A Look at the Prop 3 Results: On Our Way to a New Normal

In June SBC was thrilled beyond belief when the $4 billion parks and water bond – Prop. 68 – passed. We wish we were celebrating again this morning for passage of Prop. 3, the $8.9 billion water bond on yesterday’s ballot; but alas, that will have to wait for another morning. With votes still being counted, Prop. 3 appears to have gone down 47.6% in favor to 52.4% against. Unfortunately for the Sierra, that means we will miss out on an additional $350 million (on top of the secured $142 million from Prop. 68) directed specifically to our region to protect and restore the forested watersheds where 60% of the state’s water comes from.

COMM Capitol 2016 07Although the joint investment would have been incredibly helpful to the Sierra, our communities, and all those downstream, we still have much to be grateful for in this year’s ballot measure efforts. For years SBC and others have been advocating for more state investment in Sierra watersheds. With the passage of Prop. 68 and our collective work on Prop. 3, we have a new starting place for future investment discussions – one that: 

  • recognizes the Sierra and other rural areas for the important benefits they provide to all Californians;
  • involves the region in the creation of measures affecting residents and resources;
  • includes funding to that can make rural areas more resilient to climate and other impacts;
  • uses projects to generate jobs and create greater economic, social, and environmental well-being for rural residents;
  • incorporates support from all over the state; and
  • contains Sierra investments – not because the region wields great political power, but – because it’s the right thing to do, for the whole state.

That’s a “new normal” I can live with!

Both the #Yeson68 and the #YesOnProp3 campaigns touched a lot of California residents between January and today with messages about where their water comes from, its importance to fish and wildlife, how climate change impacts on our water, and how the state’s water system affects agriculture, cities, and industry. These are now people who know a little more than they did before and might look at water conservation and other actions more favorably.

The #YesOnProp3 campaign was scrappy. We reached out directly to our friends and neighbors through organizational newsletters and local and social media – no tv ads. A Sierra Task Force came together, as it did on Prop. 68, to share ideas and best practices for getting information out to their own members and supporters. This is another part of our “new normal” – having our region engaging in these statewide efforts and issues. Thanks to Task Force members – such as Bear-Yuba Land Trust, League to Save Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation, Sequoia Riverlands Trust, Sierra Foothill Conservancy, Sierra Nevada Alliance, Tahoe Fund, Truckee Donner Land Trust, and others – people throughout the Sierra-Cascade realize the importance of our region to the whole state and are working hard to secure resources necessary to be good stewards and caretakers for all the natural and built communities that rely on the Sierra for survival. 

COMM DonnerLakeFall BBenesi 2017 10And we can’t forget that Prop. 68 was successful earlier this year. As a result, we have $142 million going out on the ground to reduce fire risk, improve forest and watershed health, provide habitat and recreational opportunities, and ensure clean and abundant water for the Sierra and beyond. That’s more funding for conservation and natural resource protection in the Sierra-Cascade than any previous legislative bond measure (1.5 times the amount in 2006’s Prop. 84 and more than 3 times the amount in the 2014 water bond, Prop. 1). Plus, at least $1.99 billion in additional Prop. 68 funding is open to Sierra-Cascade communities through competitive statewide grant programs. That’s something we can all be proud and excited about!

I want to personally thank Prop. 3’s primary author Jerry Meral and his team for everything they did to involve us and help us become more effective advocates for this important measure. Thank you also to SBC President Steve Frisch, Government Affairs Director Chris Mertens, Communications Director Brittany Benesi, and Climate Technician and Project Manager Nikki Caravelli for their tireless work reaching out to Sierra voters and to partners all across the state about Prop. 3. And my unflagging gratitude to the SBC Board for recognizing the importance to our mission of doing everything possible as a private nonprofit organization to support passage of Prop 3 and Prop 68.

This year has been a game-changer for SBC and for the Sierra region, and we look forward to building on it for years to come!