SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed a bill to put a $4 billion bond measure to develop parks in rural and low-income areas and improve drinking water before voters in June 2018.
Senate Bill 5 by Senate Pro tem Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, promises to use the bond money on park spaces in rural communities that lack access and to address flood control projects, particularly in the Central Valley.
“Clean and reliable water resources, including secure flood control systems, and access to parks and recreational space, are vital to our economy and well-being as a state,” De Leon said in a statement. “This bond allows us to invest in critical priorities that have been neglected for years, while lifting people up with good jobs and livable, healthy communities.”
If approved by voters, the bond promises significant earmarks for ranchland conservation, county fairgrounds and watershed projects of at least $98 million. Another $25 million will be set aside for environmental grant programs for rural communities.
Mary Creasman, California director of public affairs for the Trust for Public Land, vowed to wage a vigorous public information campaign to encourage voters to support the bond.
“This is an enormous victory for the hundreds of grassroots advocates who made calls and walked the hallways of the Legislature for years,” Creasman said.
“Most importantly, it is a win for millions of California children and families, who will soon have access to a quality park within a 10-minute walk of their home. Park access should not be considered a luxury. It is a right, along with the clean air, clean water, and protection from climate impacts that result from these investments.”
The bond includes $200 million for projects to restore the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake and an important habitat for migratory birds. Water levels have been decreasing rapidly there since a 2003 water-use agreement went into effect that reduced the amount of water allowed to run into the sea.
The money will start funding of the state’s 10-year Salton Sea Plan, approved last March, to preserve a smaller-but-sustainable Salton Sea. Projects in the region will likely contribute to a rush of new, good paying jobs in one of the state’s most impoverished regions.
“This measure will benefit every corner of California, particularly those neighborhoods with the greatest need,” David Fuesta of the Environmental Defense Fund said. “EDF is pleased to see that SB 5 contains $200 million to address the challenges of the Salton Sea and over $100 million that can enhance our private working lands.”
The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta will receive $50 million to repair levees and flood control projects, from a $550 million allotment intended to address the critical condition of flood control in the state.
Last February, the Oroville Dam in Northern California partially failed, leading to evacuations and highlighting the need for investment. About $350 million will be dedicated to flood control repairs in the Golden State.
“SB 5 provides essential investment for parks in urban communities, wildlife and habitat protection, and protects our rivers, streams and forests amid the growing challenges of changing climate conditions,” Jay Zeigler, policy director with the Nature Conservancy, said.
“These investments will deliver improved public health, improved environmental protection and bring jobs to urban and rural communities. With existing funding sources disappearing, SB 5 comes at a critical moment to demonstrate California’s renewed commitment to conservation and parks for all Californians.”