California’s leaky bucket theory of public improvement

The Tehama-Colusa Canal transports water to irrigate northern California agriculture and communities.

Unfortunately, Californians have come to expect significant levels of waste and incompetence when it comes to government programs. Just last week, we learned that the “new” $290 million computer system for the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration — in the works for over a decade — was having significant problems with tax filers trying to submit their quarterly returns. Despite California being home to Silicon Valley and the best high-tech minds on the planet, the State of California has a sorry history of failure when implementing big computer projects.

Although Will Rogers famously said it’s good that we don’t get all the government we pay for, Californians surely want more value for the outrageous level of taxation under which they are burdened. Other states provide better and higher levels of public service with much smaller tax burdens.

If one is carrying a bucket of water from a trough to a burning barn, it is best to have a bucket that doesn’t leak. If not, you’ll arrive at the fire with an empty bucket. When Sacramento carries taxpayer dollars to some popular project or program, they do so with a leaky bucket that virtually ensures that few dollars go to the intended target.

A story in the Sacramento Bee caught our eye last week about 2014’s Proposition 1, a $7.1 billion water bond measure approved by the voters. Not surprisingly, the bond measure was widely supported by a broad range of interest groups and received only token opposition. Given the high priority water has in the hearts and minds of Californians, such support is understandable.

However, much of the support for that bond was driven by the need for increased water storage, especially surface water storage, i.e., dams. So, although the measure passed fully four years ago, where are we on the construction of the promised projects and how much funding will they receive? In other words, how much leakage is going on here?

The biggest surface water project to be financed is the Sites Reservoir, in an area north of Sacramento, designed to store water from the Sacramento River.  For water users, especially in agriculture, the Sites project has been on the top of their wish list for decades. The good news is that the project will get the lion’s share of the $2.7 billion of Prop 1 proceeds dedicated to water storage. But the California Water Commission, which has been openly hostile to new dams, only awarded $816 million of the $5.2 billion cost of the project. And even that paltry amount was awarded after political pressure was exerted on the Commission which had originally recommend zero dollars for new surface water storage. …

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California to Fund Construction of First Reservoir in Four Decades

ResevoirThe California Water Commission was awarded $816 million of Proposition 1 money to begin building the $5.2 billion Sites Reservoir — the state’s first big reservoir since the 1970s.

The $7.5 billion Proposition 1: Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 bond was passed on a bi-partisan basis with seven funding categories of spending, including $2.7 billion pre-allocated for water storage projects only.

The other $4.8 billion of Prop 1 voter-approved cash was allocated to protecting rivers; groundwater sustainability; drought preparedness; water recycling; safe drinking water; and flood management projects.

Although $1.1 billion had already been awarded for 673 projects by December 2017, nothing had yet been awarded for water storage, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

The California Water Commission’s failure to move forward to fund any of the 12 proposed major above-ground water storage projects in four years prompted huge complaints from Republicans.

Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle (R-Redding) walked into the commission’s February meeting pulling a children’s red wagon with 4,000 signatures on petitions to accelerate funding the Sites Reservoir north of Sacramento, and Temperance Flat in the San Joaquin Valley. Dahle told the commissioners, “Farmers like myself are concerned about the shortage of water – we’re seeing another drought cycle,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

The commission finally announced $1 billion in funding on July 23 to expand Pacheco Pass Reservoir in southeastern Santa Clara County and Los Vaqueros in Contra Costa County. Temperance Flat dam on the San Joaquin River did receive $171 million, but supporters complained that the grant would cover only 6 percent of the $2.7 billion cost.

The commission followed up on July 25 with an $816 million award to fund Sites Reservoir, which will divert water from the Sacramento River in the three rainiest months of the year to create a new lake up to 520 foot deep that could store 1.81 million acre feet of water.

The Bee reported that although the Sites project received Prop 1’s top funding, supporters were angry that that the commission cut their request by more than half. At a total cost of $5.2 billion, it is unclear that the water districts that could benefit from the project will be able to line up the other $4.4 billion to break ground on the project.

Environmentalists are expected to claim that the Sites Reservoir is a threat to the Sacramento River’s fish populations, and file lawsuits to delay the project.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California