Updated: Assembly Republicans introduce own water bill

Assembly Republicans, unhappy with the water-reform package authored by the Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, introduced their own water plan that they said would curb the authority over groundwater monitoring contained in the Senate plan.

The bill, AB 1 7x, was introduced hours after a closed-door meeting Monday of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Republican and Democratic leaders of both houses. During the meeting, Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, and Assembly Republican leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, said they were unhappy over the regulatory powers that the Steinberg bill authorized for groundwater monitoring and new conservation provisions. Republicans said the provisions were particularly difficult for small farmers.

The authors of the bill are three of the Assembly Republican negotiators on water  — Jean Fuller of Bakersfield, Jim Nielsen of Yolo and Kevin Jeffries of  Riverside.

Assembly Republicans said the bill was intended to provide a platform for future negotiations. An Assembly Republican sources said the bill is a work in progress, but it was puyt forward as a potential alternative to the Steinberg proposal.

The Senate and Assembly bills are similar in some respects, but differ in others. One key difference is in the penalties and fines for improper diversions of water.

The Senate bill calls for fines up to $5,000 per day or the amount of "the highest market value of water," a level that could far exceed $5,000 per day if the diversion was on a large scale. The Assembly plan's language caps the penalty at $5,000, according to the language in the bill. 

The Republicans'' bill, which deals with policy and not fiscal issues, was introduced on the same day that legislative hearings began on the Steinberg bill, which was the product of months of negotiations between water interests and environmental groups.

That bill seeks to expedite and stabilize water deliveries while providing enough water to protect the environment of the delta.

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