$1-Billion “Band-Aid” for Future Drought Catches Up on Old Business

Friday, March 20, 2015

How many Band-Aids can you buy for $1 billion?

Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders showed the flag on Thursday, waving dollars at the drought besieging California, with the promise that there will be a lot more to come. The money will be spent on old ideas that were never properly funded in a state with intermittent bouts of water shortage.

It won’t do much to address concerns that California’s world has changed and four years of drought are not the end of it. The governor acknowledged that: “When you're piloting a huge battleship, it turns slowly in the water. It takes a long time for people to grasp an unprecedented change.” If one must make a watery analogy, better one with a battleship than deck chairs on the Titanic.

This is the big drought measure of the year. It’s more than $300 million bigger than last year’s. But it may not be the last.

Almost all of it draws on money already set aside, like the $7.5-billion 2006 flood control bond. Two-thirds of it will go to flood control projects. It’s needed work. Some of it will go to shore up the state’s levees, which could facilitate fresh water preservation. And it will act as a jobs program of sorts.     

Around $272 million in Proposition 1 Water Bond funding is designated for safe drinking water; $25 million goes to emergency drinking-water projects; and $17 million pays for food assistance in communities whacked by the drought. Assembly Republican leader Kristin Olsen called it an “important Band-Aid,” an oxymoron, perhaps, that anticipates eventually moving “beyond temporary fixes.”   

Brown, in explaining the emphasis on flood control, paid respect to the growing notion that conditions fostering drought are not temporary: “With climate change and global warming, there will be more extreme weather events.”

That would, hopefully, be sometime soon after the battleship turns around. A spokesman for the state Natural Resources Agency told the Los Angeles Times that only one-third of last year’s $687.4-billion measure to build infrastructure and help communities facing water shortages has been spent.

State Senate leader Kevin De León, who was at Thursday’s gathering, said, “It shows how we—as leaders—can get things done when we all work together in common purpose.”

–Ken Broder


 To Learn More:  

California Drought: Gov. Jerry Brown, Legislative Leaders Propose $1 Billion Package (by Jessica Calefati, Bay Area News Group)

Gov. Brown, Lawmakers Plan Short- and Long-Term Strategy on Drought (by Chris Megerian and Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times)

California Stiffens Water Regulations amid Devastating Drought (by Nadia Prupis, CommonDreams)

Governor Brown, Legislative Leaders Announce $1 Billion Emergency Drought Package (Office of the Governor)

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