Democrats Support Less-Expensive Alternative

Published May 1, 2007

While the California Farm Bureau Federation has yet to take a position on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) proposal to have citizens fund a $4 billion dam product, Democratic legislators strongly oppose the plan.Democrats say the state can more economically augment its water storage capacity by expanding Lake Mead on the Colorado River.

Environmental tests performed in February concluded that expanding Lake Mead by another 1.5 million acre-feet would provide enough water for an additional 3 million households each year without significant environmental consequences.

“There are no red flags at all,” Roger Patterson, assistant general manager of San Diego County’s Metropolitan Water District, told the Copley News Service.

Much Less Costly

Importantly, expanding capacity in Lake Mead would be substantially less expensive than building new dams, Democrats point out.

“Re-operation of existing dams is one of the most cost-effective ways to respond to droughts and climate change,” California Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) told the Copley News Service. “The proposal for Lake Mead falls in line with what I’ve been advocating. We can do this now and get real benefits without creating massive new debt.”

No Fiscal Conservative

Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, said he’s not surprised Democrats were calling for fiscal restraint.

“Calling yourself a Republican does not necessarily make you a fiscal conservative,” said Burnett. “Given Schwarzenegger’s record on environmental issues, it is no surprise he has proposed a plan that has state Democrats worried about extravagant costs.”

The federal government on February 28 issued a draft environmental assessment of various proposals to expand water storage in and around Lake Mead. The assessment concluded increased water retention would pose no significant threat to fish or human health.

Bonner R. Cohen