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Schwarzenegger addresses ACWA conference on water bond

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a December 3 appearance at the Association of California Water Agencies conference in San Diego to discuss the $11 billion water bond approved by the state legislature which now needs statewide voter approval.

“Water is our most precious resource,” Schwarzenegger said. “It is about time that we rebuild our water system.”

The current water supply and conveyance deficiencies have resulted in a recent state Department of Water Resources decision to give State Water Project contractors only 5 percent of their total allocation. Farms are sitting idle and building permits are being denied for lack of water.

“These are all self-inflicted wounds because of a lack of action,” Schwarzenegger said. “We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can build a water system that allows us to flourish even in dry years.”

The political side of California’s water history includes conflicts between rural and urban users, the southern and northern portions of the state, farmers and environmentalists and Democrats and Republicans.

“For decades California has been fighting and fighting and fighting,” Schwarzenegger said.

Those opposing factions, as well as business and labor, came together to support a water bond.

“The opportunity to reform is at its greatest,” Schwarzenegger said. “The people of California are interested in rebuilding the state of California.”

In 2006 ballot measures the state’s voters approved $42 billion of infrastructure bonds, and $10 billion of bond authorization for a high-speed rail system was approved in the November 2008 election.

Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders from both parties recognized the need for a water bond.

“The stakeholders all came together,” Schwarzenegger said.

Concessions on all sides were made before a bond was able to pass the legislature November 4.

“We finally got it done at six in the morning,” Schwarzenegger said. “This was one of those great moments.”

Schwarzenegger waited until a November 9 ceremony at Friant Dam in Central California before signing the bill.

The $11 billion bond will leverage $30 billion of local and Federal funds.

“We will fix the Delta and restore its ecosystem,” Schwarzenegger said.

The plan includes groundwater, local supply, and conservation, calling for a 20 percent reduction in per-capita consumption by 2020.

“Conservation is a very important factor here,” Schwarzenegger said.

Any bond authorization approved by the state legislature must be ratified by the state’s voters.

“Only half of the job has been done,” Schwarzenegger said.

The inclusion of major stakeholders will reduce obstacles to the bond’s passage. “We brought everyone into the negotiations,” Schwarzenegger said. “We will not have those people attacking this measure.”

Schwarzenegger said that the campaign to pass the bond will see Democrats and Republicans campaigning together. Environmentalists and farmers are also expected to join each other in campaigns, as are business and labor leaders.

“We all have to work together,” Schwarzenegger said.

“It’s the greatest investment that we can make in the future of California,” Schwarzenegger continued. “We’ve got to look way ahead 30, 40, 50 years.”

Schwarzenegger acknowledged the role of the water community in getting the bond through the legislature. “You are true action heroes,” he said.

Schwarzenegger told the ACWA members that their work would be necessary to ensure passage of the bond by the state’s voters.

“I’ll be back,” he said.

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