Politics & Government

California drought relief package heads to governor’s desk

In a concerted effort to aid California’s drought-stricken communities, the Legislature on Thursday sped a $687 million relief package to Gov. Jerry Brown.

One week after Brown and legislative leaders unveiled the emergency legislation, both houses of the Legislature approved the bill with little resistance. The Assembly passed the bill 65-0, and the Senate sent it to Brown’s desk with only three dissenting votes.

Relying largely on unspent bond money, the measure sets aside more than $500 million to quench the thirst of afflicted communities with infrastructure projects such as capturing stormwater and distributing recycled water.

It also sets aside millions of dollars for drinking water in communities at risk of running out and allocates food and housing aid for Californians such as those in the agricultural industry, who have seen their livelihoods damaged by diminished water supplies. California’s greenhouse gas reduction fund, which is filled by money from the state’s auctions of carbon permits, would be tapped for $40 million to encourage more efficient water use.

California will have until June to craft rules around restoring groundwater levels using recycled water. Water pumped from the earth takes on increased importance during a drought, and groundwater tables have dropping precipitously in some areas of the state.

Republicans used the opportunity to call for more water storage, an issue being debated via a set of water bond proposals. But they agreed with their Democratic colleagues that the emergency water package marked a needed intermediate step.

“This is part of the puzzle, part of the solution for the entire state,” said Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield.

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