What’s at Stake in 2018 Bond Measures? $500 Million for the Sierra, That’s What

Hard to believe I’m writing about another water bond, but we find ourselves in the interesting position of having two different water-related funding initiatives that could be on the ballot in 2018: SB 5 in June and a citizens’ initiative in November.   

Climate, growth, and other impacts on the state’s water system are immense, so two measures shouldn’t feel like overkill. Rather they indicate the depth of the issue. We need all the funding we can muster to ensure that communities, businesses, and the natural world around us have the water they need to thrive.

Donner Lake Fall ColorsThe Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC), a state agency that – like SBC – focuses on the health of our region, points out the urgent need for restoration of the Sierra, the state’s primary watershed: “…the forests, streams, and meadows of many Sierra Nevada watersheds are in decline. We already see adverse impacts to the benefits they provide, and the associated risks are only getting worse – a condition that must change. Decades of fire suppression, a changing climate, and a shortage of forest restoration efforts have led to unhealthy conditions and significant amounts of tree die-off in many Sierra forests where drinking water originates. The result has been an increase in large, more damaging wildfires.” 

The good news – thanks in part to advocacy by SBC and other partners – is that the Sierra/Cascade region is included in both initiatives at unprecedented amounts:

  • SB 5 (on the June ballot) has $142 million directed specifically to the Sierra/Cascade through the SNC, Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), and Tahoe Conservancy –> that is 1.5 times the amount the Sierra got in Prop 84 (2006 resource bond) and more than 3 times the amount in Prop 1 (2014 water bond);
  • Citizen Initiative (on the November ballot if it gets enough valid signatures) has $350 million directed specifically to the Sierra/Cascade through the SNC and Tahoe Conservancy –> that would be almost 4 times the Sierra-focused amount in Prop 84 and almost 9 times the amount in the last water bond.

With these measures the Sierra/Cascade region has an incredible opportunity to achieve multiple goals. In the short term the region would have access to almost $500 million for projects that can produce cleaner water, cleaner air, healthier forests, and safer, more sustainable communities both here and in downstream urban and agricultural communities that depend on Sierra resources for their well-being. In the longer term, if the Sierra proves itself by supporting these two initiatives we will have stronger standing to help influence how the resulting funds get spent after passage, and we build our capacity for future advocacy on these and other issues at the state level.  Conversely, if we don’t engage, we perpetuate the excuse used by urban and other leaders for why they haven’t typically invested in the Sierra — because our residents don’t turn out and vote for natural resource protection initiatives.

SBC strongly believes it is in the best interests of the region to seize this opportunity and support both initiatives, so we will be working through Sierra CAMP and other partnerships to raise campaign funds and get out the vote for these two funding measures. By proving the Sierra’s value and ability to bring funding and citizen votes to the table, we hope to forever change the dynamic that has resulted in chronically low state investment in the region.