California Ballot Measure Could Streamline Permitting for Water Projects

A coalition of farmers and desalination supporters is collecting signatures for a California ballot measure that would fast-track construction processes for water storage projects.

November 26, 2021, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Desalination

Andrea Izzotti / Shutterstock

As Paul Rogers reports, a coalition of Central Valley farmers and their supporters are "collecting signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would fast-track big water projects and provide billions of dollars to fund them — potentially setting up a major political showdown with environmentalists next year shaped by the state’s ongoing drought."

If the measure were to get on the ballot and pass, it would allocate 2 percent of California's general fund to expanding water supplies by 5 million acre-feet with projects such as dams, reservoirs, and desalination plants. Supporters of the measure argue that conservation alone won't keep up with demand as drought continues to batter the state. Meanwhile, Rogers writes, environmental groups argue that the measure would go too far in providing billions of dollars to projects without environmental oversight and accuse it of attempting to "gut" the state's Coastal Act.

In 2014, California voters approved $2.7 billion in funding for new storage projects, all of which have yet to be built. In the Bay Area, the Contra Costa Water District is planning to expand the Los Vaqueros reservoir to increase water supply capacity. The Los Vaqueros expansion is one of the few projects not facing opposition from environmental groups, partly because the agency has taken steps to mitigate environmental impacts.

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