California lawmakers on Wednesday voted to place a $7.5 billion water plan before voters in November, marking the largest water investment in decades for a state struggling with a historic drought.
The plan is designed to build reservoirs, clean up contaminated groundwater and promote water-treatment technologies, including desalination.
After weeks of difficult negotiations, the ballot measure sailed through both houses of the Legislature: 77-1 in the Assembly and 37-0 in the Senate.
The big sticking point between Democrats and Republicans was how much money was going to go to water storage. Republicans wanted $3 billion to go to storage projects like dams and reservoirs. Both sides agreed on $2.7 billion.
Senate GOP Leader Bob Huff and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said reaching an agreement was a must for both sides because it had to to protect California's future from water emergencies. Huff said the new bond would help get two facilities built: the Temperance Flat Dam along the San Joaquin River and the Sites Dam in Colusa County.
"It's a good number and it helps us get those two facilities," Huff said. "There was movement on all sides to get this thing come together and that's what you want to see."
Steinberg said with an agreement in place voters in November will pass the measure.
"We hit the sweet spot storage ground water, clean drinking water and the host of other investments that are in this bond," Steinberg said.
The measure replaces an existing water bond that was approved by a previous Legislature but was widely considered too costly and too bloated with pork-barrel projects to win favor with voters.