Gov. Jerry Brown, $1 billion drought relief plan

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 19 Maret 2015 | 12.56

As California braces for a fourth consecutive year of drought, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders on Thursday will unveil a $1-billion relief plan, two sources told The Times late Wednesday.

This will mark the second consecutive year in which the Legislature has had to act on emergency drought relief. In 2014, Brown signed a $687.4-million drought package, which offered aid to communities facing acute water shortages and food and housing assistance to those harmed by the drought.

Brown, along with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), will introduce emergency drought legislation, Brown's office said Wednesday evening. The office did not elaborate on details of the plan.

The Legislature also crafted a $7.5-billion water bond that was approved by voters last November; most of those funds would go to longer-term projects to bolster the state's water infrastructure.

The move comes amid growing concern about the state's dry conditions.

On Tuesday, the State Water Board tightened its watering restrictions, telling urban agencies to limit the number of days residents can water their yards. 

They also warned that they will impose tougher restrictions in coming months if local agencies don't ramp up conservation efforts.

"We are not seeing the level of stepping up and ringing the alarm bells that the situation warrants," said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board.

The board also warned it would impose stricter limits if local agencies don't make greater inroads in their conservation efforts.

The state's water situation is in some respects slightly better than it was a year ago. Precipitation in key watersheds in Northern California is 81% of normal for the date. Shasta Lake, California's largest reservoir, is 58% full, compared with 45% a year ago. Lake Oroville is half full, compared with 45% at this time last year.

Customers of the State Water Project, which delivers supplies from Northern California to Southland cities, will get 20% of their contract requests, compared with only 5% in 2014.

But some smaller reservoirs in the southern Sierra Nevada have less in reserve than they did last spring. And most troubling to water managers is the statewide snowpack. At 12% of average, it has all but disappeared. At this time last year it was 28% of average. 

The mountain snowpack acts as a natural reservoir that in a normal year can hold much as a third of the state's water supply, slowly releasing it throughout the spring as seasonal water demand rises. This year that release will be a trickle.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

Times staff writers Bettina Boxall contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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