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Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Sep 1 10:00:27 PDT 2009

Water negotiations moving ahead in Capitol

Capitol Weekly-8/31/09

By John Howard 


Negotiations over a massive overhaul of California's water system picked up
steam Monday in the Capitol amid an array of meetings that included a
closed-door briefing for lawmakers by the Schwarzenegger administration's
top water officials. 


 The final proposal, an historic attempt to achieve a compromise in the
state's seemingly endless water wars, is intended to be completed by the end
of this week, with floor votes next week, said sources in both houses and
participants in the discussions. 


They face a ticking clock: The Legislature adjourns for the year on Sept.


Ultimately, the plan is envisioned as providing environmental protections to
the delta east of San Francisco, a canal through or around the delta to move
more Northern California water to the south, new storage structures, perhaps
even reservoirs, and major conservation programs. 


Environmentalists are opposed to the reservoirs, but the Schwarzenegger
administration and the construction industry view them favorably. Fishing
interests and delta partisans oppose any plan that does not contain ironclad
environmental protections for the delta, and environmentalists support
conservation programs. 


Southern California water interests, Central Valley farmers and hundreds of
public water agencies tend to favor construction of the capital projects.
There has been limited environmental support for the canal, but strong
support for conservation. 


The Legislature's Latino Caucus favors a water system overhaul that includes
a canal and new construction - adding a new political dimension to the
negotiations. The active participation of the Latino Caucus is a departure
from earlier years. 


Agreement on financing for the programs remains elusive. 


There may be a multibillion-dollar bond package requiring voter approval, a
mechanism called "continuous appropriation" in which money automatically is
directed to the water system year-by-year and a system in which big
customers - the water and irrigation districts - are charged fees on a
sliding scale. 


The dollars involved are huge: Estimates vary wildly, but a canal alone
could cost $5 billion to $10 billion, or more, and reservoirs carry similar
price tags. Last year, California voters rejected nearly $10 billion in
water bonds. 


A poll released by EMC Research showed nearly half of those surveyed opposed
bonds for new reservoirs, and perhaps a third voice opposition to the
construction of a canal. The survey was conducted by telephone Aug. 23-27 of
800 people. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.45 percent.  The poll was
commissioned by Restore the Delta, an environmental group. 


A sticking point in the water discussions is the creation of a two-house
conference committee to write the legislation. Sources in both houses said
the committee likely will be composed of 10 or 12 members, instead of the
usual six members, three from each house. 


The names of the committee members have not been announced, although they
are expected to include Assembly members Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield; Jared
Huffman, D-San Rafael; and Anna Caballero, D-Salinas. On the Senate side,
the members may include Democratic Sens. Gil Cedillo or Alex Padilla of Los
Angeles, and Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills.



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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