By Rick Montanez
ABC 30 – KFSN-TV Fresno, CA
(02/19/2014) FRESNO, Calif. — Communities around the Valley are facing ongoing water problems like contamination, on top of drought issues. Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed drought relief legislation promises to help with those issues.
The tiny Tulare County community of Sultana only has two wells. One serves as a main well, the other as a back-up. The water the back-up pulls from the ground is contaminated, however.
“We use it in case our primary goes down. But we also have to send notices out to people, before they can use the water,” Michael Prado, local water board president, said.
Prado and Tom Voss are both on the local water board. They say this town has had water problems for years. Well levels are now dropping because of the drought and any outside help they can get to pay for a new well is very welcome.
“We need it in this area, there’s a lot of people that it serves,” Voss said. “If we can get the money, it’d be good for us.”
Gov. Brown, Senate President Pro-tem Darrel Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez announced a joint bill to spend $687 million on drought relief. $14 million of that is directed at communities with ongoing water issues, made worse by the drought, like Sultana.
“This is a time to pull together as Californians first to rise above a lot of divisions that pull us apart cause we don’t know how long this thing is going to last,” Brown said.
The democrat-backed measure would also fund housing for unemployed farm workers, recycled water programs, and water conservation awareness campaigns.
As the political trio announced its plan in Sacramento on Wednesday, Republican leaders fired back saying the legislation is lacking long-term solutions.
Back in Sultana, feed store owner and rancher Isaac Orduno says the drought is ruining him financially. He says democrats and republicans are right in both arguments. “We actually need both,” Orduno said. “I know long-term would actually be a better idea, but we need help now.”
For now, water users will just have to hope they don’t need this contaminated back-up well.
Most of the funding for the governor’s plan will come from voter-approved bonds, and some from the general fund.