Secretary Ken Salazar tours CA waterways

April 15, 2009 7:16:54 PM PDT
More than a billion dollars in federal stimulus money is heading west for much-needed water projects. The lion's share of it is coming to Northern California, but it's a good start to a much more expensive problem.

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The federal government has not been interested for years in helping California solve its water problems.

So, state leaders are relieved to see President Obama's Interior Secretary Ken Salazar here in California, seeing firsthand by air how the drought and the complicated, decades-old Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta are failing to meet the state's water needs.

"It is time to modernize. It is time to make hard choices, and it's time for the federal government to re-engage in full partnership," said Secretary Salazar.

Secretary Salazar says that $260 million earmarked just of California can be used for new groundwater wells, screens to protect fish, and conservation efforts.

The governor is happy to see the feds step up with a down payment on the state's multi-billion dollar water problem, because he hasn't gotten any help from the legislature.

"We must work together in order to fix California's water system for the sake of our economy and for the sake of our environment," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) of California.

While the plan is desperately needed, not everyone is happy about it. Critics say it fails to address water needs right now.

The Central Valley farmers and farm workers have been marching for days, highlighting how the water shortage is killing their business. They say the long-term help is great, but the need is immediate.

"We need water right now. Most of us won't be around later on unless we get water now," said Barry Baker, a farmer.

Farmers say thousands of acres will sit barren as long as the drought persists and a court-order remains intact that prevents more water to be pumped to lands to protect endangered fish.

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