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Steinberg angles for GOP votes on $10.5-billion water bond plan

PoliticsElectionsRepublican PartyEcosystemsConservationFishingDarrell Steinberg
Steinberg says for a water bond to win voters' approval, it must be neutral on Gov. Brown's tunnel plan
Vote coming Monday afternoon in California Senate on $10.5-billion water bond proposal

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) leaned hard Monday on Republicans to support Senate Democrats' $10.5-billion water bond proposal, in advance of a planned vote on the measure Monday afternoon.

Today's vote will mark the first time a new water bond proposal will progress to a chamber floor this year. Lawmakers are seeking to craft a measure that would replace the current plan now on the ballot, a $11.1 billion plan that was originally written in 2009.

But the plan faces an uphill battle on the Senate floor: it needs a two-thirds vote to pass, meaning it will need some Republican votes.

"I have modest expectations in terms of the outcome but high hopes," he said.

Steinberg, angling for GOP votes, stressed that Wolk's plan includes $3 billion for water storage. Surface storage, such as dams, are a top priority for the state's agriculture interests.

He said the Wolk bond also avoids inflaming opponents to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a controversial proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to construct two tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. 

No bond proposals explicitly touch on the tunnel project, but it nonetheless has loomed large over water bond negotiations. 

But the method of allocating money to restore the ecosystem in the Delta has become a flashpoint, seen by some as paving the way for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan project.

Steinberg touted the Wolk plan as "tunnel neutral."

"A bond which stokes a north-south water war will not pass the voters. A bond which is perceived as furthering the tunnels, otherwise known as BDCP, will not pass," Steinberg said.

"On the other hand, a bond which provides money for the delta and its ecosystem--that may or may not further tunnel, but doesn’t stick a needle in the eye of Northern California voters--can in fact pass," he added.

Noting that Brown has signaled he wants a smaller bond, Steinberg said Republicans should vote for the Wolk bond today.

"If not, they face the prospect of a potentially smaller bond with much less money for surface storage," he said.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

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