State to get drought funds

U.S. is pro­vid­ing mil­lions to farm­ers and work­ers who have been dis­placed by the con­tin­u­ing dry spell.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Matt Stevens matt.stevens@la­times.com Twit­ter: @ByMat­tStevens

Cal­i­for­nia will re­ceive tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in new drought aid from the U.S. gov­ern­ment that will pro­vide re­lief for farm­ers, dis­placed work­ers and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties that have run out of drink­ing wa­ter, of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials an­nounced a to­tal of about $110 mil­lion in new drought as­sis­tance for west­ern states, on top of more than $190 mil­lion that had al­ready been al­lo­cated this year.

Much of the new spend­ing an­nounced Fri­day will go to Cal­i­for­nia, in­clud­ing $18 mil­lion to pro­vide tem­po­rary jobs for work­ers dis­placed by the drought, said Por­tia Wu, an as­sis­tant La­bor sec­re­tary.

A UC Davis study re­cently es­ti­mated that the drought will cost the state more than 18,000 jobs.

Cal­i­for­nia also will re­ceive $10 mil­lion for ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties that need emer­gency wa­ter, and $6.5 mil­lion for projects to im­prove wa­ter man­age­ment over the next two years, of­fi­cials said.

“We’re mar­shal­ing ev­ery re­source we have to pro­vide mean­ing­ful re­lief,” Mike Con­nor, a deputy In­te­rior sec­re­tary, said on a con­fer­ence call with re­porters.

Ear­lier on Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Obama and se­nior of­fi­cials par­tic­i­pated in a brief­ing on drought and wild­fire pre­pared­ness with West­ern gov­er­nors, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Jerry Brown.

About 35% of the West faces se­vere to ex­cep­tional drought, of­fi­cials said.

The fund­ing ar­rives as Cal­i­for­nia strug­gles through a fourth year of drought.

Af­ter view­ing a his­tor­i­cally abysmal snow­pack April 1, Brown or­dered a manda­tory 25% cut in ur­ban wa­ter use statewide and is­sued a slew of other re­stric­tions meant to curb wa­ter waste.

In a state­ment, Brown said, “This aid will pro­vide new op­por­tu­ni­ties for farm­work­ers and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties most im­pacted by the drought and make the state more wa­ter-ef­fi­cient and drought re­silient.”

Ellen Hanak, a wa­ter ex- pert at the Public Pol­icy In­sti­tute of Cal­i­for­nia, said she was glad to see money for dis­placed work­ers and peo­ple fac­ing drink­ing wa­ter short­ages.

“They’re the ones with the least abil­ity to go and lobby for them­selves,” she said.

“Fo­cus on th­ese kinds of im­pacted com­mu­ni­ties can be re­ally help­ful.”

Lester Snow, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Wa­ter Foun­da­tion and for­mer state sec­re­tary of nat­u­ral re­sources, said he hoped the money would serve as a “harbinger of more things to come.”

“I wish it was a lit­tle bit more be­cause I’m very con­cerned that the drought is not go­ing to be over,” Snow said. “So I’d like to see a lit­tle bit more at­ten­tion on drought pre­pared­ness rather than drought re­ac­tion.

“It will rain again,” he added, “and it will be im­por­tant to cap­ture the next high flows and get them recharged into our ground­wa­ter basin.”

Rich Pedroncelli As­so­ci­ated Press

RUDY MUSSI watches as his grand­son tries to turn a wa­ter valve. The U.S. an­nounced a to­tal of about $110 mil­lion in new drought as­sis­tance for west­ern states.

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