A $1 billion emergency relief drought package passed the Legislature this week and was expected to be signed by the Governor.
California has entered the fourth year of a severe drought with a snowpack well below historical averages, meaning less snow to melt and supply water through the spring and early summer.
The part of the package accelerating previously approved funding passed with bipartisan support in both legislative houses, while the accompanying trailer bill encountered resistance from Republican legislators who questioned provisions granting enforcement powers to fish and game wardens and creating a new office.
Similar concerns were raised by grower representatives at informational hearings on the package.
The finance portion of the package accelerates funding as follows:
• $267 million for water development, including recycling, desalination and drinking water;
• $131 million for direct drought response, including food assistance, emergency drinking water, protection of fish and wildlife, invasive species protection, and emergency water supply and education;
• $660 million for urban/rural flood protection, mainly in the Central Valley. The funding comes from the Proposition 1e water bond approved by voters in 2006 that must be spent before 2016.
The drought legislation was aimed at funding projects that could be started quickly.
Work remains to be done on long-term efforts to alleviate California’s chronic water shortage.
California Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Allan Zaremberg has commented, “Since we can’t make it rain, we have to manage our resources more efficiently today and in the future. That includes adequate storage and conveyance facilities, plus approving desalination, recycling and reuse operations.”
The emergency water legislation underscores the related need to fix California’s aging water distribution system as well.
The CalChamber is part of a coalition working to promote the Governor’s proposed fix to the system through implementation of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
The coalition includes business leaders, labor unions, family farmers, local governments, water experts and community groups.
For more information, visit www.watersecurityca.com.