Relief Measure Gets OK
It may be short on real water but legislation has been approved in Sacramento that provides $687.4 million in emergency drought relief.
The two-bill package, relying largely on funds unspent from previous water bonds, was approved with remarkable quickness and rare bipartisan support February 27. Governor Brown signed the bill two days later. Assembly approval came on votes of 65-0. In the Senate, only three lawmakers voted no.
Passage came only a few days after the Governor and legislative leaders unveiled the proposal, which is billed as helping Californians facing hardship because of the drought.
That now includes thousands of farmers, farm workers and other residents in the Friant Division who learned in February the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation currently has no Central Valley Project water to make available for delivery through the Friant-Kern and Madera canals.
Only $15 million is included in the legislation to address water scarcity. Those funds are expected to be directed toward several cities and towns identified by state health officials as being in imminent danger of running out of water due to the drought.
While State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-SACRAMENTO) was saying the package “will help thousands of California families dealing with the drought,” Republicans were less impressed, although most voted yes. Senator Tom Berryhill (R-MODESTO) called it “a Band-Aid on a shark bite.”
Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’NEALS) added, “We are proposing to spend a lot of money for a public relations campaign and some relief effort for those hit hardest but we haven’t produced any water.”
As approved, the package is also intended to provide $25.3 million in food aid. Another $21 million in drought-need housing assistance.
Most of the funds – some $500 million – would be spent on water conservation and infrastructure.