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ELECTION RECOMMENDATION

Vote Yes on Proposition 50

October 09, 2002

Californians prize their environment, and they have been generous in providing bond funds to improve water quality, fix up long-neglected state parks, clean up beaches and develop urban park and recreation facilities. Voters are now being called on to pass Proposition 50, an initiative measure for the sale of $3.44 billion in general obligation bonds to continue badly needed water projects, protect watershed areas, purchase and restore wetlands such as Bolsa Chica in northern Orange County and finance local and regional projects. It's a lot in one basket, but the projects are worthwhile individually and almost all are long-term. Proposition 50 deserves a yes vote.

By restoring the environment, especially in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Proposition 50 would help stabilize Southern California's water supply and improve its quality. But the measure is important to all of California.

The plan was written primarily by Joe Caves, a Sacramento lobbyist representing the Nature Conservancy. Normally such measures should travel the regular legislative process. Caves proceeded with his petition drive only after lawmakers failed to assemble their own water bond issue, primarily because farm-area legislators insisted on construction money for new water storage reservoirs. But actual work on the reservoirs can't begin until surveys and engineering studies are done. Indeed, Proposition 50 allocates $50 million for those feasibility studies, along with $70 million for critically needed restoration of delta levees.

The measure allocates the money in broad categories and through existing financing mechanisms. Most of the money would be appropriated by the Legislature. The exception is $750 million that the state Wildlife Conservation Board would allocate over a period of years, largely to buy and restore coastal wetlands, and for which it would set priorities. Past bond issues have helped acquire some wetlands but not restore them.

The largest single amount, $950 million, is earmarked for wetlands and watershed protection. An additional $825 million would go to Cal-Fed, the massive state-federal program to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and related waterways. The Metropolitan Water District, which wholesales water throughout Southern California and is backing Proposition 50, gets much of its supply from the delta-fed State Water Project via the 400-mile-long California Aqueduct. Cal-Fed needs the money in part because the federal government is failing to pay its share of the joint project.

About $640 million more would be used to assist regional water supply and water quality programs and improve fish and wildlife habitat. Bond funds also would help consummate a needed water trade between the farmlands of the Imperial Irrigation District and San Diego County.

Proposition 50 is a multiyear investment to give California an adequate water supply and save wild lands and wetlands for future generations. Vote yes on Proposition 50.

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