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Local water officials discuss drought crisis tonight

Posted: June 24, 2008 12:56 a.m.
Updated: August 25, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Local water officials are expected to hear tonight about the state's "impending water crisis" and about implications of the governor's recent declaration of a drought, from the lobbyists they pay to stay close to politicians in Sacramento.

Lobbyists Ralph F. Simoni and Dennis K. Albiani of California Advocates, Inc., are expected to debrief members of the Castaic Lake Water Agency's Government Relations and Outreach Committee tonight via conference call on the implications of the governor possibly declaring an emergency.

In a letter sent to the committee in advance of tonight's meeting, Simoni and Albiani also explain the implications of a tightening state budget on an impending water crisis and outline how water bonds may become a reality by November.

But most dire in their assessment of state water issues is their report on the drought.

They warn, in their letter, about the implications of the governor declaring an emergency over worsening drought conditions.

"Although a proclamation lacks the authority of a declaration of emergency, the proclamation should be viewed as an initial step in a multi-phased process that will likely conclude with a declaration of drought emergency," they state in their letter.

Such a declaration, if the governor were to announce it, would allow the state to override existing restrictions on the transfer of water and enable water agencies to implement emergency plans to deliver sufficient water to their respective communities.

Despite the doom and gloom over drought, Simoni and Albiani expressed optimism that a comprehensive state water plan could be drafted before the November election and placed on the ballot.

When the governor proclaimed a statewide drought earlier this month, Dan Masnada, general manager of the local water agency, said stored water would allow Santa Clarita to get by for two years in the event of an emergency.

State Assemblyman Mike Villines and Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill are proponents of surface water storage and of plans to move that water through the San Joaquin Delta to places south such as Santa Clarita. The lobbyists identified the new legislative leadership team of Speaker Karen Bass and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as possible supporters of the same measure.

"Notwithstanding the efforts of Governor Schwarzenegger and U.S. Senator (Dianne) Feinstein to restart discussion of a water bond proposal in the hopes of placing it on the November ballot, there has been no tangible progress until recently," they wrote.

Speaker Bass and Senator Pro Tem Steinberg, according to lobbyists, are not expected to stand in the way of legislation on future surface water storage.

They point out that Speaker Bass has already visited with the Association of California Water Agencies in an effort "to educate herself of the impending water crisis."

Richard Stapler, press secretary for Speaker Bass, told The Signal Monday that the speaker visited Fresno and a couple of other areas last month to learn about different water issues.

Jim Evans, press secretary for Senator Pro Tem Steinberg, said of the governor's drought declaration: "It only highlights that we have a problem.

"What we can do is push forward and fix it and that depends on a lot of groups to do two things: one, accept that we do have a problem and two, appreciate that there are diverse ways of approaching the problem.

"It's not dams, it's not groundwater, it's a wide range of options to choose from."


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