Valley Likely to Get Millions for Water Cleanup
By Rebecca Kimitch
Efforts to rid San Gabriel Valley water of harmful chemicals and to increase supplies in the face of a statewide drought are likely to get a $10 million boost thanks to legislation signed by the governor.
The money is part of an $842 million water package approved by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Tuesday.
“This is an historic moment, the first time ever any bond money has been allocated to the San Gabriel Valley for groundwater cleanup,” said Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-El Monte.
The measure partially distributes funds from two bond initiatives passed by voters in 2006 for water infrastructure projects. Though local water agencies are eager to apply for the funds, leaders are frustrated with how long it has taken for the voter-approved funding to be distributed.
“This demonstrates how woefully slow these funds are being distributed throughout state – two years after they were approved by voters,” said Peter Rodriguez, who is responsible for community and government affairs for the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District.
The San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority will likely get $10.4 million for its efforts to clean groundwater of perchlorate and other contaminants that stem from the San Gabriel Valley’s aerospace industry.
The funding is a small step toward the $420 million still needed for the cleanup endeavor, but Gabriel Monares, WQA director of resource development, is confident more funding from bonds is on the way. State legislators are now aware of the area’s plight, he said.
“In the past, we have not been in the picture, we have not been part of the conversation,” he said. “Now we are in the game. Every time there is a water bond, we can become part of the package.”
The $10.4 million is not a direct earmark, but because of the way the legislation is written, the WQA is the likely recipient.
Water agencies in the San Gabriel Valley will have to compete for other funds made available through the measure. Rodriguez and San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District general manager Darin Kasamoto said the area has a good chance to get funds for projects to reclaim wastewater, treat it and use it for irrigation needs, and projects to replenish area groundwater supplies with imported water.
Although he gave his approval, Schwarzenegger called the funds a “band-aid” solution for water agencies to deal with the state’s immediate drought.
“(It) will not solve our long-term water supply problems, which require a more comprehensive solution,” he said in a statement.
The governor used the signing ceremony to instead push for the controversial $9.3 billion water bond he has proposed with Senator Dianne Feinstein and hopes to bring to voters sometime next year.
The Schwarzenegger/Feinstein water bond package has as much as $80 million for the WQA’s groundwater cleanup, Monares said.
The new bond measure, which its authors call a compromise solution to the state’s water woes, is opposed by some environmentalists who object to its potential funding of new surface reservoirs and a peripheral canal around the imperiled Sacramento- San Joaquin River Delta.
The governor has signed several other pieces of water- related legislation in recent days, including measures to increase groundwater quality monitoring; encourage water rate structures that promote conservation; and increase monitoring of lead plumbing.
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