$687-million California drought relief plan met with mixed reactions

A proposed $687.4-million drought-relief package unveiled Wednesday was met with mixed reactions, with one state Republican leader calling it a "drop in the bucket."

The proposal, presented by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders, aims to clean up drinking water, improve conservation and make irrigation systems more efficient.


It also contains money to replenish groundwater supplies, and for state and local agencies to clear brush in drought-stricken areas that pose a high fire risk.

"We really don't know how bad the drought is going to be," Brown told reporters Wednesday.

The plan would fund emergency food and housing for those out of work because of the drought, including farm workers, and provide emergency drinking water to communities in need. 
Under the legislation, which could be enacted within weeks, the State Water Resources Control Board would also be directed to find ways to expand the use of recycled water and storm-water runoff.
No partisan divide is expected to impede the new drought legislation in Sacramento, where Democrats hold a supermajority in the Assembly and Senate and could approve the package without Republican support.
Still, passage is not assured: When it comes to water, Californians are split more by geography than by political allegiance.
Tim Quinn, executive director of the Assn. of California Water Agencies, called the legislation "a bold move by the governor" that would help protect the state against future droughts by funding local projects "that can make a difference soon."

Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, said it was "great" that the bill would help those most affected by the drought. But he lamented that it does not address the thornier issues of water storage and the Delta.

"We have to come to grips with that or face that we're going to fallow a lot more farmland and put a lot of people out of work," Wade said.

Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O'Neals) issued a joint statement dismissing the proposal as a "drop in the bucket."

The lawmakers said they expect to announce their own plan this week to better address the needs of farmers, small businesses and families.

Twitter: @AnthonyYorkLAT