EGB 2014-08-13 bill-signing

Governor Jerry Brown signing the proposed water bond. Photo: Kelly Huston, Office of the Governor

Lawmakers were able put aside regional politics to beat the midnight deadline Wednesday for approval of a $7.5 billion proposed state water bond, the fate of which will be decided by voters on the November ballot.

The bond, which is a scaled-back version of the original $11.1 billion bond proposed in 2009, will allocate funds for water use efficiency and recycling, groundwater cleanup and management and $2.7 billion to create additional water storage sites in the state. AB-1471, also known as Proposition 1, passed the Senate with a unanimous 37-0 vote and the Assembly with 77-2 vote. Governor Jerry Brown applauded the ability of lawmakers to come together to pass the bill which will look to maximize and improve water usage for a state that’s suffering through a historic drought.

“Water is the lifeblood of any civilization and for California it’s the precondition of healthy rivers, valleys, farms and a strong economy,” said Governor Brown. “With this water bond, legislators from both parties have affirmed their faith in California’s future.”

The negotiations came down to the wire as representatives fought for the interests of their districts, but they were eventually able to come to a finalized product that is set to be presented to the public in the fall. Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach), who coauthored the bill, explained in a statement how he lobbied to secure water privileges for his constituents.

“California is finally turning a corner in addressing our state’s urgent water crisis. While this bond includes important provisions for all of California, I fought to ensure that communities in our region received their fair share of benefits – investments in stormwater capture, to keep pollutants out of storm drains and turn stormwater into a beneficial resource which will benefit cities like Long Beach [,]” Lara said in a statement.

The bond will create $7.12 billion in new debt for the state, with the remaining $425 million coming from previously unspent bond funds, none of which will be stripped from existing projects. In total, over $800 million will be allocated for regional water reliability projects like storm water capture and the cleaning of contaminated underground water, $520 million will go toward improving drinking water, especially for disadvantaged communities, and over $700 million going toward statewide water recycling projects.

The second largest proposed expenditure next to storage projects is the suggested $1.5 billion dedicated to restoring rivers, lakes and watersheds. The total funds for ecosystem restoration equals nearly 20 percent of the water bond

Historically speaking, the bond has a good chance of being adopted as voters have passed all but one of the 16 water bond proposals since 1970. However, most of those successful efforts focused on conservation and recycling as opposed to storage which is the focus of over a third of Proposition 1’s allotments.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.