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Governor plans $687 million for California drought

California Drought-Obama

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Jerry Brown and the top Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday announced a $687 million plan to provide immediate help to drought-stricken communities throughout California, including $15 million for those with dangerously low drinking water supplies.

The proposal comes amid one of the driest periods in the history of the nation's most populous state, forcing farmers to fallow fields and some communities to warn of low water supplies.

"There's many ways we can better use the water we have," Brown said during a news conference at a state office near Sacramento. "You can't manufacture water."

The Democratic plan, which now goes to the Legislature, does not address long-term improvements to California's water supply and distribution system. Rather, it provides money for immediate aid.

Most of the money - $549 million - will come in the form of accelerated spending from two bonds approved previously by voters. It will go toward local water conservation and recycling efforts, such as systems to capture stormwater and recharge groundwater supplies.

The general fund, the state's main checkbook, also will be tapped. In addition to the money for emergency water supplies, $25.3 million from the general fund will provide food assistance in communities affected by the drought.

That would include areas of the Central Valley, among the nation's most productive farming regions, that are suffering from high unemployment as agriculture-related jobs disappear.

The proposal also directs the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Public Health to boost water supplies by allowing for the use of recycled water and stormwater. Increased penalties for illegally diverting water also are part of the proposal.

Republican lawmakers, who were not included in the plan, said more must be done to address the state's long-term water needs. They and many farmers have been advocating for more reservoirs to store water.

"While short-term help is needed, Sacramento must also focus on a long-term water solution," two Republicans, Frank Bigelow and Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, said in a statement.

They said Republicans would propose legislation on Thursday to "secure California's water future."

Asked about whether he believes California needs more water storage, Brown told reporters that for now he wants to focus on immediate needs.

"That's important, but of course storage takes a long time."

The state legislative proposal comes as Republicans and Democrats offer different solutions in Congress to deal with California's drought. The House approved a Republican-backed bill that would temporarily halt the restoration of a dried-up stretch of the San Joaquin River so more water could be diverted to farms.

California's two U.S. senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, have introduced legislation similar to the proposal announced Wednesday by the governor. That bill would put $300 million toward emergency aid, drought-relief projects and water conservation.

"While Congress is locking their ideological horns over the best way to help, so far nothing to show for it in the process," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who joined the governor at the news conference along with Assembly Speaker John Perez.

Both expected the plan to pass the Legislature and be sent to the governor in a matter of weeks.

Most parts of California are under extreme drought conditions after three winters with below-normal rain and snowfall. As many as 17 communities are at risk of running out of drinking water in the months ahead, and farmers throughout the state have been fallowing fields and tearing up orchards.

The State Water Project, which supplies water to 25 million Californians and about 750,000 acres of farmland, will deliver no additional water later this year to its customers, the first time in its 54-year history that it has given a so-called zero allocation. That could change if precipitation picks up in the weeks ahead.

Beyond Wednesday's announcement, lawmakers still need to negotiate changes to an $11.1 billion water bond that is on the November ballot, a measure that is supposed to provide the longer-term fixes sought by farmers and cities.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
paulc28205 February 20 2014 at 6:11 AM

Why not build some desalting plants and pump water to theses places when needed?

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1 reply
dcr1140 paulc28205 February 20 2014 at 6:58 AM

Do you have any idea the cost per gallon to run desalination plant?
Not fiscally reasonable to do, unless you're on a submarine in the middle of the ocean, and need drinking water.

How about we STOP trying to save the endangered smelt fish?
There must be another way other than diverting water from towns and farmers to do this.
Yes, it would be good to save this bait fish, but.....at the expense of reining farms, towns and the biggest supplier of fresh vegetables in the country?
I think not. There has to be another way.

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2 replies
HonknDodge dcr1140 February 20 2014 at 7:20 AM

What about all the water that is used in Vegas for show.

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amicusceo dcr1140 February 20 2014 at 7:37 AM

California is about to waste 687 million dollars, I think a few desalination plants would be worth the cost.

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richtree7 February 20 2014 at 8:25 AM

California needs a short term solution until the desalining plants go on-line in approx 2016...according to the article linked above.

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1 reply
mbrheljr richtree7 February 20 2014 at 8:57 AM

My wife and I were talking about this issue the other day, richtree7.

(...and, FYI, this committed conservative was a tree hugger LONG before I knew what an "environmentalist" was...)

There's actually a desalination plant being constructed in San Diego County, CA.

I don't claim to be an expert on this issue.

But, having said that, if the "climate changers" are right that the oceans are rising due to global warming melting polar ice, why not put some of that "extra" ocean water to use, minus the salt?

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John L February 20 2014 at 11:50 AM

Why aren't there 2 or 3 desalinazation plants along the CA. coastline? We can go to the moon but can't divert water from rising seas to the breadbasket of the Country . No private plants, all Gov. owned. We don't need Wall Street in charge of our drinking water. Texas could use at least one on the Gulf as well. If we can't figure this out ask the Saudi's how to do it !

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2 replies
carp940 John L February 20 2014 at 12:03 PM

Right on the Nose!

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stevecono John L February 20 2014 at 12:20 PM

Blame the coastal folks and the environmentalist. A fifteen year on going impact study on building with
permits and regulations and the impact on marine life. The Boston base Poseidon withdrew its application
seeking to build a 900 million Desalination plant that would bring in 50 million gallons of fresh drinking water a day.

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rootfiler February 20 2014 at 11:49 AM

Spending money will not make the problem go away!

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Larry February 20 2014 at 9:12 AM

Born and lived in Southern California for 43 years. First they needed the aquaduct to irrigate thousands of acers of farmland and recently cut thier water off for a small fish on the endangered species list and now tens of thousands of acres of farmland looks like the graps of wrath. The idiots that run this state are the cause of all California's problems and the fruitloops are kept in charge by the morons that vote them in. Sure there is a water problem and it isn't because of the drought. It is because of over populsaton, poor to non existant land management and the fact ...it's a desert folks! A return to the desert is where it is headed and all the money in California can't produce more water. So glad I escaped from this state years ago. Thank God I live in West Virginia.

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1 reply
djohn1050 Larry February 20 2014 at 9:29 AM

The fact that there are 5 or 6 times the population here as when you were born has nothing to do with our problems, is that what you're saying, sonny boy? Frankly, I thank god you're not here either.

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1 reply
bast1124 djohn1050 February 20 2014 at 10:42 AM

Maybe people should slow down with the pro-creation. Every year more idiots squirt out more kids and the planet isn't getting any bigger. The arguments of "it's my right" or "it's God's will" won't put food on your table or water in the glass for those kids when less resources have to be divided among more mouths. Just because you can doesn't mean you should... And no, I do not have kids and will not.

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dutz008 February 20 2014 at 9:14 AM

If you want to solve the problem, start with desalting the ocean, filtering and reusing our waste water and start building pipelines that transfer water from flood areas to resoviours in drought areas. It's simple, you pay for it with the savings from closing our overseas military bases. We don't need to defend South Korea so they can undercut our products or the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. Fix America and see how that works

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3 replies
skitzlpk February 20 2014 at 9:19 AM

This entire article is pretty much spent boosting the image of Californian Democrats. If you look to the very last sentence in the article, it points to what Republicans want to do in confronting the situation. As usual, it's "give the house away" politics vs. "pragmatism" which our media constantly chooses to observe & promote the first choice to the chagrin of reasonable people. If I was a farmer in Cali, I'm thinking I'd be leaning toward a long term solution,, not a short term bandaid..

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1 reply
djohn1050 skitzlpk February 20 2014 at 9:27 AM

The reason for the article is to point out that someone is actually stepping up to the plate and DOING something to help the people affected by this drought. It certainly wasn't going to be the republicans. All they seem to care about is helping themselves, while the nation falls apart.

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Lisa February 20 2014 at 9:21 AM

Money isn't going to fix a 'drought'.

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1 reply
djohn1050 Lisa February 20 2014 at 9:25 AM

Much of the money will be going to help support the many people who are going hungry because of the lack of work in the San Joaquin Valley. Of course money won't make it rain, but it can help ease the pain of a drought. Stop being inhumane - you'd help if it was your own relatives suffering, and yet you turn away when it's someone else's son or daughter in pain. You so-called Americans who do this are nothing but selfish hypocrites.

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filliperogers February 20 2014 at 9:26 AM

build a pipeline from the state of washington to california like the alaskan pipeline for oil. Of course water storage has to be part of the equation . Course with the government involved california is likely to die of thrist first........

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Colin February 20 2014 at 11:42 AM

Yeah, I remember when they demanded water from the Columbia River be diverted. They need to develop their own resources and control their growth to fit within their means. The Colorado is already going dry. Why not start some desalination plants for the Salt waters and recycle waste water.

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