Assembly approves $1-billion water bill, sends it to Gov. Jerry Brown

Assembly approves $1-billion water bill, sends it to Gov. Jerry Brown
Gov. Jerry Brown, flanked by legislative leaders from both parties, discusses a $1-billion plan for water projects and drought relief on March 19. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The California Assembly on Thursday passed more than $1 billion in spending on water projects and drought relief.

The legislation, which was approved by the state Senate on Wednesday, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

There's only $27.4 million in new spending in the package of two bills, which would help protect wildlife and provide food and water assistance to struggling communities. Most of the rest of the money is being drawn from previously approved bond measures and would fund long-term upgrades to the state's water infrastructure.

"You won't see any of us on this floor hanging 'Mission Accomplished' banners," said Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica). "That would simply be foolish. We all recognize that we have much more work to do."

Assembly Republican leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) said state government should be working harder to accelerate funding for water projects. She noted that some of the money in the new legislation was approved in a bond measure a decade ago.

"We can't wait eight years before we're suddenly expediting the allocation of those funds," Olsen said. "We have to do it now. Californians are relying on us."

California's drought is entering its fourth year. Officials are scheduled to release new measurements of snow levels in the Sierra Nevada next week.

Lawmakers have said they're preparing even more steps to handle the drought. Meanwhile, the State Water Board has tightened restrictions on watering lawns, but so far it has not set any mandatory limits.

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.