California lawmakers to work on drought plan during summer recess
SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - California lawmakers on Thursday pledged to work over the summer recess to agree on a plan to shore up the state's water supply that has been mired in party politics for months despite a three-year drought that has slammed farms and towns.
The plan to build three new reservoirs, underground water storage and finance environmental clean-up projects ran aground last month after Republicans said it did not do enough to bring water to the state's parched agricultural breadbasket, and Governor Jerry Brown said it was too expensive.
"We will be working during the summer," said state senator Darrell Steinberg, the Democratic leader, after the legislature adjourned for its month-long recess. "We intend to come back in August and do our very best" to come to an agreement.
The plan, meant to help the drought-parched state prepare for future dry periods, must win the support of two-thirds of the state legislature and Brown before it can go before voters in November.
Lawmakers have already missed one deadline to get an agreement on the ballot, and if they delay beyond Aug. 11 it could cost the state millions in additional printing costs for ballot materials.
An earlier measure, passed in 2009 under then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is already slated to go on the ballot in November, but at $11 billion, it is viewed by many as too expensive and unlikely to pass.
Democrats dominate politics in the most populous U.S. state, but in the senate lack two votes for the two-thirds majority needed to place the measure on the ballot. That means they need Republican support.
But Peter DeMarco, spokesman for senate Republican leader Bobb Huff, said Republicans had not been consulted about the latest version of the bond or shown the final wording.
At issue is a massive and controversial plan to dig tunnels to carry water from rivers north of the fragile San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta to farms and communities in the southern part of the state.
Democrats say using the bonds to fund a pre-cursor project to the tunnel proposal would be a poison pill for voters, re-igniting the state's water wars and harming the delta, which provides water for 25 million Californians.
Republicans say that without a way to convey water south, the projects will not help farmers, and they will not support it.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Andrew Hay)