This week, the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee met to take up Assembly Bill 18, by Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, which would authorize $3 billion in general obligation bonds to finance park, water, climate, coastal protection and outdoor access projects, assuming voter approval in 2018. Noting that the State has not had a park bond on the ballot in almost 20 years, Assembly Member Garcia described the measure as balancing the needs between urban and rural areas, including providing technical assistance for smaller, less well-resourced communities with minimum distributions for disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities, as defined.
In addition to moving away from CalEnviroScreen as the formula for defining these communities, the measure also calls out $40 million for “rural recreation, tourism and economic enrichment.” Also of note is $30 million for the Salton Sea Authority plus $10 million for the New River; $330 million to the State Department of Parks and Recreation for restoration and improvements to existing facilities; $25 million for stormwater capture projects, largely in urban areas; $145 million to various conservancies; $400 million to the Wildlife Conservation Board for natural community conservation plans, wildlife corridors and open space connectivity; $50 million for projects that improve forest health or the restoration of the state’s watersheds affected by tree mortality; and $10 million for agricultural/open-space soil health or to replace inefficient groundwater pumps. Notably absent from this measure is funding for water supply infrastructure.
The committee approved the measure on a partisan vote, although members on both sides were actively engaged in expressing concerns involving the need for operation and maintenance funding for existing parks and similar public resources. The only opposition to the measure came from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. AB 18 was enthusiastically supported by over two dozen land conservation and environmental groups, as well as the Sierra Business Council.