Republican assemblymembers, including Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, loaded up a Radio Flyer red wagon stuffed with more than 4,000 petitions calling for the California Water Commission to approve funding for two reservoirs that together could hold more than one trillion gallons of water.
Assemblymembers say voters approved a bipartisan measure in 2014, Proposition 1, that allowed for a $7 billion water bond to be spent on water storage, but the commission is blocking the construction of multiple storage projects.
“The commission has ignored its responsibility and is failing to approve any storage projects, effectively wasting billions of taxpayer dollars,” Acosta said in a statement. “These projects mean clean water for millions of Californians. It’s time to put the voters’ will into action and approve the environmentally responsible projects in front of the commission.”
Among the projects that have been stalled are Sites and Temperance Flat reservoirs in northern and central California, respectively. Officials say Sites Reservoir, in Colusa County, would store 586 billion gallons of water while Temperance Flat Reservoir east of Fresno would house 423 billion gallons of water, should regulators give the green light for construction.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, said state-level government needs to respect the will of the voters.
“Four years ago, California voters overwhelmingly approved a $7 billion water bond on the promise of new surface storage projects,” Dahle said. “Our government has made a habit of selling the voters a false bill of goods. It is long past time that our government starts keeping its promises.”
Earlier this month, state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, blasted the water commission’s application and review process that is delaying the approval of 11 projects. Wilk was one of the co-authors of Prop. 1.
Wilk said in a statement the state has not addressed increasing water storage since 1979, but parts of the state are bracing for a year of drought. The senator said the bonds from Prop. 1, which total $7.5 billion, have been sold, but the money remains unspent.
Water officials said in December the Santa Clarita Valley could expect just 15 percent of its normal allotment of water it receives from the state water project. Local groundwater from wells saw a modest increase in water filling the wells, but not enough to stave off consideration of contingency plans to call on water banking programs in Kern County, officials said. The lower allotment was blamed on repairs to the Oroville Reservoir due to damage from excessive rainfall.