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Legislative All-Nighter Yields Consensus

State lawmakers pass bipartisan water package.khts_waterfaucet

 

Working into the wee hours of this morning, California state legislators fine-tuned and ultimately passed a major package of water reform legislation. The collected bills include measures intended to improve water conservation, storage, and recycling and protect the (Sacramento) Delta ecosystem.

 

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who convened an extraordinary session of the legislature for the purpose of addressing various water-related issues, lauded the achievement.

 

"Water is the lifeblood of everything we do in California," said Schwarzenegger. "Without clean, reliable water, we cannot build, we cannot farm, we cannot grow, and we cannot prosper. That is why I am so proud that the legislature, Democrats and Republicans, came together and tackled one of the most complicated issues in our state's history. This comprehensive water package is an historic achievement."

 

According to Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, several events brought the water issue to the fore, as years of drought and the weak economy have wreaked havoc on the state's agricultural lands. In addition, a federal court ruling has effectively 'shut off the pumps' in the Delta region due to concerns for the habitat of the delta smelt, putting extra pressure on an already strained system.

 

Smyth says one feature of the package will be to provide stronger punishment for illegal siphoning.

 

"If people are illegally taking water out of the system, that's less water for my constituents and others," said Smyth. "So it's important that people don't take what they're not paying for."

 

Currently, most Californians receive water through the aqueduct system, which was designed and built decades ago to support a population less than half what it is today. The age of the system raises safety and reliability concerns as earthquake damage to the current levies could result in catastrophic flooding and severely impact the water supply. The new package provides funds for a peripheral canal, which would create a new water delivery system built with modern technology to address these and other concerns.

 

Some major components of the package were authored by Senator Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto).

 

"Today's historic agreement is the most significant step that the state has taken in decades to invest in its crumbling water infrastructure.  Nothing is more important to the state's economic prosperity than ensuring that we have water to meet California's needs now and into the future.  With this plan, we can improve the state's water supply and protect the environment, without destroying our economy," said Cogdill.

 

At least part of the package must be approved by voters; an $11 billion bond will be on the ballot for next November's election.

 

"It was important to ... put it on the ballot and let the people of California decide if water is a priority for them ...," said Smyth. "But I think this is a positive chapter in the story."

 

Here's a breakdown of the bond, courtesy of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office :

 

 

Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010

$455 million

Drought Relief

 

For drought relief projects, disadvantaged communities, small community wastewater treatment improvements and safe drinking water revolving fund.

$1.4 billion

Regional Water Supply

 

For integrated regional water management projects up and down the state and for local and regional conveyance projects.

$2.25 billion

Delta Sustainability

 

For projects that support delta sustainability options - levees, water quality, infrastructure and to help restore the ecosystem of the Delta.

$3 billion

Water Storage

 

For public benefits associated with water storage projects that improve state water system operations, are cost effective, and provide net improvement in ecosystem and water quality conditions.

$1.7 billion

Watershed Conservation

 

For ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects in 21 watersheds including coastal protection, wildlife refuge enhancement, fuel treatment and forest restoration, fish passage improvement and dam removal.

$1 billion

Groundwater Clean-up and Protection

For groundwater protection and clean-up.

$1.25 billion

Water Recycling and Water Conservation

For water recycling and advanced treatment technology projects as well as water conservation and water use efficiency projects.

Total: $11.1 billion