A motion to endorse Proposition 3, the $8.9 billion initiative Nov. 6 to sell new water bonds, was rejected on a 4-3 vote by the Zone 7 Water Agency board.
The board had discussed the possibility of an endorsement at last month’s regular meeting on July 18, and decided to take it up again at its Aug. 15 session.
Gerald Meral, the proposition’s organizer, asked Zone 7 at the July 18 meeting to endorse the measure. Meral cited such bond amounts as $400 million for wastewater recycling, $300 million for water conservaiton, and $200 million for Oroville Dam repair. Some 80% of Zone 7 water comes from the Oroville Dam.
In the Zone 7 audience Aug. 15, DSRSD General Manager Dan McIntyre asked the board to approve the endorsement. He said that the DSRSD board unanimously backed it in March. The Association of California Water Agencies also has lent its support.
Virtually all directors noted that the money would be for a variety of water and flood control projects, if voters approve the initiative November. Potentially, that might benefit Zone 7, if the agency were successful in applying for funds, they said.
However, there was reluctance by some directors to put the agency on record endorsing the initiative.
Director Bill Stevens said that Zone 7 had never endorsed an initiative. He suggested not taking a position. Angela Ramirez Holmes, who was chosen president in the board’s reorganization at the beginning of the meeting, said that she agreed with Stevens.
“I understand there is some direct benefit for Zone 7, but as voters we can make a decision. I hesitate to take a position. We did not take a position on the last water bond,” said Ramirez Holmes.
Sarah Palmer said it is important to take a position. Dick Quigley agreed. “There are so many attributes for the recyclers, for agriculture, for urban uses, said Quigley. He said that the board endorsed the California WaterFix a year ago, but Ramirez Holmes stated that was not an endorsement.
The board voted in 2017 to become the first State Water Project to commit to spending its money on the WaterFix. Zone 7 has been part of the WaterFix meetings and its predecessors for 10 years in Sacramento. That vote was 5-2, with Ramirez Holmes and the late Jim McGrail opposed. They said they thought it was too early to commit. More needed to be known about eventual cost implications, and other alternatives for Zone 7.
Dennis Gambs, one of two new directors, said in advocating an endorsement that the “public will look at Zone 7 as its water agency with leadership and guidance.” He said that long-range repair of the Lake Oroville Dam spillway alone is 2% of the obligation for Zone 7. That’s a $4 million benefit that we know about.”
The motion by director Sandy Figuers was not to endorse the bond. Figuers’ motion carried 4-3, with him, Ramirez Holmes, Stevens, and the other new director, Olivia Sanwong, voting for it. Quigley, Palmer and Gambs voted no.
Figuers said that just because the board is not endorsing it, the directors are not prohibited from educating the public about what the initiative contained.