Here’s How Californians Can Help Reduce Wildfire Risk and Improve Watershed Health 

The Public Policy Institute of California came out last week (July 25, 2018) with poll results showing that Californians are more concerned about the environment today than they have been at any time in the past 12 years. That’s hardly a surprise, given the excessive heat, out-of-control wildfires, and other issues facing California’s human and natural communities right now. These concerns will likely play out in the upcoming November 6th election, too, as voters decide on a new Governor, a new U.S. Senator, a number of Congressional and State legislative seats, and a dozen or so statewide ballot measures.

SBC KingsCanyon iStock 2014 copyOne ballot measure of particular importance to the Sierra is Proposition 3, known as the Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018. If it passes in November, this measure will invest $8.9 billion in improved watershed health and water supply for every part of the state. And unlike many previous state bonds, there is substantial funding directed to the Sierra. Prop. 3 includes $250 million for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) and $100 million for the Tahoe Conservancy (CTC). This combined funding devoted to the Sierra region is 4 times what was in Prop. 84 (2006), almost 9 times the amount in the last water bond Prop. 1 (2014), and 2.5 times what was in Prop. 68, the parks bond that passed in June. (For a full list of Prop. 3 allocations and other information, please visit www.waterbond.org or @CAWaterBond).

Why would we want to vote on a second bond when we just passed Prop. 68 in June, you might ask? Here’s why

  • Prop. 3’s direct allocation of $350 million to the SNC and CTC ensures that funds will be spent in our region according to local priorities.
  • In addition to the regional allocation, Prop. 3 has a number of statewide competitive funding programs that could support projects in the Sierra as well. For example, Sierra entities would be eligible to compete for close to 64% of the Water Quality and Water Supply funding (Chapter 5) and 31% of the Watershed, Land, and Fishery Improvement funding (Chapter 6).
  • Not only is the immediate return on investment more than ever before, but if the Prop. 3 is successful, these larger dedicated amounts become the new “baseline” for future funding to the region.

This year, for the first time, our region is being taken seriously and is included in not one, but two different bond measures because of its importance to the rest of the state. Together Prop. 68 and Prop. 3 would provide a pipeline of natural resource and community resilience funding for the foreseeable future. Without them, it’s hard to say where such funding would come from. SBC and many others have been advocating for more investment in this region for years; and now it’s within our grasp. It’s up to us to fight for it!

How? By doubling-down on Prop. 3 and replicating the great outreach, fundraising, and Get Out the Vote support that so many people contributed on behalf of Prop. 68 in June. If we don’t engage just as aggressively in Prop. 3, we risk losing the hard-won credibility, regional recognition, and momentum we’ve achieved with decision-makers in Sacramento and elsewhere.

The bottom line is this: the combined impact of Prop. 68 and Prop. 3 can make a huge difference in our region. With almost $500 million for the Sierra in the two measures, we can fund river parkways, fishery recovery, better access to trails, rivers, and lakes; we can reduce fire risk and become better prepared for extreme events when they do occur; we can repair critical infrastructure that is at the core of our statewide water system, as well as helping local communities whose aging infrastructure puts safe drinking water at risk; and we can improve conditions in the upper watersheds for the people, plants, and animals that rely on them, both locally and downstream.

I hope you will join SBC and our many partners in a full court press to pass #Prop3 in November.

NOTE: The measure’s full name, and what you will see in your ballot pamphlet, is: “Proposition 3: State water supply infrastructure, water conveyance, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking water protection act of 2018”.

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