Brown outlines $6 billion water bond

The dry bed of Ivanpah Lake in San Barnardino County, which had been filled by the 2004-05 rains. (Photo: Ed Berlen)

Gov. Brown on Tuesday unveiled the outline of a $6 billion alternative “no-frills” water bond for the November ballot, a sharply scaled back plan that is fully $5 billion less than the existing bond now facing voters.

The governor, up for reelection in November, announced the plan on his campaign web site in an open letter to voters.

If approved by lawmakers, it would replace the $11.14 billion water bond already scheduled to go before voters in November. That bond, delayed for years amid fears that it would be rejected by recession-weary voters, was approved in a bipartisan vote in the Legislature and signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The governor described his plan as “a no-frills, no-pork water water bond that invests in the most critical projectys without breaking the bank.”

Brown, without giving details, said his proposal provided funds for water recycling, river protections, storage, groundwater management and watershed protections. He did not mention the $3 billion in the current bond slated for storage, safeguards for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta or the level of southbound water deliveries — all critical issues in the current Capitol negotiations over the water bond.

In June, the governor noted he favored a $6 billion proposal, about half of which would go for water quality projects, watershed restoration and supply reliability, among other projects. It also included $2 billion for storage.

Brown said the state already spends some $8 billion annually on bond debt service, and that would be increased another $750 million a year over the next three decades if the $11.14 billion bond is approved.

“We must act now so that we can continue to manage as good stewards of this vital resource for generations to come. But we can and must do so without returning California to the days of overwhelming deficit and debt,” Brown wrote.

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