Gov. Jerry Brown and state Democratic leaders announced Wednesday emergency legislation providing $687.4 million in funding to support drought relief projects.
The legislation includes funds for housing and food for workers
directly affected by the drought, local projects that will help communities
capture and manage water more efficiently, and emergency water supplies for
communities hit hard by the drought, according to state officials.
It also includes increased funding for state and local
conservation corps to help communities with efficiency upgrades and fire fuel
reduction, as well as $1 million for a public awareness campaign urging
California residents to conserve water.
"This is a call to action," Brown said today in announcing the
legislation. "We must all do our part to conserve in this drought."
Many projects targeted in the legislation are those already in
progress that lacked funding or that were planned for a later date but will
now be moved up, officials said.
"We don't have to ignore environmental protections, raise fees or
get bogged down in political arguments over projects that will take many
years to produce a single drop of water," said Sen. Darrell Steinberg today.
"It's time we focus on what we can do right now."
The bill also calls for the state Department of Public Health to
adopt new groundwater replenishment regulations by July 1, and to work with
the state Water Resource Control Board on measures to allow for the use of
recycled water and storm water. In addition, it streamlines enforcement of
water rights and increases penalties for illegally diverting water during
drought conditions, officials said.
The proposal drew praise from some Bay Area officials.
"This legislation will allow agencies like ours across California
to quickly expand programs that reduce water use," said David Rabbit, a
Sonoma County supervisor and director for the Sonoma County Water Agency.
"Early actions now are critically important for the 'angry summer' that may
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the San Francisco Public Utilities
Commission would actively pursue funding for "shovel ready" water
conservation and supply projects.
"I applaud Governor Brown and our legislative leaders for this
proactive measure and their continued support during these critically dry
times," Lee said.
Republican leaders were not present at today's news conference
Republicans in January put forward a $9.2 billion water bond for
the November ballot that they said would provide $3 billion for water
storage, $2.5 billion to protect the Delta water supply and $1 billion for
clean drinking water. The proposal has drawn fire from Democrats and
environmental groups, however, because it includes new dams on some rivers.
Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said today that
the state needs a plan that includes increased water storage.
"The governor wants to spent $688 million but his only solution
moving forward is to urge more conservation and that won't put people back to
work," Huff said in response to the legislation announced today.
Brown announced a drought state of emergency in California in
January and the California Department of Water Resources announced on Jan. 31
that it would not be making deliveries to customers this year.