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Governor signs water deal for valley

We know more about how state lawmakers managed to pass that $11 billion water bond last week.
/ Source: KGET-TV

We know more about how state lawmakers managed to pass that $11-billion water bond last week. They filled that bond with special interest earmarks that reward legislative districts in nearly every corner of the state. It is long overdue, decades overdue, said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. As Schwarzenegger signed the legislation into law Monday Fresno, new details emerged about the tactics used to gain passage of the water deal in Sacramento. An Associated Press review found dozens of loosely connected projects that were injected into the bond bill to secure enough votes to get it passed, $1.7 billion in earmarks. Meantime, old battle lines are being drawn over efforts to build a peripheral canal around the San Joaquin Delta. A state lawmaker delivered thousands of post cards from constituents in the Sacramento area opposed to a peripheral canal, and the formation of a delta stewardship council, which will lay out the frame work for building the canal. I think what it does is takes that authority out of the hands of the legislature and put it in the hands of a bunch of unelected bureaucrats who will then decide whether we're going to build one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in California history without voters known exactly how much it's going to cost, said Assemblywoman Alisson Huber, (D)-Huron. Advocates of a canal around the Delta say it will not only provide central and southern California with a reliable water supply, but will protect the delta's fragile ecosystem by lessening demand for pumping water from the Delta. There are many people who are fighting this effort. They're calling it pork barrel spending, but at the end of the day, people want this legislature to work out bipartisan solutions that are helpful to everyone in California and that's how this deal came down, said Bakersfield Assemblywoman Jean Fuller. There is no bond money in next year's ballot measure for a peripheral canal. If it ever happens, ratepayers will pay the cost of building the canal through higher water bills. The legislation signed into law today merely sets a framework to move forward with environmental studies and perhaps one day, actual construction of the conveyance system. Today, a water delivery system that was designed for 18 million people is crumbling under the pressure of 38 million people, said Schwarzenegger. In a related development, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Monday announced that independent scientists will explore alternative ways to protect the delta smelt which would allow more water for California's farm belt. Thousands of acres of farmland have been idled because of three years of drought, as well as federal water restrictions to protect the delta smelt. the shortages have led to high unemployment and economic distress in the San Joaquin Valley.

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