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Prop. 3 Would Provide Funds For California Water Projects, But Opponents Argue Few Will See The Benefits

lyssah / Flickr

lyssah / Flickr

Should a bond for both habitat restoration and water-infrastructure projects be paid for by all Californians or just the groups that would directly benefit? That's up for voters to decide.

Proposition 3 would authorize $8.9 billion in state bonds for water-related infrastructure and environmental projects, including $30 million for repairs along the American River. But with interest it could cost Californians more than $17 billion.

The measure is packed full of funds for restoring parkways along rivers, wetlands and the coast. It could also improve infrastructure to failing water projects, including dam repairs. The bonds would be paid for with General Fund revenues.

“It does dramatically improve our state water supply,” said Gerald Meral, who helped author the measure. “We estimate there'll be enough water provided through Proposition 3 to serve 3 million families in California.”

He said the funds could also help some of the state's most disadvantaged with $750 million for contaminated groundwater clean-up.

"I think that's the most important feature,” said Meral of future state grants for water contamination solutions like wells and clean-up facilities. “Many of these communities have arsenic and boron and nitrates in their drinking water.”

But opponents say the funds are a gift to farm and water interests, especially in the Central Valley where the over-pumping of groundwater has led to major subsidence, the sinking of land. This sinking has caused damage to canals and other infrastructure.

Ron Stork with the environmental group Friends of the River opposed Proposition 3, and said many of the projects it would fund are supposed to be self-sustaining.

“That was the promise made to citizens of California and this bond steps over the line,” Stork said.

Opponents say there also isn't enough planned oversight of how the funds will be used.

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