Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Flood Control Bond Spending

A timely reminder on what the recent bond funding could become, unless we keep an eye out and unless our public leadership acts responsibly.

Levees Versus Levies
How to make Proposition 1E work best for flood-control in California
by Amy Kaleita, Public Policy Fellow, Environmental Studies

In the recent election, a full 64 percent of California voters approved Proposition 1E, a flood-control measure that will allocate $4.1 billion in state bonds for the repair and fortification of levees and hydraulic structures. The wide margin of victory confirms that Californians value such projects to protect lives and property.

A potential pitfall involves the costs. To repay these bonds over 30 years will cost an estimated $8 billion. That hefty amount will be paid by all California taxpayers rather than those directly receiving the benefits of the flood-control projects.

Another potential problem involves control. Political forces, rather than engineers and hydrologists, will be in charge of the decisions on which projects get funded and why. Such projects could be based on politics rather than need or soundness. Rural communities, or those lacking political clout, may wind up disadvantaged. What's more, the government may not be the best entity to provide this sort of protection.