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Tracking Prop 1

If agriculture doesn't count what's the point?

Feb 08, 2018

In our last newsletter (Ag Is Public Benefit!!) we explained how the California Water Commission doesn't regard agriculture as a public benefit, so when advocates make their presentation to the Commission they have to make the case for what the water will be used for that is a public benefit. 

What does the Commission allow as public benefits?  The Oroville Mercury News reports that the Prop 1 language "limits the money’s use to achieve five public benefits: ecosystem benefits, water quality, flood control, emergency response and recreation."  Nothing about agriculture. 

Of course, the only reason we want to build Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir is for the benefit of agriculture, but if ag doesn't count what's the point?  The Commission awards points based on their list of public benefits.  Proponents submit their estimates of how much benefit their projects will give in monetary terms.  The proponents of Temperance Flat say the public benefits of the project are $2.86 for every $1.00 spent.  In the Commission's initial response they said the public benefit was ZERO.  After further review they bumped that up to TEN CENTS.  Proponents were given 3 additional weeks to further make their case.  If they can't at least show $1.00 benefit for each $1.00 invested, they have no chance. 
The San Francisco Chronicle reported “This (language of Prop 1) is to keep folks from just building big water-supply projects,” said Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center, noting that many reservoirs have historically been highly subsidized affairs that serve specific interests. “In most of these big projects in the past, if the people who benefited from the water had to pay for it, they couldn’t afford it.”

In the Sacramento Bee Maurice Hall, EDF(Environmental Defense Fund) said - “Historically, the state has used water storage mostly for supplying water to farms and cities, so figuring out how to best use water storage for environmental purposes is a new challenge that requires innovative thinking and new approaches. So it’s not surprising that the evaluation of the public benefits of these projects has been especially challenging. I encourage the California Water Commission, state agency staff and the project proponents to embrace this challenge and advance projects that deliver the environmental benefits and water supply resilience that California needs.”

The NRDC's Doug Obegi wrote on their website "As I wrote in 2014, Temperance Flat was a boondoggle that was economically infeasible and environmentally harmful. This dam would worsen environmental conditions in the San Joaquin River and threatens the restoration of salmon to the river, and the limited water supply from this project would be prohibitively expensive for farmers.  That won’t stop boosters for Temperance Flat and other projects from trying to make their case for their flawed projects. But it appears that the staff from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Water Resources Control Board, California Water Commission are doing what the voters entrusted them to do."

If you can't see the writing on the wall, you're just not looking.

Editorial: State drags its feet on water bond funding

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