11 hours to go, and no agreement on water plan


By Rebecca Bowe

whiskey water.jpg Mark Twain said that whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fightin'. Which one do you think Sacramento lawmakers will be thirsty for by the time they adjourn?

The California Legislature is scheduled to adjourn at midnight tonight, but many items on its to-do list have yet to be checked off. One of the biggies is a new plan for the state’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water system, a contentious mess that seems to defy political solution. The plan would address looming issues like unstable Delta levees, and unsustainable pumping of water exports are crippling fisheries.

California’s water conference committee signed off on a five-bill package to address Delta water issues, moving it out of committee in time for a floor vote, but without any Republican support. Nor do the bills include a plan for financing water projects, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he would veto anything that doesn’t include new bonds for water-storage initiatives. Lawmakers on the right are withholding support and calling the package a proposal that “ignores the need for a reliable water supply and only caters to the interests of extreme environmentalists."

Then again, some environmental organizations are highly skeptical of the bills, too, so it’s hard imagine how a plan can be hashed out -- by the end of the day -- that would satisfy both sides.

In an editorial in the Sacramento Bee, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg appealed to critics, writing:

“Overcoming decades of the Mark Twain adage -- that whiskey is for drinking, water is for fightin' -- requires difficult compromises. North-South, East-West, exporters-environmentalists, Democrats-Republicans. The battle lines will not go away.

In pushing this compromise package, I ask my colleagues to answer two questions: Will more time without action help improve the condition of the Delta? If the opportunity before you is not exactly what you want, is it a major improvement over the status quo? In my view the answer to both questions is clear.

The time to act on water in California is now.”

Or at least, sometime before midnight.