[env-trinity] New York Times 10 13 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Oct 13 14:20:40 PDT 2009


California Tries to Solve Water Woes 

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/jennifer_stein
hauer/index.html?inline=nyt-per> 

Published: October 12, 2009 

LOS ANGELES - In a sign that a deal addressing California's longstanding
water supply problems may be near, Gov.
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/arnold_schwarz
enegger/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Arnold Schwarzenegger convened a special
session of the Legislature on Monday to revisit a package of water bills.

 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/us/13calif.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&ref=todaysp
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David McNew/Getty Images

Dry fields near Buttonwillow are signs of the water problems a special
legislative session is intended to address in California. 

 
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David McNew/Getty Images

Aging pipes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. 

A three-year drought, federal environmental regulations restricting water
flows and the fixation of Mr. Schwarzenegger - who has said he is determined
to leave a mark on one of the state's most intractable problems before
leaving office next year - have heightened the urgency for an agreement. 

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, had threatened to veto some 700 bills if
lawmakers did not reach a water deal by Sunday, the end of the regular
legislative session. But he backed off that threat on Monday, citing
progress as lawmakers and members of his staff hunkered down to work on the
issue. 

The special session is expected to last until the end of the week, and both
Republicans and Democrats expressed optimism on Monday that a deal was in
the offing.

"While we still need to hammer out remaining issues," Darrell Steinberg, a
Democrat and Senate president pro tem, said in a statement, "we are on the
verge of the most comprehensive advance on water in California in decades.
We've made significant breakthroughs on many of the sticking points that
have plagued past attempts to stabilize the state's water supply."

The negotiations are focused on repairing the state's fragile water
ecosystem, unleashing new water supplies and increasing water conservation
throughout the state. More specifically, negotiators hope to seal a deal
that would make equal the goals of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta - a collection of channels, natural habitats and islands at the
confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers that is a major source
of the state's drinking water - and increasing the supply of water to
residents, businesses and farms.

State officials say the restoration of the delta, as envisioned in the
negotiations, would be the largest environmental restoration project in the
United States, surpassing the effort under way in the Florida Everglades.

But the battle over how to distribute California's water is generations old
- it was
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/samuel_langhor
ne_clemens/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Mark Twain who was believed to have
said, "Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over" - and when it
comes to water legislation, close to done never means done. In the delta
alone, myriad efforts have sought to change how water flows and to whom,
including a package of five policy and bond bills that never made it to a
vote in the Democratic-controlled Legislature this year.

Yet many factors have made the need to fix California's water system
problems all the more pressing.

The drought has led to water restrictions and increased prices for water
around the state. And along with the drought, a federal order last year
forcing water authorities to curtail the use of large pumps in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to help preserve dying smelt has reduced water
flows to agriculture and resulted in dust-bowl-like conditions for many of
the state's farms. In 2008, over 100,000 acres of the 4.7 million acres in
the Central Valley were left unplanted, and experts expect that number to
grow this year. 

In addition, environmental problems in the Sacramento River have resulted in
a collapse of the Chinook salmon population, closing salmon season off the
coast of California and much of Oregon for two years in a row.

Among the bills in the making is one that would issue roughly $9 billion in
bonds, including $3 billion to build at least one dam. Some of the money
would also be used to help restore the delta ecosystem and fortify levies to
withstand natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. The bonds would
require voter approval.

What remains to be worked out, negotiators say, is whether any money would
be set aside to build a peripheral canal that would transport water from the
Sacramento River around the delta to federal and state aqueducts for use in
urban and agricultural areas in the southern part of the state. The canal,
long a contentious issue among California water managers and politicians, is
favored by Mr. Schwarzenegger and Senator
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/f/dianne_feinste
in/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat.

Another disputed piece of the negotiations involves the monitoring of
groundwater levels. Without monitoring groundwater usage, it is impossible
to tell whether aquifers are being stressed, which can lead to weakened
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/dams_and_dikes/index.html
?inline=nyt-classifier> levees and damage to the surrounding environment. As
the drought has persisted, tapping into groundwater supplies has increased,
especially among farmers - and in some areas, state officials say,
dangerously so. 

While roughly 70 percent of the state's water districts voluntarily measure
groundwater levels, reporting the levels is not mandatory, and Democrats had
sought to make it so. Republican lawmakers staunchly opposed state
government "trespassing" on private property to do so. A compromise would
make a water district's failure to voluntarily report levels result in the
loss of billions of dollars from state bonds. 

 

 

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
(secondary)

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

 

 

 

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