CA legislation meets over water solution

November 2, 2009 7:36:53 PM PST
Water is currently the focus of attention in Sacramento. Lawmakers are meeting in special session to figure out how to protect the state's water supply and make sure it is distributed fairly and efficiently. It is a very complex and controversial problem to solve.

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It would be truly historic if the California legislation could somehow get a long-term water fix to the governor's desk while both houses convened early Monday afternoons with none of the proposals going to a vote yet because they're either tweaking them or more arm twisting needs to be done.

Monday's special session is the closest any group of legislators has been to voting on a compromise that expands water supplies and divvies up the state's vital resource.

"There is a recognition among people who have been involved in the water debates for decades now, that this is the moment," says St. Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

The question is: will the votes be there? Republican Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, seems to think it still needs more work.

"There will never be a water bill that everyone likes," says Assm. Blakeslee.

Among the sticking points: Who will pay back the $9.4 billion dollar bonds for dams and other storage? Is 20 percent conservation by 2020 too much? And, should there be a diversion canal to move the water north to south?

Some Democrats don't like using the state's general fund to pay back the bonds. It takes away money for education and other programs the state already cannot afford.

"It would be like going to get another credit card and maxing it out. That's just not sound fiscal policy," says Assm. Dave Jones, D-Sacramento.

Then there's the north versus south battle. Northern California gets most of the rain and snow, but Southern California is home to the majority of the state's residents. So fixing the delta to make water transmission easier between the two regions is crucial because it provides about a third of the drinking water down south.

"That's exactly the critical piece of infrastructure that needs upgrading, needs modernizing," says St. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles.

While many California farmers haven't been able to plant, the ones that still can want to keep their water rights.

"My grandfather was a very happy man, had a big pot belly, watched his grandkids run around the ranch and farm pears. I'd like the opportunity to do that as well," says Brett Baker, a pear farmer.

Governor Schwarzenegger is keeping a close eye on this vote. He's even cancelled an appearance on a talk show Tuesday night to make sure he can be around to sway some lawmakers, if necessary.

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