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Historical Breakthrough May Be Pending In State Water Crisis

cameronsmythGovernor calls special session of Legislature amid negotiation success.

State legislators may soon be headed back to Sacramento to participate in a special session on the water crisis called by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Water has been a major issue in the state since a federal judge put a stop to pumping water from the Delta, located in northern California where the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers converge. The Delta had been a major source of water for southern California, including Santa Clarita, which gets about half of its water from the area.

The Delta was closed after its ecosystem began to crash, and several species of small fish were faced with extinction. The issue shed a spotlight on the state's old and failing water system.

Since the Delta's closure, water has been hard to come by. While Santa Clarita's water provider (Castaic Lake Water Agency) has significant reserves, other areas have not been so lucky. Especially hard hit have been central California farmers, who have been all but completely cut off from state water project resources.

For several years state politicians have spoke about various ways combat the water crisis, and recently Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has pushed the issue to the forefront. Negotiations between his office and leading state legislators have been ongoing, and our Governor reports some success.

"We are on the verge of a historical breakthrough on water," Governor Schwarzenegger said at a rally in Sacramento on Friday. "I'm very happy that the negotiations are going well."

Without slipping into detail, Schwarzenegger hinted that the negotiations surround a large water package.

"Its big, it's historic," he said.

While the Governor can call a special session, only the leaders of each legislative house can call back members. The session was called in an attempt to capitalize on recent progress in the negotiations.

"For three years we have been talking about this. And like all of you I'm tired of the posturing," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "We're not waiting another year, we're not going to wait another month, and we're not going to wait another week."

Schwarzenegger assured the crowd that the water package was comprehensive.

"I'm fighting to clean our groundwater, I'm fighting to restore the Delta and its ecosystem, and I'm fighting for above and below the ground water storage," he said. "I'm fighting to rebuild our crumbling water system and most importantly to get more water to the desperately needed areas, which are our businesses, our homes and our farmers."

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, who represents Santa Clarita, says that he has not been called back to Sacramento yet, and that he believes the negotiations are still taking place amongst political leaders.

While he was optimistic that the legislature would be able to agree on a water package, he wasn't holding his breath.

"I've been around long enough now to not get too excited until I actually see it," Smyth said. "Sometimes the devil is in the details. Maybe we have the framework in place, but what that exact agreement is, is something we need to be very cautious of."

Smyth does have some thoughts as to what he would like to see in the bill.

"We need to make sure there is a peripheral canal (around the Delta), we need to have improvements of the levees, and we need to have above ground storage. We're looking at a potential El Nino year, and there is going to be tons of water that we will lose to the ocean because we don't have the capacity to capture and store that water."

Smyth plans to be vigilant when it comes to passing a bill that muddies the issue.

"I want to make sure that any bill or bond that comes through isn't full of eco-pork, that is designed to just fluff up a package and spend more tax payer dollars without delivering a water system."