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Why Water Deal is Great for San Diego

Residents all over San Diego and the rest of California should be very happy today.

Early yesterday morning, the Legislature signed off on what can only be described as a landmark package to help safeguard one of this state’s most precious commodities: water.

The legislation is a tribute to everyone in San Diego who worked so hard to see that a deal got done: the region’s Senate and Assembly delegation; the San Diego County Water Authority; local business leaders and members of my staff.

All of us have worked tirelessly on this issue, meeting with everyone from Southern California’s other big-city mayors to our representatives in Sacramento to the state’s leading water experts. I fully anticipate that this will be signed by the governor and I want to thank him for making water a priority and pushing so hard for this package.

This deal is great news for our region. 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.

This will mean a more reliable water supply for Southern California because water can be pumped from north to south without disturbing the salmon, delta smelt and other wildlife in the Delta. At the moment, efforts to protect this wildlife have resulted in huge restrictions in the amount of water that is pumped to Southern California.

The legislation also includes an $11 billion bond that specifically sets aside $227 million for the San Diego region. We can use this money to expand our reservoirs and dams and protect our watersheds.

The legislation also sets long-term benchmarks for state-wide water conservation. In San Diego, we’ve already made great strides in this area, as I’ve noted over the past few months. If everyone else in the state does the same, there will be more water for everyone.

The legislation also contains a variety of other provisions that all Californians should embrace. Among other things, it takes steps to protect the Bay Delta by creating a new Conservancy charged with restoring the Delta’s ecosystem.

Make no mistake: More important work needs to be done. Now that we’ve cleared some major hurdles to building a new north-to-south aqueduct, we must be vigilant in our ongoing efforts to make sure this aqueduct becomes a reality.

But I remain an optimist on this issue. And I feel confident that decades from now, residents of San Diego and all of California will point to this morning’s Legislative action as nothing less than a historic moment.