Commentary: Schwarzenegger owes California a water plan too

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told The Fresno Bee's editorial board this week that he will put all of his attention on solving the state's water crisis just as soon as California's budget crisis is done. We support his priorities, although we're not sure there will be a budget passed in two weeks as he has predicted. But it would be good for the state if the financial crisis gets solved that quickly.

It would be a huge accomplishment if Schwarzenegger can pass a budget that's not balanced with gimmicks and then pull the varied water interests together to pass a long-term water plan for California.

The only thing bigger than the state's $24.3 billion budget gap is the political gap between farmers, urban interests and environmentalists over how we should solve our water problem. Getting a comprehensive water deal would be a legacy project for Schwarzenegger's governorship.

Most recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a decision that could limit water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta so that endangered fish can be protected. But that decision could increase the political pressure on the governor and legislators to produce a comprehensive water plan.

In addition, the lack of water could hurt the state's big cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, and leaders of those cities are pushing for a water deal. When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the Assembly speaker, he sided with environmentalists in blocking the construction of more dams. Now Villaraigosa is concerned about how the lack of water storage will impact his city's residents.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fresno Bee.