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New Water Policy for California

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After much tense and longwinded day and night negotiations, the state legislature comes out with a new water policy for the coming decades, including over $10 billion in new bonds and new restrictions on water use and new political councils to help manage the state's water.

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Political victory required the paying of political costs, as detailed in the Los Angeles Times' account:

The size of the bond worries some liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans and public employee unions. It ballooned as legislative leaders sweetened the financing with something for every part of the state and every major water interest.

"There's no arguing in many ways it's a political document," conceded Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), who drafted the bond measure. "It creates constituents of support as we go to the polls. That's not anything new."

The bond issues would be staggered, and backers said debt payments will not kick in until some existing bonds are retired. But when fully issued, the debt service will amount to more than $600 million a year, potentially taking money from education and other programs supported by the general fund.

The bond will have to be approved by voters in November 2010. Capitol Weekly has more details on how the money is being spread around the state to ensure political support:

The bond contains more than $1.7 billion in water quality and watershed protection funding - all of which is earmarked for specific agencies and groups. The bond includes $100 million for the Lake Tahoe Conservancy, $100 million for Salton Sea preservation and $250 million for a dam removal project near Lake Shasta.

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is in line to receive $75 million to "protect the Los Angeles River watershed," and another $25 million for Santa Monica Bay watershed projects. In Speaker Karen Bass's backyard, the Baldwin Hills Conservancy is set to receive $20 million if the bond is approved. There's also $125 million earmarked for the California Department of Forestry for forest restoration and "to provide for climate change adaptation."

George Skelton in the Times details the basic shape of what the bill will try to do:

Basically, the legislative package creates a new, streamlined governing structure for the delta. It provides a pathway leading to probable construction of a newly designed peripheral canal, plus a dam or two. It enables ecological restoration of the delta, mandatory statewide water conservation, monitoring of groundwater and a crackdown on illegal diversions of water.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user calwest. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

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