Mayor applauds $11M state water system overhaul



San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on Wednesday applauded state lawmakers for approving an $11 billion overhaul of California’s water system that he said would ensure reliable supplies for Southern California long into the future.

“This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation I think we will see in a long time,” Sanders said. “Water reliability means California can continue to prosper.”

Sanders was joined by local environmental, water and business leaders at a late morning news conference to praise San Diego’s legislative delegation for helping to get the water package approved.

“This deal is great news for our region,” Sanders said.

“It will help lay the groundwork for the eventual creation of an aqueduct that will channel water from northern to Southern California, while bypassing the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary,” the mayor said.

“This will mean a more reliable supply of water for Southern California because water can be pumped from north to south without disturbing the salmon, delta smelt and other wildlife in the delta.”

The legislation was narrowly passed early this morning by the Assembly.

It now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is expected to sign it into law.

“Water is the lifeblood of everything we do in California,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “Without clean, reliable water, we cannot build, we cannot farm, we cannot grow and we cannot prosper.

“That is why I am so proud that the Legislature, Democrats and Republicans, came together and tackled one of the most complicated issues in our state’s history,” he said. “This comprehensive water package is an historic achievement.”

The five-bill package would increase water storage in the state by constructing new dams, clean up groundwater, restoring sensitive ecosystems and setting a goal of 20 percent conservation by 2020.

It would also lead to the construction of a aqueduct that circumvents the environmentally sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, through which much of Southern California’s must now pass. A similar effort to build a peripheral canal to channel water around the delta failed more than two decades ago.

The legislation relies on an $11 billion bond, which will likely go before voters next November.

About $227 million of that money would go directly to the San Diego region to expand reservoirs and dams and protect watersheds. About $20 million would go toward the restoration of the San Diego River.

California’s water supplies are threatened by years of drought which, combined with restrictions on the amount of water that can be pumped through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to protect endangered fish, has led to shortages.

San Diego residents have reduced their overall water usage by about 13 percent since mandatory restrictions were enacted about six months ago. Sanders said that through the legislation adopted today, city residents would have to conserve another 5 percent.