State bond lets firms profit from water
Some are saying the fine print in Governor Schwarzennegger's Water bond measure allows private firms to gobble up our public water supplies:
"Private companies could own, operate and profit from reservoirs and other water-storage projects built with billions in taxpayer dollars under a little-noticed provision of the $11.1 billion water bond that was approved by the Legislature and goes before California voters next year....
The bond provides for the formation of what are known as joint powers authorities - usually a coalition of public entities that pool resources for projects they probably couldn't do, or couldn't afford to do, on their own. The water bond, though, specifically allows for the creation of joint powers authorities that "may include in their membership governmental and nongovernmental partners that are not located within their respective hydrologic regions in financing the surface storage projects."
It goes on to state that those authorities would "own, govern, manage and operate a surface storage project."...
Those concerned about private involvement in public water resources point to the Kern Water Bank Authority to make their case.
The Kern Water Bank Authority is a joint powers authority that oversees the Kern County Water Bank, a large underground aquifer that could hold the equivalent of half of all the precipitation that falls in California during a normal year. The water bank was started and initially funded as a state project - with $77 million in taxpayer dollars.
In a controversial agreement, the state officials turned control of the bank over to the Kern County Water Agency in 1995 in exchange for water rights to 45,000 acre-feet of water, or enough to meet the annual needs of about 90,000 households. Later that year, the Kern Water Bank Authority formed as a joint powers authority that includes the Kern County Water Agency, four other water districts and one private company, the Westside Mutual Water Co.
Westside now owns 48 percent of the shares of the water bank. The company is owned by Los Angeles billionaire Stewart Resnick and his Paramount Farms company, which owns 70,000 acres in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and is the world's largest grower of pistachios and almonds.
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