California drought plan would build
reservoirs, clean up drinking water
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[June 18, 2014]
SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - After
months of bickering, California lawmakers could vote as early as this
week on a plan to shore up the drought-parched state's water supply that
would include three new reservoirs, underground water storage and
environmental cleanup. —
The proposal to sell $10.5 billion in bonds to pay for water
projects must win support from two-thirds of the Legislature,
Governor Jerry Brown and tax-averse California voters. It has been
caught in political infighting for months, even as the state entered
its third year of a crippling drought, but its backer said on
Tuesday a deal was coming together.
"We're closing in on a vote," said state Senator Lois Wolk, a
Democrat whose district includes the Sacramento-San Joaquin River
Delta, which supplies water for 25 million people and crop
irrigation in the state's Central Valley breadbasket. "Given the
drought, we need storage."
Brown declared the state's drought to be an emergency last January,
committing millions to help stricken communities and temporarily
easing protections for endangered delta fish.
But the Democratic governor is hesitant to ask voters to approve the
sale of bonds to finance new projects so soon after a recent tax
Wolk's proposal, one of several vying to replace a Republican-backed
measure already slated for November's ballot, has been caught in
partisan wrangling since last summer.
Democrats pushed for underground storage, environmental cleanup and
conservation measures, while Republicans fought for the inclusion of
three long-planned reservoirs, along with a promise not to hold up
In the Senate, where Democrats need Republican support to reach a
two-thirds' majority, it was not clear on Tuesday whether Wolk had
the votes she needed.
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"I'm not sure she has been able to satisfy my needs yet," said
Republican Senator Jean Fuller, who worked on the earlier bond
measure and still supports it. "Although I do have to say she has
made a very gallant effort."
At issue is funding for a type of environmental restoration in the
delta that would later allow the state to build tunnels or canals to
carry water to the Central Valley.
With no way to take the water south, there is no point building the
additional storage, said Republican Senator Andy Vidak.
But Wolk said that could cause voters to reject the plan by evoking
controversial efforts to funnel water from the northern part of the
state to the south.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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