In what may result in a serious blow to Governor Jerry Brown's signature bullet train initiative, California agricultural industry leaders are collecting signatures to take funds from the high-speed rail project and instead use the money for water-conservation projects statewide.
The $2 million campaign vows to do more than just kill the behind-schedule and over-budget bullet train plan. Despite previous failed attempts to discontinue the bullet train, supporters believe this time may succeed because it addresses a major public concern: the state's historic drought and shrinking water supply.
The California Water Alliance, a Central Valley nonprofit backed by farmers, has spearheaded the effort to acquire the funds. The group is required to collect 585,000 valid voter signatures in order for the measure to appear on the ballot in November. According to supporters, thousands of signatures have already been gathered.
Of the $68 billion designated for the bullet train construction, agricultural leaders hope to seize nearly $11 billion – $8 billion in remaining rail system bonds approved by voters in 2008, and $2.7 billion previously approved for water storage under Proposition 1 in 2014.
Backers of the petition say they have already determined specific projects that will receive partial funding. According to the Los Angeles Times, the money will go to raising the Shasta Dam by 18.5 vertical feet, expanding the San Luis Reservoir, building a new reservoir near the Sacramento River, and creating a new storage system on the San Joaquin River – all Northern California projects.
Despite the highly detailed plans, opponents of the measure point out the plan is not well organized. They say it fails to designate where nearly half of the funds will end up.
Gov. Jerry Brown has a campaign fund of more than $20 million, which he could use to promote and defend the bullet train.
Brown's office declined to comment on the petition.
Reach Staff Reporter Eytan Wallace here.