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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.

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lachips February 21 2014 at 3:10 PM

Spend all you want, but if it does not rain it will not do any good - we need rain!!!!!!

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lachips February 21 2014 at 3:08 PM

So, how are we getting the water here?

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Warrior February 20 2014 at 4:29 PM

California's government, especially under Brown, diverts all kinds of attention and resources to providing for illegal immigrants...including sanctuaries, and implementation of its own version of the DREAM Act. Brown and our illustrious state legislature should have spent California's state tax dollars towards water conservation efforts BEFORE any drought, instead of "after there is a looming crisis." It's not like the problems haven't been blatantly obvious, or the opportunities haven't been there for decades. All you need to do is see a typical rain storm anywhere in California causing flash floods; and, then, all that fresh water runs out to sea. Brown is a bone head! So is the State legislature, and federal government all the way to the top! Short term fixes are too little, too late! Get priorities straight. California is the year round bread basket not ony of this nation, but the world. It also has a strategic value to the economy of the nation. Ample, clean energy is necessary to accomplish many of our needs. Face facts. When you have a state where the temperatures are in the 80's or higher most of the year, and it is largely arid; people are going to need air conditioning, too...and, not just the rich people, or the ones working in office buildings. Water shed and conservation projects, desalinzation, and power plants, especially green, renewable energy should be priorities in California..."not" preventing dams from being built because of little fish, and illegal immigrant issues...except to enforce the laws, and deport them as quickly, efficiently and inexpensively as possible! Seeing as how most crops won't grow this year, I guess we can get rid of some of the pickers doing jobs Americans won't do before they steal more jobs Americans want to do; raising unemployment of U.S. citizens, and causing them to loose their livelihoods, homes, college educations, retirement savings, etc...

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Warrior February 20 2014 at 4:22 PM

California government, especially under Brown, has been diverting all kinds of attention and resources to providing for illegal immigrants...including sanctuaries, and implementation of his own version of the DREAM Act. Brown and our illustrious state legislature should have spent California's state tax dollars towards all of the water conservation efforts BEFORE any drought, instead of after there is a looming crisis. It's not like the problems haven't been blatantly obvious, or the opportunities haven't been there for decades. All you need to do is see a typical rain storm causing flash floods, and then all that fresh water runs out to sea. Brown is a bone head! So is the State legislature, and federal government all the way to the top! Short term fixes are too little, too late! Get priorities straight. California is the year round bread basket not ony of this nation, but te world. It also has a strategic value to the economy of the nation. Ample, clean energy is necessary to accomplish many of our needs. Face facts. When you have a state where the temperatures are in the 80's or higher most of the year, people are going to need air conditioning, too...and, not just the rich people, or the ones working in office buildings. Water shed and conservation projects, desalinzation, and power plants, especially green, renewable energy should be priorities in California..."Not" preventing dams from being built because of little fish, and illegal immigrant issues...except to enforce the laws, and deport them as quickly, efficiently and inexpensively as possible! Seeing as how most crops won't grow this year, I guess we can get rid of some of the pickers doing jobs Americans won't do before they steal more jobs Americans want to do, raising unemployment of U.S. citizens, and causing them to loose their livelihoods, homes, college educations, retirement savings, etc...

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dsandersstudios February 20 2014 at 3:35 PM

Boy, what short memories Calif's have. Do you not remember that we did build a desalination system back in the 60's and turned around and sold it to the Middle East countries in the 70"s,and also sent over our top state Engineers to help them develop their infrastructure and other water systems. I know, because they wanted my father to go. Thank God he turned them down. So they sent him to Alaska instead. This huge problem is about the short sightedness of our state leaders on our number one problem since the founding of this state. You'd think that the drinking water and the farm water supplies would come first.

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steveludlow424 February 20 2014 at 3:09 PM

California should have invested in water systems to desalinate the ocean years ago. Everyone out there new this day was coming. It is the only thing that will sustain California's water supply. The state takes so much water from the Colorado river that it runs dry before the gets to Mexico. By building desalination systems, the aquafiers could be refilled and existing resevoirs could be refilled also. The mighty Colorado would be born again. The longer they take to do this, the worse it will become. It is inevitable. Do not prolong it, act now. This is a state problem not Federal. Why should we bail out California, they are the ones who caused the problem. The weather systems are changing. Even when snow fall in the Rockies was great, it did not produce enough water to take care of the states demands. All the water in the world is at your door step and you continually ignore it. It's definately time to wake up and get busy before you die.

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TCtomthumb69 February 20 2014 at 2:44 PM

The best solution to this crisis is to " De-Salinate " ocean water. California has an extremely large waterfront of the Pacific Ocean and the potential to satisfy everyone with an unlimited supply of water, including other States. Putting this technology in place is expensive, but so is corruption and the skimming of funds for other projects that DO NOT benefit the Citizens of this State or the farmers. California should be the leader of this technology and set the precedent. Saudi Arabia, Dubai and other middle eastern countries do it for their people and we should be doing the same....

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Poppi February 20 2014 at 2:11 PM

Did the drough just happen this week. Typical dem knee jerk reaction. Put on a band aid and then let the patient die for the lose of blood. Jerry and his boss obama are fools.

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Rhonda February 20 2014 at 2:02 PM

Nice Brown and Obama photo op. Hard to pick the bigger spender or idiot!

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knudsendr February 20 2014 at 1:46 PM

Brown and obama are socialists.
All communist hardliners they have this " working trips ".
Kim Ir Un doing the same as we speak

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