Brown grapples with drought impacts

Gov. Brown said today that California, facing an unprecedented drought, needs to “make investments in safe drinking water” and that “recycling, expanded storage and serious groundwater management must all be part of the mix.”  But the governor did not endorse multibillion-dollar bond plans to build water infrastructure projects.

The governor in his annual state of the state message said that “we need regulators to rebalance water rules and enable voluntary transfers of water,” a reference to his proposed consolidation of the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project to expedite the movement of water across the state, under the authority of the State Water Resources Control Board.

The governor, speaking to a joint session of the Legislature and ranking state officials, did not endorse the $11.14 billion water infrastructure bond on the November ballot, but he did call for investment in water projects similar to those included in the bond. That bond currently is under review in the Legislature with rival proposals to reduce it to $6.5 billion or less.

Brown urged support for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which includes the construction of huge tunnels through the Delta.

Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, introduced SB 848 on Jan. 9, which would ask voters for permission to borrow some $6.475 billion for an array of water projects. The contents of the bill reflect discussions that have been going on for months in the Capitol and is similar to legislation authored earlier by Wolk.

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, who is carrying a $6.5 billion water bond bill, AB 1331, put amendments into his measure in the Senate, which is considering his bill.

“We also need wetlands and watershed restoration and further progress on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” the governor said. The latter refers to the administration’s proposal to construct a pair of 30-mile-long tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to move more Northern California water to the Central Valley and Southern California.

The Democratic governor, in his 12th state of the state address  — more than any other governor — did not address the drought until deep into his annual address, but in recent weeks the drought has become the No. 1 topic in Sacramento as the depth of the problem worsens. Experts say the current dry conditions are worse than the then-unprecedented drought of 1977, and represents the worst drought since the late 19th century.

But Brown left little doubt about the impacts of the drought.

“Right now, it is imperative that we do everything possible to mitigate the effects of the drought,” said Brown who last week declared a state of emergency.


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