pipes and mains are lost-cost answers that are already moving forward on and funding.

Spending on environmentally friendly projects will benefit families and neighborhoods. Promoting conservation, water recycling, storm water recapture and the cleanup of polluted groundwater basins will benefit local communities and save money. Think of the long-term savings found by spending on conservation in agriculture alone.

Vote “no” to save money, water and our environment. In a down economy, saving water should be just as important as saving money. Think of it as “ecological stimulus” — spending money to save water benefits businesses, farmers, families and the environment.

At the Sierra Club, we think spending money on expensive dams and outmoded engineering solutions right now is like buying a gas-guzzling Rolls Royce instead of paying the utility bills.

You have a chance this November to vote to protect our precious environment, save Santa Clarita Valley tax dollars and not cause further deterioration to our precarious fiscal condition.  Vote “no” on the water bond.

Jim Metropulos is a senior advocate with the Sierra Club California in Sacramento. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Environmentally Speaking” appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.


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