Sixteen environmental justice, tribal, fishing, and conservation groups announced their opposition to the ballot measure initiative titled the “Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022” — or, as its promoters call it, the More Water Now initiative.
The initiative is circulating for signatures and could potentially be on the November 2022 ballot. Those groups announcing their opposition include: Sierra Club California, California Indian Environmental Alliance, Society of Native Nations, Idle No More, Restore the Delta, Azul, Golden State Salmon Association, Sunrise Movement OC, California Coastal Protection Network, Health the Bay, Surfrider Foundation, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Orange County Coastkeeper, The River Project, Heal the Bay, and Social Eco Education.
Among the most harmful parts of the initiative, the groups say, is a provision that would amend the State Constitution to siphon money from the state General Fund to be allocated to provide minimum funding to environmentally destructive water projects. Earmarking these funds for storage and supply projects will severely impede funding for other public amenities that depend on the General Fund, such as health care, firefighting, housing, and other public services.
These projects include dams, reservoirs, ocean desalination plants in Tsunami zones adjacent to the Ascon superfund site, and other projects that have documented negative impacts on the environment. How these projects are prioritized for funding is not dependent on efficiency, meaning that projects that are the least sustainable may secure funding.
Moreover, there would be no environmental standards for the projects. The initiative also includes a provision that would allow the Secretary of Natural Resources Agency to override decisions by the Coastal Commission - including approvals, denials, and/or issuances of permits that include requirements for environmental protection.
Opponents say this measure would take California in the wrong direction regarding water supply management instead of investing in solutions we need to stay resilient in the face of the climate crisis.
“Committing unrestricted general fund dollars to water districts that are in climate change denial, that have used too much water for years unsustainably, and that refuse to address issues of water equity and affordability would make for dangerous policy and wasteful spending,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director, Restore the Delta. “General fund dollars are to support real time priorities in state spending, not special interests without accountability.”
Brandon Dawson, Director, Sierra Club California added: “If adopted, this initiative would be a step in the wrong direction for California. The climate crisis and its impacts on California water supplies demand that we move away from environmentally damaging storage projects like the type this ballot measure would fund. There are more reasonable and smarter ways to meet California’s water demand, and this initiative doesn’t provide those options.”