Central Valley farmers are facing off over a ballot initiative to kill state bond funds for high speed rail that also yanks other bond money earmarked for important water storage projects.
Locals don’t see eye-to-eye on the proposed constitutional amendment. On one side is the Kings County Farm Bureau and on the other are the chair of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors and respected small farmer advocate Manuel Cunha.
The initiative would prioritize water projects with domestic uses first and irrigation uses second, over environmental, recreational, and other beneficial uses.It would reallocate eight billion dollars in state Prop 1A funds to be used for rail improvements and $2.7 billion in water storage purposes, to fund water storage projects for domestic and irrigation uses.
Those opposed say not so fast. It’s not so much they want to save high speed rail but they fear progress already being made to fund the Valley’s most important new water projects will be lost.
This week the Kings County Farm Bureau made the case for the measure. “The KCFB board decided to support the initiative” because they “favor redirecting high-speed rail funding to water storage projects.”
“As we enter the fifth year of drought, it’s clear to the board that redirecting up to $8 billion of unissued high-speed rail bonds to building water storage and supply projects statewide is a far better use of this money,” suggested KCFB President Josh Bettencourt.
“We must find a way to protect and increase the state’s water supply, and the board feels that this measure provides reasonable solutions for correcting the current deficiencies,” Bettencourt said.
Meanwhile a group of central San Joaquin Valley agriculture, government and Latino leaders and a group of northern California farmers are urging Californians not to sign petitions being circulated to put the measure on the ballot.
Speaking against the plan is Tulare Supervisor Steve Worthley who also heads up a newly organized water authority aiming to nail down Prop 1A funds for Temperance Flats and Sites Reservoir, each key water storage projects.
Worthley says some $2.7 billion was approved by two-thirds of California voters for water projects and the local authority to secure funding from the state early next year is far along that path.
“This will set back water projects in the San Joaquin Valley for another 20 years” argues Worthley. “We’re fully engaged in the process that’s been created by Prop. 1,” says Worthley, who chairs a new joint-powers water authority that includes representatives from Fresno, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare counties. “This constitutional amendment would basically change the whole dynamic, pull the money out from under the commission and give it to another authority that doesn’t even exist today.”
Fresno farm leader Manuel Cunha agrees that it would“ take away the millions of dollars and hours that were spent crafting the Prop. 1 water bond to build both Temperance and Sites.”
In recent weeks northern California rice farmers as well as environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy came out against the initiative.
Supporters counter the $2.7 billion is “an amount widely agreed to be
insufficient to meet the already evident needs of the state for adding new water storage facilities and resolving the public safety and reliability issues of California’s water supply.” and redirecting the rail funds as well will build more projects. They say they already have collected about 25% of the signatures needed to put the initiative on the November ballot.
Tulare February Jobless Rate Falls
The unemployment rate in the Tulare County was 12.1 percent in February 2016, down from a revised 12.3 percent in January 2016, and below the year-ago estimate of 13.3 percent says the EDD.
Farmersville is moving forward on a new vocational building with the school district accepting a $3.5 million bid form local local contractor Forcum/Mackey.
Home Sales Enjoy Rise
Tulare County’s existing homes sales were up 25% month-over-month in February and up 7.9% year-over-year. Kings County home sales were up 59% over last month and up 52% year-over-year according to the California Association Of Realtors.
Dinuba To Get Move-Up Homes
The City of Dinuba has had a long term plan to attract more upscale subdivisions in town next to their muni golf course. But that plan had been stalled by the housing downturn. The city has been looking to attract a builder on nearly 60 acres adjacent the Ridge Creek Golf Course and Club since 2006. This week the council made a tentative deal with Fresno builder Woodside Homes to buy the land to build 170 single-family homes, priced at various levels.