California governor proposes $1 billion in drought spending - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

California governor proposes $1 billion in drought spending

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(AP image) (AP image)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - In the face of a continuing drought, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders including Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, introduced emergency drought legislation Thursday aimed at expediting $1 billion in water-related projects.

"We need to get the money out the door now for shovel-ready projects and existing water programs that only need funding to get started," said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. "No delay. No red tape."

The emergency action announced at a Sacramento news conference includes a pair of bills -- one to appropriate $1 billion from a pair of voter-approved water-related bonds and another to expedite contracting and create an office to "help disproportionately impacted communities respond to their water challenges," de Leon said.

"Taken together, this package provides a major boost to our state's efforts to manage our water crisis and strengthen our current infrastructure," he said.

Atkins said the continued lack of rain means the Legislature and residents have to step up to meet the challenge.

"Since our skies are still clear, our job is clear too," she said. "Everyone has to use less water and use it more effectively. And state leaders have to make sure we meet emergency needs, prepare for short-term problems and advance the longer-term projects that will help us get through this drought and the others to come."

This marks the second consecutive year in which the Legislature has acted on emergency drought relief. In 2014, Brown signed a $687.4 million drought package that offered aid to communities facing acute water shortages and food and housing assistance to those harmed by the drought.

The Legislature also crafted a $7.5 billion water bond that was approved by voters last November, with most of those funds earmarked for longer-term projects to bolster the state's water infrastructure.

The latest move comes amid growing concern about the drought, now entering its fourth year.

"This is a struggle and it's going to be something we're gonna have to live with for, how long, we're not sure," Brown said. "We're going to have to find the recycling, the storage, the efficiencies, and there's more to do. ...It's not a partisan problem. The drought is a real problem, a hydrological challenge. We're going to (tackle) it the best way we can by pulling together."

The State Water Board tightened its watering restrictions earlier this week, telling urban agencies to limit the number of days residents can water their yards. They also warned that they will impose tougher restrictions in coming months if local agencies don't ramp up conservation efforts.

According to the governor's office, the state has pledged more than $870 million to support drought relief since February 2014, including funds for emergency drinking water supplies in drought-impacted communities and for water-saving projects in local communities.

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