Tom Harman (R)

Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-A sweeping bipartisan deal California lawmakers made Wednesday on water policy drew praise from state Sen. Tom Harman, the Republican running for attorney general.

The five-bill package approved Wednesday morning includes a bevy of policy changes, including a goal of 20 percent reduction in water use in urban areas over the next decade, and an $11.1 billion bond measure that must be approved in a statewide election next year.

"This is a first step to bringing a reliable clean source of water to the industries - such as agriculture and high tech - that California's economy is dependent on for jobs," Harman, R-Huntington Beach, said of the bills. "I didn't love everything in the package but that is the nature of a compromise."

Wednesday's historic vote capped months of often-tense negotiations over how to best increase California's water supply while protecting the environment.

Officials, including Harman, said the legislation seeks to address one of California's most vexing and complex issues.

"California now has almost 40 million residents, yet the last time the state took a serious look at California's water needs was in the 1960s when there were only about 25 percent of the people," Harman added. "What we passed today addresses storage, conveyance, infrastructure and environment. It was truly a compromise."

The bond funds would, among other things, provide $3 billion for new water storage and $2 billion for ecosystem restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which provides about two-thirds of the state with drinking water.

Bond funds would also be used to bankroll recycling and groundwater cleanup projects, particularly in Southern California. The legislation also would boost penalties for illegal water diversion.

The bond amount swelled as proposals were included in the plan to attract support from across the state.

"I believe this measure has been so bulked up with pork it's going to sink," state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, said, urging his colleagues to reject the bond proposal.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will sign the water bills. He called the bill package "one of the greatest accomplishments" of the Legislature, which is led by Democrats.

"I'm so excited that finally my vision is one step closer to becoming a reality, which is to fix our water infrastructure," Schwarzenegger said. "This is the best investment in the future of California anyone can make."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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