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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says that persuading voters to approve an $11.2 billion water bond issue this year will be "very challenging" but he hopes that they "know the difference between spending money and investing in the future."

Schwarzenegger made his comments Thursday in Salem, Ore., as he took part in a lavish ceremony with representatives of Oregon, Washington, local governments, the Obama administration and Indian tribes to sign a compact aimed at removing dams from the Klamath River.

One section of the pending water bond issue would contribute money to the dam removal project. The dams are owned by PacificCorp, the utility serving much of the Pacific Northwest, as well as a portion of California, that is part of the Berkshire Hathaway empire, controlled by Schwarzenegger's friend, billionaire Warren Buffett.

The bond issue is a key component of the complex water plan that Schwarzenegger and state legislators enacted last year, and were it to fail at the polls in November, it would be interpreted as a rejection of the entire plan.

Bond advocates are worried that the state's continuing recession, its chronic budget crisis and the unpopularity of Schwarzenegger and legislators might make passage difficult, and there's been some quiet discussion of postponing it until conditions improve. Schwarzenegger and legislators decreed that kind of postponement for a long-pending bond issue for high-speed rail service.

Passing the water measure is one of the governor's highest priorities during his final year in office and he's been shifting money from his campaign accounts into the water bond campaign.

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