Water Bond Particulars Clarified
Last updated 9/7/2018 at 9:33am
This November, California residents will have the opportunity to cast a vote in one of the most sweeping water bond initiatives in the State’s history.
According to sponsors, “The bond will invest $8.877 billion dollars in California water infrastructure, including key categories: safe drinking water, Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGMA) implementation, watershed restoration, fish and wildlife habitat conservation, infrastructure repair, and many other important water management programs.”
Included within the overall funding is a $35 million allocation specifically for the Borrego Springs Water District (BWD) covering: 1) the purchase of Agricultural land for fallowing; 2) land restoration after fallowing; 3) Water use efficiency on golf courses; 4) Stormwater capture for groundwater basin recharge and reuse; and 5) Other District projects implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
It is the fifth item, “Other District projects,” that requires some clarification. An article in the San Diego Union-Tribune on our water situation apparently didn’t go quite deep enough, as some Borregans expressed concern that after paying off the farmers for purchasing land, followed by costs of fallowing, well abandonment, and restoration, there won’t be much Bond money left over from the allocation for other needed projects (i.e., test/production wells foreseen in the SGMA process going forward). The cost to drill a well, for example, is about $1.5 million.
The clarification comes by way of BWD Director and Board Vice President Lyle Brecht. “The purpose of the Borrego allocation is specifically to address SGMA (groundwater law) supply constraints.” He says an “estimated” $29 million of the $35 million total is for BWD purchase the underlying water rights for about 3,000 acres of irrigated agricultural land.
Although the drilling of a well, for example, might be deemed necessary, Brecht adds, “The bond rules require any public funded project to meet strict accountability standards that would preclude a reserve for specific projects.” (emphasis added)
Despite the “preclusion” clause, according to Brecht, there still seems to be enough wiggle room in the Bond for the funding of specific BWD projects that are identified and deemed necessary that would be broadly covered as “District infrastructure that is impacted by the overdraft.”