The Assembly Democratic leadership has now added an extra $1 billion for storage projects like dams and reservoirs to its bond proposal in hopes of winning support of Republicans and Central Valley Democrats.
“These will all be open and competitive grants,” says Asm. Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), the proposal's author. “The whole point of this water bond package, from the outset, has been to stay away from specific earmarks.”
Asm. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) says that’s a good start - “I’m interested in creating wet water, and that means we have to do ground water storage, surface water storage, investment in the watersheds” - but he’s still concerned there’s no guarantee that future Democratic-controlled legislatures won’t spend the storage money elsewhere.
Meantime, environmental groups and Northern California Democrats aren’t on board with the Assembly proposal either. Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) represents the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region. She says she’s open to negotiating a solution to Dahle’s concern – but storage advocates must recognize they won’t get everything they want.
“They haven’t made any compromise as far as I can see. They still want the $3 billion that was in the ’09 bond. Well, we all have to compromise. And that’s going to be a central part of the negotiation,” Wolk says.
The challenge for lawmakers is to find a sweet spot: enough money for enough different kinds of projects to get the bond measure through the legislature, but not so pricey that voters will reject it this fall. The Assembly Democratic bond proposal is now up to $8 billion; its author says he wants to keep it below $10 billion.
The drought intensified over the last week in the Western U.S. as the region swelters under a heatwave and firefighters battle major wildfires.
Dangerous fire weather conditions has prompted one federal agency to impose fire restrictions on public lands in northern California.
Mandatory statewide water conservation rules have ended in California. But Sacramento-area users conserved 22 percent in June, compared to June 2013.
California and federal agencies say a new strategy is needed to save the endangered Delta smelt.
California is in the fifth consecutive year of drought, but state water managers ended mandatory conservation rules. Local water suppliers now determine conservation rates, and some have low or no targets. A water expert says that's 'shortsighted.'