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Obama provides economic stimulus money for important water projects

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Courtesy of H2bid, Inc.

California and indeed the entire western region of the United States, face chronic issues with respect to water use management. As reported in a December 2008 article on this site, California faces special problems intensified by cycles of drought; additionally, budget shortfalls are compounding the problems by limiting what the State can accomplish. Some relief may be in sight, though; in April 2009, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, met with California’s Governor to offer help in the form of economic stimulus money aimed at helping to take some stress off of the water supply of the western United States.

“In the midst of one of the deepest economic crises in our history, Californians have been saddled with a drought that is putting tens of thousands of people out of work and devastating entire communities,” said Secretary Salazar. “President Obama’s economic recovery plan will not only create jobs on basic water infrastructure projects, but it will help address both the short- and long-term water supply challenges the Golden State is facing. From boosting water supplies and improving conservation to improving safety at our dams, these shovel-ready projects will make a real and immediate difference in the lives of farmers, businesses, Native American Tribes and communities across California.”

In particular, Secretary Salazar identified a series of programs including:
  • $40 million for immediate emergency drought relief in the West, focused on California. These investments will allow for the installation of groundwater wells to boost water supplies to agricultural and urban contractors, the facilitation of the delivery of Federal water to Reclamation contractors through water transfers and exchanges, and the installation of rock barriers in the Sacramento Delta to meet water quality standards during low flows;
  • $109.8 million to build a screened pumping plant at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam to protect fish populations while delivering water to agricultural users irrigating approximately 150,000 acres;
  • $22.3 million to address dam safety concerns at the Folsom Dam near Sacramento, which is currently among the highest risk dams in the country for public safety;
  • $8.5 million to repair water-related infrastructure at Folsom Dam;
  • $20 million for the Contra Costa Canal to protect water supplies for 500,000 Californians and to build fish screens to restore winter-run Chinook salmon and the endangered Delta smelt;
  • $4.5 million to restore the Trinity River and honor the Federal government’s responsibility to the Native American Tribes;
  • $26 million for Battle Creek Salmon/Steelhead Restoration project, which will help restore fisheries that support thousands of jobs in northern California.
  • $4 million to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan for conveyance systems to move Central Valley Project and State Water Project water, habitat restoration and adaptive management;
  • $4 million to broaden scientific knowledge of Klamath River sedimentation for future management decision-making;
  • $20.7 million in smaller water infrastructure and related projects across California.

Several of these projects should appear familiar to readers of this site as they have been identified as high-impact projects that are required to deal with water management in the Golden State. Additional projects are focused on prevention of future water shortages by investing in upfront planning and preparation before another crisis presents itself. In a state with a centuries-old tradition of cyclic drought, it seems wise to make such investments.

Beyond the California-specific projects, Secretary Salazar announced almost $1 billion in additional effort focused on water in the western United States. These projects include:

  • Meeting Future Water Supply Needs (including Title XVI water recycling projects and rural water projects) - $450 million
  • Improving Infrastructure Reliability and Safety - $165 million
  • Environmental and Ecosystem Restoration - $235 million
  • Water Conservation Initiative (Challenge Grants) - $40 million
  • Green Buildings - $14 million
  • Delivering water from the Colorado River to users in central Utah under the Central Utah Project Completion Act - $50 million
  • Emergency drought relief in the West - $40 million

The Department of the Interior, on its website, states that they selected projects that address the Department’s highest priority mission needs; generates the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time; and creates lasting value for the American public. It seems certain that investing in water management in the American west will pay dividends for years to come.

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