The new-look California water bond will help boost flows and restore habitat in vital trout and salmon streams such as the Little Truckee River, the Klamath River, and the San Joaquin River.
Update: on August 13 the California legislature overwhelmingly passed -- and Governor Brown signed -- the new water bond for the country's most populous state. California residents will vote on the measure this November. From Brian Johnson, TU's California Director: "The bond has essential funding for water conservation, repairs of leaky and outdated infrastructure, dam removal (including the four big dams on the lower Klamath River), the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, groundwater recharge, habitat improvement, floodplain and meadow restoration, and facilitating small farm ponds and water tanks that can take pressure off summertime stream diversions. TU doesn't support everything that's in it, and we would have loved to have even more funding for our top priorities, but on balance I believe it will be very good for fish and flows throughout the state."
By Sam Davidson
California is struggling through a third year of extreme drought -- the state's worst in 200 years. Flows are so low in many rivers and streams that water temperatures exceed tolerance levels for cold water fish species. In recent weeks, TU chapters and staff have helped initiate rescues of stranded trout in iconic fisheries such as the Truckee River.
But help is on the way. Today, the state took a major step to address its severe water challenges, as Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. held a meeting with legislative, industry, agricultural, labor, water, and environmental leaders to announce the introduction of a water bond that will provide significant water benefits for California’s people, businesses, and cold water fisheries.
The bond would underwrite a variety of actions to conserve and restore cold water habitat and angling opportunities. It allocates $1.47 billion for “Protecting Rivers, Lakes, Streams, Coastal Waters, and Watersheds,” and provides a major boost for improvements in groundwater management.
In addition, the bond funds state obligations to implement the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore Chinook salmon and steelhead in what was once the fourth most productive salmon fishery on the west coast, and the Klamath River agreements, which will remove four dams and restore more than 400 miles of prime habitat for salmon and steelhead.
TU’s State Director for California, Brian Johnson, has played a key role in negotiations over the past several months to resolve differences and bring the cost of the measure down. Johnson attended the Governor’s meeting today.
Johnson said, “We cannot live without water to drink, and rivers to remind us where water comes from. Nor can we make it rain, but we can be better prepared when it doesn’t rain. California needs a water bond that will ensure adequate supplies of cold, clean water for people and California’s unique natural heritage. We are encouraged by the recent progress made by the Governor and the leadership in negotiating a water bond that all of California can get behind. We support the bond and urge the legislature to pass it, so voters can see for themselves that California is serious about improving our use and management of water, and better caring for the natural resources that supply most of our water.”
Click here to read TU’s press release on today’s announcement.
Sam Davidson is TU's Communication Director for California and Nevada. Lead photo courtesy Stefan McLeod Photography.