With the Legislature narrowly making its Wednesday night deadline to approve a water bond that voters will consider in November, San Mateo County legislators are satisfied with compromises met in the $7.5 billion bipartisan bill.
Assemblymen Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, both represented the Bay Area on the Assembly’s water bond working group and said the diverse bill will benefit their districts.
“The ongoing historic drought, our aging water infrastructure and degraded watersheds have all combined to present us with an environmental and economic crisis that needs to be addressed,” Mullin said in a prepared statement. “While the water bond is not perfect, nothing that is negotiated between so many disparate interests could be.”
State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said passing legislation on an issue that outlines the regional differences and interests in the state was rare and rewarding.
“The exciting thing is with the diverse interests of this huge, populous state, to come together without starting the water wars and meeting the needs of the entire state is unusual and it’s welcomed in this bond.”
With Californians from different regions having varying needs, the overwhelming support for the bill reflects a comprehensive package, Gordon said.
“I think it’s an outstanding package for California, it fully reflects the diverse needs of our state,” Gordon said.
Within the bill, there’s money that will benefit urban areas such as stormwater recycling projects and for poorer communities, there are allocations for groundwater cleanup and water quality improvement and there is funding for storage and watershed restoration improvement, Gordon said.
Allocations include approximately $1.5 billion for ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration efforts, $810 million for regional water security, climate change and drought preparedness projects, and $395 million for statewide flood management projects, according to Mullin’s office.
“If passed by the voters in November, this bond will provide significant regional and statewide benefits in terms of water supply reliability, water recycling, conservation, sustainability, flood control and ecosystem restoration,” Mullin said.
One of the more key aspects of the bill for San Mateo County is it provides funding for the recently created Coastal Conservancy, Mullin and Gordon said.
“Over 100 million will be provided to the Coastal Conservancy to protect coastal watersheds and fund ecosystem restoration including areas within San Mateo County,” Mullin said. “Additionally, the Bay Area will receive $65 million dedicated to improve water supply self-reliance and climate change adaptation.”
Gordon, the chair of the Assembly’s Select Committee on Sea Level Rise, which recently released the Legislature’s first statewide report, said the additional funding for the new conservancy could directly help with the county’s plans for adapting to sea level rise.
Hill said he voted against an $11 billion water bond proposal four years ago, and even as this years’ original proposal is that high, the Legislature narrowed it down and it provides equal opportunities.
Hill didn’t vote for the previous bond, he said, “because it was laden with special interest entitlements that everyone tried to extort into the bill, and that’s why it got to $11 billion. But this one is fair. It meets the needs and the new needs of our drought.”
As overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation, Gordon said various groups will have a chance to compete for funding and previously said this would result in the most influential projects being approved.
“I think it’s a balanced package, there are no specific projects called out in the package so it will be a competitive process for funding from the bond, which also means there’s no pet projects in here,” Gordon said. “Everybody has to compete for funding”
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