Bond measure would put $5.5 billion toward fighting climate change


A proposed $5.5-billion bond measure from the California Senate aims to combat climate change by funding various environmental preservation and expansion projects throughout the state.

Senate Bill 45, also known as the Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020, would allocate the money based on environmental hazards faced in California. The bill would still need to be approved by the Legislature before being placed on the November ballot.

The bill proposes that $2.2 billion be allocated for wildfire prevention, $1.47 billion to ensure safe drinking water, $620 million to protect fish and wildlife, $190 million for agricultural protections, $970 million to protect the coastline and around $60 million toward workforce development and education efforts.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), who introduced the bill with Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), held a town hall on Friday at Descanso Gardens to provide a brief overview on the proposed bond’s impact at the local level.

Several local conservancy groups were on hand to detail the kind of impact the money from the bond would have in implementing their projects.

One such environmental project involves naturalizing some of Los Angeles County’s waterways that are encased in concrete channels and in heavily urbanized areas.

Sarah Rascon, Urban River program officer with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, said restoring rivers to their natural state and expanding the surrounding green space would result in several positive environmental impacts such as providing new wildlife habitats and offsetting carbon dioxide emissions.

Naturalization would also provide a positive community impact by allowing for more parkland.

During the event, Portantino mentioned the divide among lawmakers in Sacramento on whether the bond money should be implemented at the state level or through local control.

“I favor working through the local conservancies and giving them the resources,” he said. “Because all of you [town hall attendees] and all of your cities sit on those bodies and it’s just a better way to program the dollars locally.”

Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said local control allowed for outdoor spaces like Cherry Canyon Park in La Cañada and Glendale’s Deukmejian Wilderness Park to exist and that it wouldn’t have been possible if it involved trekking “up to Sacramento and fill out the grant applications and do the bureaucratic number.”

“It’s only possible because there was initiative that was here in this community,” he said. “What conservancies have done is mobilized the power that individual communities have, that you know what’s best and, in many cases, you can do those projects.”

James Barba, from the office of the Senate president pro tempore, said this bond is needed now more than ever as the impact of climate change is not something that’s far off in the future — it’s already here.

He pointed to how 15 of the 20 most destructive wildfires in California history, including the Camp and Woolsey fires, have all happened since 2000.

On a nationwide level, Barba said climate-related disasters have cost Americans more than $1 trillion.

While he doesn’t consider the measure a silver bullet to dealing with climate change, Barbara said every dollar spent now on prevention saves costs later on down the line.

“SB 45 is not a silver bullet [to our problems], but it’s a down payment on our future,” he said. “We know that this investment is critical now. We need the resources now; we’re feeling the impacts now. We can’t afford to wait.”

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