| SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 1
SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 1 California may
ratchet up enforcement of drought-related pumping restrictions
in slow-moving creeks and lakes under new rules being considered
on Tuesday, prompting worry among farmers as the state enters
the dry summer season.
The widely anticipated move by the State Water Resources
Control Board comes during worsening drought conditions and
political gridlock that has stalled progress on efforts to raise
money to build new reservoirs and other methods for storing
water in the future.
"Immediate action is needed to effectively curtail
diversions when water is not available," the proposed
The proposals, the subject of a day-long hearing and a
possible vote late on Tuesday, would require water districts,
farmers and others whose right to pump water has been restricted
to attest within a week they have stopped using water from
affected streams, under penalty of perjury.
The rules also give water regulators the right to issue a
cease-and-desist order against water rights holders suspected of
illegally using water without going through the usual hearing
They drew opposition from farmers and winery operators, who
worried the stepped-up enforcement would unfairly harm their
Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen, elected on Tuesday as the
Republican leader in the State Assembly, urged the board to
preserve access to water by the mainly agricultural interests
who hold longtime rights to use it.
"Please remember that any infringement of these rights would
be devastating to the agricultural economy of our state - and to
the world," she wrote in a letter to the board on Tuesday.
California is in the third year of a catastrophic drought
that has depleted the Sierra Nevada snow pack that normally
feeds the state's rivers and streams with cool water.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown declared the state's drought
to be an emergency last January, committing millions to help
stricken communities and temporarily easing protections for
endangered fish to allow pumping from the fragile San
Joaquin-Sacramento River delta.
As regulators debate new enforcement rules, lawmakers in the
state are bogged down in negotiations over a plan to shore up
California's water supply.
The proposal to sell $10.5 billion in bonds to pay for water
projects has been mired in partisan bickering for months as
Democrats and Republicans fight over what projects to include.
Brown has urged lawmakers to cut the amount of money spent
nearly in half, to $6 billion.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Peter Cooney)