Legislator proposes $3 billion plan to solve water problems
Local, regional agencies would control the water

By ALI BAY, Capital Press

SACRAMENTO, CA - 3/24/02 - A Northern Californian rancher and legislator has proposed a bill that would provide $2.95 billion to help solve the state’s water problems.

Sen. Maurice Johannessen, R-Redding, is the author of SB2070, called The Water Supply Security and Water Supply Reliability Act of 2002. Supported by a coalition of rural counties, the water bond proposal is designed to provide more water for the state, while giving local and regional agencies the controls.

“We all have to recognize that we don’t have enough water,” Johannessen said. “We can’t use water twice. We don’t know how much water is in the ground. So we have to come up with a plan that will give us some new water.”

Frustrated with the state’s CalFed project, Johannessen wrote the new bond plan to help create new water-storage options, clean up existing bodies of water, help local agencies reduce their dependence on other regions of the state and protect the state’s water against terrorist acts.

If the Legislature approves the bill, the bond issue will go to a statewide vote on November’s ballot.

“I think we have a good chance at this one,” Johannessen said. “We have great support.”

The bulk of that support is coming from the Rural Council of Rural Counties in Sacramento, which is an advocacy for 29 rural counties, many of them in Northern California.

“Eighty percent of California’s water originates from those northern counties,” said Maria Caudill, an RCRC spokesman. “Water has been a pivotal issue for us for a very long time. We were getting to the point where we wanted to develop a solution.”

Caudill said the bond proposal lays out two important components for California. First, it would provide water security. Secondly, it gives power to local and regional agencies to develop their own water supply programs.

“This is a very lean, very focused approach at building a solid foundation. This isn’t the cure. This isn’t a panacea. But it is the key for laying our water foundation.”

Caudill said she hopes farm groups will sign on as supporters of the bond issue, primarily because it creates water solutions without a land grab component. The only land acquisition provided in the proposed bond would take drainage or salt-impaired lands out of production on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

“We have received a lot of favorable nods from farm leaders. We feel they’re an extremely important partner in this.”

The water bond proposes eight key components. $1 billion would provide for water security against terrorist acts. $100 million would be given in clean-water grants to local agencies, and another $100 million would be reserved for contaminant and salt-removal grants.

$800 million would be granted to local agencies to reduce their dependence on other regions of the state. $200 million would help local agencies reduce dependence upon the Colorado River. $300 million would help restore and manage the state’s watersheds, while another $325 million would target the retirement of impaired lands in the San Joaquin Valley.

Finally, $100 million in grants would help local agencies study new surface storage projects.

The bill, which is in the Senate, will go to the agriculture committee in early April.


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