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Yes on Prop. 44

May 18, 1986

One of the most cost-effective ways to develop new water supplies is to use the water we already have more efficiently. Voters can take a significant step in that direction if they approve Proposition 44 on the June 3 primary election ballot.

Proposition 44 is a $150 million bond issue of which half would be loaned to finance local agency water conservation programs and to provide for the development of underground water storage facilities. The limit of each loan would be $5 million. The demand for such assistance became evident after passage of the Clean Water Bond Law of 1984, which included $10 million for water conservation projects. More than 50 agencies applying for such loans were turned down because there wasn't enough money.

The other $75 million in bonds authorized by Proposition 44 would be used, again as low-interest loans, to attack the problem of polluted agricultural drainage water. This problem has been highlighted in the past two years by the situation at Kesterson Reservoir and the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley, where there has been death and deformity in waterfowl caused by the concentration of the natural element selenium in irrigation runoff water. A variety of agencies, including federal and state governments, are working on the Kesterson problem.

But the state Water Resources Control Board says Kesterson is just part of a problem that is expected to plague some 200,000 acres by 1995. Opponents of Proposition 44 contend that the agriculture industry should be responsible for cleaning up its own mess. That is true to the extent the pollution can be traced to specific sources and negligence on the part of the polluter.

But Proposition 44 provides a response to a broader irrigation drainage problem and may help assure that other Kestersons do not develop. Loans limited to $20 million each could be made to public agencies by the Water Resources Control Board for treatment or disposal of irrigation runoff. Clearly, treatment would be the preferable alternative. Each loan would have to receive legislative review so it is not likely that a blatant polluter could evade its own responsibility and receive an unwarranted bail out from the state.

Water supply and control of irrigation drainage are major state problems. Proposition 44 takes a modern approach to both and deserves to pass.

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