Perry Norris: Proposition 3 will help water supply, fire prevention in the Sierra Nevada
Voters in our corner of the Sierra have an unprecedented opportunity to invest in our local communities in the form of Proposition 3, a statewide water bond for the November ballot, with specific funding earmarked for our region.
The last five years have revealed a new and daunting normal for the Sierra — devastating wildfires, prolonged drought, rain-on-snow storms, and record summer heat that all signal the time is now to invest in our region’s ability to withstand these events.
If we don’t act now, we’ll pay a price we cannot afford later.
Fire plays a huge role in Sierra communities, and as Sacramento politicians slowly figure out the best methods for funding and managing our forests, Proposition 3 would provide a direct investment of $250 million for pre-fire mitigation and restoration of our watersheds, yielding the dual benefits of an improved water supply and water quality, along with communities made safer from the threat of catastrophic wildfire.
These programs will improve both the quality of the water within our watersheds and better prepare the Sierra Nevada for future drought and extreme weather events. These watershed restoration projects will greatly bolster forest resistance to severe wildfires that threaten Sierra communities and worsen air quality. Every acre of forest restored enables local jobs and other economic opportunities.
Proposition 3 includes a number of other funding areas such as safe drinking water programs, fisheries and wildlife protection, wastewater recycling, and other grant funds that could be used to develop local resiliency and help our local water districts, resource conservation districts, and other agencies with the projects they need to improve our water supply and working lands.
Many Sierra water agencies, business groups, conservation organizations and local governments support the measure. With supporters from both sides of the aisle, it is not a divisive partisan issue. Proposition 3 is also supported by the Rural County Representatives of California, Mountain Counties Water Resources Association, Mono County, Alpine County, Plumas County, County Supervisors Association of California, California Chamber of Commerce and California Farm Bureau Federation.
Similar bond measures have funded critical conservation projects including Webber Lake, Perazzo Meadows, Royal Gorge and Donner Summit Canyon, all of which are protected and open to the public today.
Bonds are debt instruments and should not be used lightly, but Proposition 3 is needed by our community, our region and our state. Our state’s credit rating has recovered from the 2008 recession and only a small percentage of tax revenue is being used to pay off bond debt. Proposition 3 would leverage funding directly to Sierra communities in a manner that has not been done previously, improving our communities’ resilience and safety, as well as providing new jobs.
Proposition 3 is supported by groups across the political spectrum because water is important to all of us, since Proposition 3 has the potential to improve water supplies and fire safety for our rural communities, farmers and the environment.
Perry Norris is executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust.
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