A bond measure on the CA ballot this Nov. could have major implications for water in Kern County and throughout the Central Valley. Proposition 3, also known as the Water Infrastructure and Watershed Bond Initiative, is one of 11 state-wide measures set to appear on the ballot on Election Day
Supporters say prop 3 would allow the county to import more water from the north and would provide clean water to the state’s disadvantaged communities, but opponents say it’s not good enough.
“This is a bond act and it provides funds for a wide variety of projects programs,” said Gerald Meral, author of the proposition. At a town-hall meeting inside the Bakersfield City Hall chamber on Friday, Meral said the funds generated from Prop 3 would directly benefit the Friant-Kern Canal. The channel brings water from Tulare County to Kern County.
In recent years, the valley floor at the bottom of the canal has gradually subsided due to the over-pumping of ground water by farmers during the recent drought. The canal has sunk so much that it now has just half the carrying capacity it used to.
“We’ll have to bring the level of the canal back up,” Meral said. “We’re going to bring it back up. It’s going to cost 2 or $300 million, but it’s a vital investment because without it, our water supply is bad.”
On paper, the bond comes out to $8.7 billion, but with interest, the total cost is over $17 billion when the bond will be paid off in 40 years.
$2.3 billion of the funds would be allocated for conservancies and state parks, %640 million will go to groundwater sustainability projects, $500 million to water system infrastructure improvements, and $1.4 billion will be used for water improvement projects in areas the state describes as disadvantaged communities, where the median household income is less than 80 percent of the statewide median household income.
But there is some opposition to the measure. The Sierra Club has come out against the measure.
“Disadvantaged communities need access to clean water,” said Katherine Garcia, a representative with the Sacramento-based Sierra Club. “However, Proposition 3, as it stands, that disadvantaged communities’ funds only account for less than 10 percent of the total [of the proposition] , and I’ve heard proponents call out these funds for these communities as one of the primary benefits of the bond, and that simply isn’t true.”
Meral said it the measure will benefit all who call the Central Valley home.
“Voters understand that a clean, safe reliable water supply is vital to this region” he said. “We’re more water-dependent than any other part of the state. We need the imported water. They’ll see the benefits of this measure directly in Kern county.”
A July 2018 poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of CA shows the measure has broad support; 58 percent of Californians are in support of the measure while roughly 25 percent are opposed. 17 percent are undecided. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.
Today marks 39 days until Election Day.