State officials vet $11.1-billion water bond, regional water solutions in Malibu

State officials met Friday in Malibu to discuss a possible $11.1 billion state water bond measure that could help fund water projects at the state and local level, including a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to build two massive pipelines to pump river water from Northern California to Southern California.

Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) led the “Regional Water Solutions” hearing at Pepperdine University and was joined by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Sens. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach). Pavley said she organized the hearing to gather feedback on possible types of local-level projects that could qualify for funding if voters pass a water bond next year.

Representatives from several Los Angeles-area agencies presented regional projects created to deal with water conservation, sustainability and pollution, including a 35-mile salinity pipeline currently being constructed in Ventura County. Once completed, the pipeline will help transport salty groundwater and excess recycled water for reuse elsewhere in the county. Unused water will be discharged into the Pacific Ocean at Port Hueneme.

The City of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power also showcased its stormwater capture program. The program catches and treats approximately 202,000 acre-feet of stormwater annually, or 8.8 billion cubic feet of water, to be conserved for reuse in Los Angeles.

Pavley and her legislative colleagues said they plan on taking these examples of regional solutions back to Sacramento as lawmakers continue crafting and debating a water bond measure. Local input is critical, she said, as Southern California should not solely depend on a fragile state water system based in Northern California.

“We need to become more regionally sustainable without just relying on importing water from long distances,” Pavley said.

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If placed and passed on the November 2014 statewide ballot, part of the water bond money could also potentially be allocated for Gov. Brown’s controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a $23-billion plan to build three new intake points in the Sacramento River delta, one of California’s main sources for water. Those three intakes would feed into two 35-mile water tunnels, which would then divert the water to a hub of diversion canals in the Central Valley town of Tracy.

Brown argues his plan would make it easier to transport water from the Sacramento River to Southern California, and phase out the current system which currently pumps water from a southerly, more polluted point in the river’s delta. Opponents of the plan, including many farm groups, believe the large-scale plumbing project would cause irreversible damage to Northern California’s ecological system and cause a major construction nightmare in its requirement to re-route three highways near the delta.

Brown’s plan has garnered support from the Obama administration, but environmental assessment of the project is pending and several groups have threatened legal action if plans for the water supply makeover are approved. Ideally, the 10-year project would break ground in 2017.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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