Lake Oroville crisis holds lesson for Orange County

The visual of water pouring down the Oroville Dam’s broken spillway could not be a better metaphor for California’s crumbling infrastructure. Orange County learned decades ago that if we wait for Sacramento to act, our infrastructure would be in just as much jeopardy as it is elsewhere in the state.

Consider that for every dollar in state taxes O.C. sends to Sacramento, we receive just six cents back in state services. That’s clearly not fair and while we could curse the darkness, instead we decided to light some candles.

In the late 1980s, when the state refused to provide the money necessary to build the planned state highway system for South O.C., we asked the state to allow us to independently bond for the construction of the roadways and pay those bonds back through tolls. A decade later, the 241, 261, 133 and 73 Toll Roads have been built and are critical to regional traffic relief.

In 1990, O.C. residents voted a half-cent county sales tax dedicated to traffic relief through Measure M. That has provided freeway widenings, Metrolink service to O.C., city street improvements and grade separations exclusively in O.C. That’s been $4 billion dedicated to local transportation improvements over the past quarter-century that most O.C. residents acknowledge has made their quality of life better.

When it comes to water projects, many of our elected water district directors have indicated that while they support the California Water Fix, which would protect the future viability of the California Aqueduct and our Northern California water supply, we are no more than cautiously optimistic that the leadership in Sacramento will actually find the political will to invest in our water infrastructure.

Therefore, O.C. will do what it always does — find local solutions. We built the Groundwater Replenishment System, the world’s most technologically advanced state of the art wastewater purification and recycling system. And now we are exploring a…

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