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Conflicts Continue For California’s Water Politics

— When it comes to the hugely controversial issue of water, Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders agree that quick action is necessary. However that’s about the only thing they agree on.

There’s a lot of skepticism at the Capitol about whether lawmakers can solve a decades-long dispute in the next four weeks. GOP Senator Dave Cogdill addressed a crowd of Latino farm workers that rallied on the Capitol steps to push for a better water supply:

“Unfortunately we’ve chosen to follow Mark Twain’s adage to the letter, when he said that whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting over," said Cogdill. "And we’ve decided that that’s what we have to do in this state and the frustrating thing for me and for many has been the fact that in reality we don’t have to do that.”

Cogdill is a long-time advocate of building new dams, something environmentalists and Democrats are skittish about. But Governor Schwarzenegger has also been a fan of dams. He indicated his continued support at the same rally:

“I want you to know that I would not sign anything that does not have above the ground and below the ground water storage,” said Schwarzenegger.

The other major sticking point is how to better move water from north to south through the fragile delta. Some groups favor a so-called peripheral canal around the area, while others have talked about a tunnel. California voters rejected a canal back in 1982. And environmentalists favor more recycling and conservation, fearing further damage to the area’s ecosystem.

Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg said he knows it’s a tough issue that lawmakers have worked on for years, but really wants to get it done:

“Yes it’s true, nobody’s yet succeeded," said Steinberg. "Somebody will succeed. Somebody will. Why can’t it be us?”

The goal is to work out a water deal by the end of session September 11, but there’s also the possibility that lawmakers could come back later in the fall for a special session on water.

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