Sep 21, 2007

$9 Billion Proposal Increases State Money for Dams

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Gov. Schwarzenegger unveiled an updated water plan Tuesday that nearly doubles the price tag of an earlier proposal and includes a significant new state investment in dams -- an idea that Democrats have long opposed.

More than half of the $9 billion plan would be dedicated to three dams, including one near Fresno, with remaining money for regional water projects and to repair the deteriorating Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Lawmakers have only a few weeks to reach a deal in time to get a bond on the Feb. 5 ballot -- a goal of both parties.

The governor has called a special legislative session to address the issue, but prospects of a compromise are uncertain considering the key differences between the two leading plans.

Schwarzenegger's proposal is more state-driven, authorizing the state to pay up to half the cost of the dams.

"Our water crisis has gotten worse with the dry conditions and the recent federal court action that is going to have a devastating impact on the state's economy," the governor said in a statement, referring to the recent decision by a federal judge in Fresno to reduce delta water pumping. "We need a comprehensive fix."

Democrats are unlikely to go along with spending so much on dams, which would take at least a decade to build.

The governor's new plan is similar to a $5.95 billion plan that Democrats killed earlier this year.

The governor's proposal includes $5.1 billion for dams, more than double the amount included in his earlier proposal. Administration officials said the increase was due to rising construction costs and the fact that the new plan includes one more dam -- expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County.

Also included, as before, is money for two new dams: one east of Fresno in an area known as Temperance Flat and one on the west side of the Sacramento Valley called Sites Reservoir.

Like the earlier proposal, local water agencies would have to pay for half or more of the cost.