|Governor's $6 billion
water plan is welcomed by farmers, water
Bob Krauter Capital Press California Editor
SACRAMENTO - California farm and water groups
are pleased with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's
resolution for 2007 to push a $6 billion water
works plan that includes two new reservoirs.
Schwarzenegger revealed a $29.4 billion bond
package Tuesday during his state of the state
"We are a big state and we have big needs,"
Schwarzenegger said. "And we have made a big
down payment. But the job is not finished."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed
a $6 billion water plan, which includes a
$4.5 billion bond he hopes voters will
approve in 2008. The plan includes
building two new reservoirs --- the Sites
Reservoir north of Sacramento, and the
Temperance Flat Reservoir near Fresno.
The governor successfully championed a massive
$37.3 billion infrastructure plan on the November
ballot to improve roads, schools and flood
control. Now he wants voters to approve $4.5
billion for water storage by building the
Temperance Flat Reservoir on the San Joaquin River
near Fresno and the Sites Reservoir, about 60
miles north of Sacramento, would divert water from
the Sacramento River.
Louie Brown Jr., partner in the Sacramento firm of
Kahn, Soares and Conway, welcomed the governor's
emphasis on water storage.
"He is making it out to be the part of the
infrastructure debate that was left on the table,"
Brown said. "If you are really going to move
forward and rebuild California like he has been
talking about, you can't make all of the
improvements that the voters have said they want
to make without at least addressing the water
Two bonds on the 2008 ballot would pay for the
reservoirs, with $2 billion to be repaid by
contractors who would use the water. Another $2
billion would be funded by taxpayers for the dams,
while $500 million would go to groundwater
Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape
and Tree Fruit League, said the plan recognizes
long overdue action to alleviate pressure on the
state's water supplies from a growing population.
"When you look at the growth of the population and
its needs -- not only from agriculture but for the
citizens of the state, it is logical to say that
we need to look at all of the alternatives --
surface water storage as well as conservation and
underground water storage," Bedwell said. "The
governor, in particular, has identified surface
water storage and I think that is good news for
everybody in the state."
Lester Snow, the director of the state Department
of Water Resources, suggested that additional
storage is needed to address concerns about
climate change. Snow said the state's snowpack
could decrease by 25 percent by 2050 and that more
reservoirs are needed to boost supply.
"The issue is securing our water future," Snow
said in reaction to Schwarzenegger's plan. "We
hope to have a genuine discussion. The runoff
pattern isn't going to be different in the future.
It's different now."
Bedwell said climate change concerns add another
reason to pursue new storage.
"I have heard that there could be between 4 and 5
million acre-feet per year lost if we don't have
adequate storage to capture that runoff," Bedwell
said. "It really brings new dimension to the
Sarah Woolf, spokesperson for Westlands Water
District in Fresno, said it has been more than 30
years since the last major water development
project was built.
"Everyone has been talking abut the need for water
development for far too long and we need
additional water supply," Woolf said. "It is one
thing to get people to talk about it and now we
need to take some action on it. We are very much
in support of anything he can do in regards to
Also included in the water package are smaller
amounts of money for conservation programs and
restoration efforts on the Klamath, San Joaquin
and Sacramento rivers, as well as at the Salton
Sea in the Southern California desert.
While farmers, water officials and farm-friendly
legislators are warm to the water plan, the
governor's proposal may be a tough sell to
Democrats who resisted a similar proposal last
Luis Brown said the next few months will reveal if
the governor's centrist, bipartisan approach in
his second term will yield new water.
"Right now, I think there is a possibility that we
will see something done this year," Brown said.
"How that is negotiated and what we have to give
up will be something that we will focus on and
probably be faced with some tough decisions
sometime in the middle of this year."
Brown referred to how the governor and state
legislators will close a $5.5 billion state budget
deficit. Schwarzenegger releases his proposed 2007