Friday, September 28, 2007

Dams on Table

Now that the principle has been agreed upon, all that remains is determining who pays, and given the benefit to the state from flood protection being increased, it seems clear the state should bear the biggest burden.

Assembly Democrats talk water
Unlike the governor's plan, theirs would have localities bear most costs for dams.
By E.J. Schultz - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, September 28, 2007

With two competing water plans already on the table, Assembly Democrats weighed in Thursday with their own package of bills to fix the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and increase water supplies.

The legislation includes few details at this point. But the bills reaffirm the reluctance of Democrats to use state money to pay for dams -- a major part of Gov. Schwarzenegger's $9 billion plan.

The governor's proposal, carried by Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, would authorize the state to pay for as much as half the cost of three dams for a total of $5.1 billion. The targeted sites include one east of Fresno, another in Colusa County and expansion of an existing dam in Contra Costa County.

The legislation by Assembly Democrats states that local water users should carry "the strong majority" of water project costs.

Assembly Member John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, author of the bills, said the state has typically paid only a small fraction of the cost of new dams.

"If the governor's bond kept to that historic pattern, it would be almost $5 billion less than it is," he said.

Democrats have emphasized conservation, recycling and groundwater storage to boost water supplies.

But administration officials say that state payments for dams are justified because they would have statewide benefits, such as increased flood protection. Water officials also say the new dams would give them more flexibility to move water around the state.