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Jerry Brown says drought declaration imminent

Jerry BrownPoliticsDroughts and Heat Waves

FRESNO -- Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday his administration would soon declare that California is officially in the midst of a drought.

“It’s coming,” Brown said of a formal proclamation when asked during a press conference at Fresno City Hall. “Just be patient.”

A recent survey of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains found the state’s water reserves are at just 20% of normal levels. Other measures have declared 2013 to be the driest year in California history.

“It’s really serious,” Brown said. “In many ways it’s a mega-drought; it’s been going on for a number of years.”

Brown’s comments came at a Fresno City Hall press conference after a day of meetings here with members of the Westlands Water District, local farmers and other regional agriculture leaders. He also toured downtown Fresno with Republican Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who showed the governor the pedestrian mall she hopes to help redevelop with an assist from the state.

Dressed in a blue sweater and foregoing the formality of a tie, Brown also offered another defense of his $68-billion bullet train proposal, which he wants to help fund by using new fees on large polluters. The state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst raised concerns Monday about the legality of that funding plan, but the governor defended it.

“I believe it’s legal, my lawyers believe it’s lawful,” he said. “It’s a very appropriate source of funding. You take funding that’s coming off petroleum or fossil fuel use and put it into a rail system that will over time reduce greenhouse gases.

On Tuesday, Brown will meet with local leaders in Bakersfield and Riverside, capping his two-day swing through California’s interior.

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anthony.york@latimes.com

@anthonyyorklat

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