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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

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David Howard February 20 2014 at 9:33 AM

Why not build large de-salinization plants [converting salt water to fresh]? like our aircraft carriers?? The water supply is and always has been a problem for this state. {But for God's sake, we must save the Smelt!!!!]

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2 replies
vietnamvet1967 David Howard February 20 2014 at 9:41 AM

They have these in the Middle East, Guess the tree huggers dont like the looks of them , what a joke

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bast1124 David Howard February 20 2014 at 10:30 AM

Desalination? Good intentions but with its own set of challenges too. The process creates other local environmental problems that we, as resource consumers, will eventually suffer from and have to scramble to find another band-aid for. Instead, I would first prefer to see people be more responsible with the water they have. If forced to consume less water with rationing, perhaps people will learn to be a bit more discriminate in its use. Then again, I forget how stupid and selfish most of us Americans are about such matters.

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maplecorners69 February 20 2014 at 7:47 AM

hey ---calif. do you think this is the first time there has been a drout?? take a look at west texas, no rain there for 4 years and they are not balling their eyes out. grow up, things are not golden , so enjoy some dust................

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Bob Boller February 20 2014 at 10:34 AM

A few years ago water that was needed to irrigate a large growing area in CA was cut off to preserve some small protected fish. As a result thousands of workers lost their jobs and the income form the produce from this area was lost. Apparently this was a federal mandate and although many efforts were made to reverse this order, it never succeeeded .

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1 reply
kcarthey Bob Boller February 20 2014 at 10:48 AM

I'm afraid you have fallen victim to Sean Hannerty's propaganda. California is a supplier of crops grown on land and in the oceans. In addition, we have one of the largest fresh water bays in the world to think about. California's efforts then as now are to try to balance both the needs of the land and the sea as well as humans in our towns and cities. The small fish were also a key part of the food chain and I fear, no, i strongly believe than Hannerty's ramblings were but one more effort on the part of Fox to denegrate California's success.

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hi newpatch1951 February 20 2014 at 7:29 AM

Maybe the Gov.could hire a rainmaker

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amicusceo February 20 2014 at 7:29 AM

Hey Jerry, wake the hell up, you have a very long coastline, you it to build desalination plants and the state will solve all of its water problems. Shut them down when times are better, start them up when you need them.

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williambeasy February 20 2014 at 10:41 AM

Problem-solving with other peoples' money. Recharging groundwater won't meet the needs of those folks who really need it and the aquifers being 'rented' are being depleted and they can't be recharged because they are remnants of the last ice ages. Guess they'll have to move and californicate other places.

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1 reply
Kate williambeasy February 20 2014 at 10:51 AM

When was the last emergency you heard of that was funded solely with the state's own money? It's easy to be an expert on someone else's problems from far away.

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Ken February 20 2014 at 10:47 AM

Yep, just throw money at the problem. Works
every time !!

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pro711 February 20 2014 at 7:14 AM

Desalinization, the middle east uses it and there are plants in USA and have been for years. Technology keeps changing and the cost has come down. Clean Water? No Clean Water? big decision?

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Kate February 20 2014 at 10:48 AM

The state Republicans are right too, of course, that we have to come up with long term plans as well. But in the meanwhile, the focus definitely has to be short term. I see that already milk prices are going up, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Food prices across the board are going to rise.

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stevemontani February 20 2014 at 10:49 AM

Thats the way fix a problem with good old fashion borrowing. Debt cures everything.

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1 reply
Kate stevemontani February 20 2014 at 11:41 AM

This is the first emergency that has ever had borrowed money spent on it? I'd like to know where you think the money for Katrina, Sandy, the tornado victims and on and on into the sunset had their money come from.

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