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Legislature Votes to Help in Flood-Control Cost

Times Staff Writer

The state Legislature gave final approval Wednesday night to a measure to help Orange County and the neighboring counties of Riverside and San Bernardino pay their share of the $1-billion Santa Ana Flood Control Project.

The bill, authored by state Sen. Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim), commits the state to pay 70% of any costs of flood-control projects that are not paid by the federal government.

In this case, the three counties--Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino--will save about $137 million. Of that, the Orange County Flood Control District’s share, according to some estimates, is $128 million.

The bill (SB 502) received a 38-0 final approval in the Senate and a 46-22 vote in the Assembly after Santa Clara Democrat John Vasconcellos questioned how the state could spend $137 million for local projects when other statewide programs would be eliminated because of dwindling revenues.

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“Some want to spend and spend and spend,” Vasconcellos said. “Those same people ought to have the courage to call for the revenues to feed their growing appetites,” he added in a reference to Royce and others supporting the bill.

The bill goes to Gov. George Deukmejian for his signature. Deukmejian has taken no position on the legislation.

The Santa Ana Flood Control Project has been called the largest single flood-control project in the country.

Royce said that without the legislation, the project--which includes a large new dam on the Santa Ana River in the San Bernardino mountains and enlarging the lower Santa Ana Channel to protect against a 100-year flood--could come to a screeching halt for lack of money. The federal government already has agreed to pick up 80% of the $1 billion project, but local and state governments are responsible for the remaining 20%.

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“It would be impossible for the local agencies to cover their increased share without assistance from the state,” Royce has said.

New federal standards require local governments that benefit from federal flood-control projects to pay a higher percentage of their costs.

Flooding in recent years in the Santa Ana River Valley has left levees badly damaged.

To protect the three-county area from future floods, the Army Corps of Engineers has recommended construction of the new dam, expansion of the existing Prado Reservoir and enlargement of the channel in Orange County.

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