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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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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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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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jjsrca February 20 2014 at 10:26 AM

We have plenty of water....it is called the Pacific cean......I have yet to find the word "DESALINATION' in any artaicle on our drought....it is a long term,simple solution......what's the matter with us...if we can't do it let's ask Israel and Sudi arabia to help....perhaps they can design, construct and operate plants for us. a

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1 reply
Kate jjsrca February 20 2014 at 11:23 AM

The reason you're not seeing articles about desalination plants is that they are horrendously expensive to build and operate. It isn't the first thing we should look into, because it isn't simple at all. I think you're forgetting that Saudi Arabia is one of the world's wealthiest nations.

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lbrady1234 February 20 2014 at 10:27 AM

And Obama flew out there to walk around with Brown and a couple of farmers with his hands behind his back to offer what??? Nothing, because just like California, America is broke too!
Both are Democratically controlled.

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2 replies
kcarthey lbrady1234 February 20 2014 at 10:50 AM

Are you forgetting that he met with the King of Jordan, a key ally? Or did you simply not care?

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Kate lbrady1234 February 20 2014 at 11:17 AM

It's a federal disaster area. Presidents do look at them. We will be getting some help, because it's an emergency and emergencies affect the whole country, not just individual states. We produce most of your food, you know.

Politics have nothing to do with droughts.

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tjburkee February 20 2014 at 10:28 AM

California has the biggest ocean in the world at its dooestep. All CA needs are desalination plants.

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2 replies
carp940 tjburkee February 20 2014 at 10:59 AM

Amen' Well Played!

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Kate tjburkee February 20 2014 at 11:15 AM

You have no idea how much desalination plants costs-- we do. Why do you think we don't already have them? It isn't as if we've never had this problem before.

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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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bdgrizcp February 20 2014 at 10:32 AM

I understand we control water but we are not entitled to ALL of it. Gotta leave a little for the wildlife. How about: no lawn watering. Shut down all fountains not part of HVAC systems. Buildings should be given credit for installing non-evaporative condensing systems--lots of credit. Credits for evaporative water use (in place because it doesn't end up as sewer water) should be terminated immediately (as an incentive). Create incentives for water retention systems. I would have mentioned desalinization but it is just too expensive--if you think it isn't, you need to do some research. It really is a last resort option.

Buildings should--in the future--be designed with three part waste water systems. The first is storm water--generally quite clean. The second is grey water--may contain some chemicals but no biologicals. The third is sewage.

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1 reply
rosspoling bdgrizcp February 20 2014 at 11:07 AM

I agree they could use the ocean as a condenser and cool all building getting rid of the rejected heat or use water to help start heating water Waste Grey so it could be returned to system.

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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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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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GARY STUCKEY February 20 2014 at 4:34 AM

We would have plenty of water if they would quit sending the vast majority of it to L.A

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1 reply
rkristafr GARY STUCKEY February 20 2014 at 5:40 AM

FACT CHECK!- LA doesn't get its water from the delta or central area, but rather from the Sierra and Colorado River.

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