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Dan Bacher: Senator Wolk introduces bond to address Delta crisis


By: Dan Bacher

Senator Wolk presents one of her bills on the floor of the State Senate in May 2012. Photo courtesy of State Senate.
Dec. 12, 2012 - State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) on December 11 introduced legislation to put a new water bond before voters to address the crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and other critical water issues facing California.

Wolk's bill, the California Clean, Secure, Water Supply and Delta Recovery Act of 2014, is supported by Restore the Delta, a 7000-member grassroots organization committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California.

"There are pressing water challenges facing the state that require funding in the next five to ten years," said Senator Wolk, an opponent of the Brown administration plan to build twin peripheral tunnels. "The Delta crisis demands immediate action. Many communities throughout the state face water contamination, flood risk, and diminishing water reliability.

"Some of these issues are regional and have regional solutions," said Wolk, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Delta Stewardship and Sustainability. "Others will require a statewide approach. This new bond will focus on effective and timely solutions to these problems."

Senate Bill 42 will provide funding for ecosystem restoration and levee stability projects necessary to addressing the crisis in the Delta—the heart of the state's water system, a fertile agricultural region, the largest estuary in the western hemisphere, and habitat to hundreds of animal and plant species, according to a statement from Wolk's Office.

The bond will also provide critically-needed funding to communities that currently do not have access to clean, affordable drinking water. Over 2 million Californians' major source of drinking water is contaminated, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

SB 42 will also help address a growing flood risk to communities and the California economy. According to the Department of Water Resources, over 1 million Californians live in communities at a high risk of major flooding.

"This new water bond represents a fresh start on funding the state's water infrastructure, not a rehash of the $11 billion bond currently on the 2014 ballot," Wolk stated. "That bond, passed in 2009, and since delayed twice, has proven to be too expensive, too unpopular, and too outdated to garner voter support."

"Times have changed. California has a new Governor, almost an entirely new legislature--only 13 current members of the Assembly were here back in 2009–and we have new information on pressing problems and viable solutions. I am confident we can build a broad consensus for a more focused and affordable bond measure to address today's most urgently-needed water projects," she concluded.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, praised Wolk's legislation.

"Restore the Delta is fully in favor of a water bond that puts levee restoration and habitat improvements at the center of Delta restoration," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "Restore the Delta also fully supports a water bond that promotes regional self-sufficiency throughout California as a way to reduce water exports from the Delta and that helps to bring clean drinking water to communities in need. Restore the Delta also has full confidence that a water bond proposed by Senator Lois Wolk is a balanced and fair piece of legislation that will protect the Delta and improve water reliability for other California communities."

Delta advocates say the $11 billion water bond currently on the 2014 ballot, by including $3 million for questionable Delta "restoration," will help clear the path for the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. They point out that you can't "save" or "restore" the Delta by draining it to provide massive quantities of water to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California water agencies.

The construction of the tunnels will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other imperiled species, according to agency and independent scientists. (http://bay.org/newsroom/press-releases/22912-bdcp's-own-study-shows-plan-could-lead-to-species-declines-and-extinct)


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