California lawmakers balk at ballot issue for new water supply

When Californians go to the polls Nov. 4, they won’t find the bipartisan proposal of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to advance US$9.3 billion in bonds for water supply and conservation.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and Feinstein unveiled a plan in July for the bond program, aimed at bridging a partisan divide between state lawmakers over water projects. (HNN 7/11/08) However, legislators did not approve the proposal, refusing to advance it to the November ballot.

The governor did sign legislation in September that appropriates $842 million from two initiatives passed by voters in 2006. The funds are expected to help water agencies address a statewide drought and provide a first step toward investing in water supply reliability.

Even so, Schwarzenegger said a much more comprehensive plan is needed to update the state’s water system.

�This funding is a Band-Aid measure that will help water agencies improve their conservation efforts in the face of the state’s drought but will not solve our long-term water supply problems, which require a more comprehensive solution to ensure that California has the water it needs to keep our environment and economy healthy,� he said.

Schwarzenegger said California’s water system is in urgent need of a modernization that includes new dams for storing water, improved conveyance, a restored and better-protected Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem, and greater water conservation.

In 2007, Schwarzenegger proposed a $9.6 billion water infrastructure improvement plan that would have included $5.1 billion to develop additional water storage by expanding Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County or by building Sites Dam in Colusa County or Temperance Flat Dam in Fresno County. However, legislators in a special session were unable to reach agreement on that plan.

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