U.S. Water News Online
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, alluding to the
drastic changes global warming could have on the state's water
supply, is proposing spending $4.5 billion to create two reservoirs
and store more water in groundwater aquifers.
The items are a key aspect of the governor's $43.3 billion bond
plan, which he revealed during his state-of-the-state address. One of
the proposed reservoirs would be in a valley about 60 miles north of
Sacramento, while the other would be near Fresno.
The projects are supported by farmers but opposed by many
Democrats and environmentalists.
"The issue is securing our water future," Department of Water
Resources Director Lester 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."
State reports suggest that warmer weather will melt the Sierra
snowpack earlier, lead to flooding in the Central Valley and the San
Francisco Bay area, and threaten the state's water supply.
Schwarzenegger must persuade Democrats, who hold a majority in
both houses of the Legislature, to put two bonds on the 2008 ballot
to 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
Building dams remains a tough sell for Democrats, who last year
rejected a similar proposal by the governor.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, called
Schwarzenegger's attempt to link water storage to climate change "a
bit of a stretch."
"The way to avoid the impacts of global warming is not by saying,
'Let's prepare ourselves for it.' Let's prevent it," Nunez said.
Environmental groups said the governor's argument is a ploy to
subsidize farmers in the Central Valley eager for more water.
"This is not a question of meeting California's water needs. This
is about subsidizing water users," said Barry Nelson, senior policy
analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We think it's
simply irresponsible to commit billions of dollars to construct these
projects before they are proved credible."
The state and federal government have spent years studying what
the impacts could be from the proposed Sites reservoir in a valley
north of Sacramento and a Temperance Flats reservoir near Fresno.
Snow said the environmental consequences are minimal, adding that
the projects would be ready for construction if voters approved the
money in 2008.
"If you don't build reservoirs, we'll lose a lot of water," said
Steve Hall, executive director of the Association of California Water
Schwarzenegger's total proposed water bond is $6 billion, with $1
billion set aside for upgrading canals through the delta. Much
smaller amounts would be used 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
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