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Timing all wrong for new water ballot initiative

Timing all wrong for new water ballot initiative

California’s agricultural diversity is the envy of the world. It’s also its Achilles Heel. Getting all of the state’s agricultural groups to agree on anything is like herding cats. This has been the state’s No. 1 industry’s major weakness in accomplishing much politically.

Agreements have been few and far between. The greatest occurred 40 years ago when agriculture united to defeat Proposition 14, which would have given the United Farm Workers open access to every farm in the state.

A more recent one is Proposition 1, a $2.7 billion water development initiative approved by voters two years ago that goes a long way in solving California’s water crisis. It took a lot of compromising and hard negotiating to get agriculture to pull on that oar.

Now comes along a ballot initiative that could undo that success. It’s called the “Water Priorities Public Interest and Public Trust Constitutional Amendment” or as some call it the “Dam Train Initiative.”

It is a sweeping Constitution-changing ballot measure that has many good points. However at this time, it is a throw-out-the-baby-with-the-bath-water effort that could needlessly set back water development decades.

It is tied to the controversial High Speed Rail (HSR) project by proposing to take away bond money meant for that project and give it to water development in the misguided belief that it will halt HSR. It won’t.

Many rightfully view High Speed Rail as a financial boondoggle and backers of this initiative think that it will catch the fancy of the voters.

However, construction is already underway and you can bet the political muscle behind it will only hunker down and fight even harder to keep it going if anyone messes with its allocated funds.

This new initiative, which has so far collected 25 percent of the signatures needed to get it on the ballot, is backed by a group called the California Water Alliance, which claims to have “430 public agency members responsible for 90 percent of the water delivered to communities.”

However, its website is not very revealing in defining that claim. Plus, there has been far too much “he said, she said, they said, we said” rhetoric surrounding this initiative to believe this effort recognizes the importance of California agriculture unity.

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