Photo by By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do you want to spend $6 billion to improve California’s water system?

Oh, there’s also another $6 billion in interest charges to repay the original $6 billion in water bonds being proposed in a new measure that’s seeking your support.

The Secretary of State’s office has announced approval of a proposed initiative for the November, 2016 ballot that asks voters to authorize general obligation bonds for water supply infrastructure projects. The proposal is authored by Gerald Meral, a former deputy secretary of the state’s Natural Resources Agency.

Meral has 180 days to collect the signatures of 365,880 registered voters in order to qualify it for the November 2016 ballot.

The following petition language was approved by the Secretary of State:

“Authorizes $6.02 billion in general obligation bonds for water supply infrastructure projects, including watershed improvement and water quality enhancement; capturing urban runoff; water recycling and desalination; flood management; water conservation; water for wildlife; groundwater sustainability and storage; and safe drinking water. Appropriates money from the General Fund to pay off bonds. Requires certain projects to provide matching funds from non-state sources in order to receive bond funds. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: State General Fund costs of $12 billion to pay off principal ($6 billion) and interest ($6 billion) on bonds over a 40-year period. Annual payments would average $300 million. Annual payments would be relatively low in the initial and final few years and somewhat higher in the intervening years. Savings to local governments on water-related projects that would likely average between a few tens of millions of dollars and over $100 million annually over the next few decades.”

In an editorial in the San Jose Mercury News in November, Meral explains why the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta can no longer be a reliable source of water. Meral is the California water director of the Natural Heritage Institute.


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