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Sacramento -- A reservoir near Livermore has become Democrats' symbol of opposition to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed dams and the political wrestling to come over the next round of public works projects.
Senate leader Don Perata of Oakland and other Democrats are pointing to the Los Vaqueros Reservoir as a prime example of why they oppose two new inland dams -- a centerpiece of Schwarzenegger's request for additional batches of voter-approved bonds.
Perata told a news conference that Democrats do not want to build new dams, citing cost concerns and pointing out that they can take decades to build.
Perata specifically cited Los Vaqueros, about midway between Livermore and Brentwood, as an example of the common, snail-like progress toward creation of a reservoir, when there is a wide array of other measures to supply more water for the Bay Area and California in general. Los Vaqueros eventually cost about three times the $450 million projected.
The Contra Costa Water District now wants to nearly triple the size of the 110,000-acre-foot reservoir to capture more of the Sierra Nevada snowpack that melts and flows through rivers into the Bay Area delta -- a concept backed by area voters as Measure N in March 2004.
In case of drought or other woes, the East Bay Municipal Water District, which serves Oakland, and other Bay Area suppliers could benefit, local officials said.
But plans are creeping along, plagued by environmental and cost concerns, lawmakers said.
Instead of reservoirs, the Senate leader and three other upper- house Democrats have introduced legislation that centers on storing more water underground, shoring up crumbling levees whose failure would endanger homes, overhauling water-related bureaucracy and boosting conservation.
Though Schwarzenegger's plan includes some of those elements, he proposed two new dams near Fresno and Sacramento at a cost of $4.5 billion in his State of the State address earlier this month.
The governor's aides told the Oakland Tribune that boosting total reservoir capacity -- or surface storage -- is a key aspect in the state's long-term plan to deal with growing water-supply needs and the effects of global warming.
Spokesman Darrel Ng told the Tribune that surface storage is an important part of any "responsible" water management system.
GOP lawmakers and farmers agree, setting up dams as a major bargaining chip in negotiations this year over bonds for infrastructure improvements.
Voters approved more than $40 billion in public-works bonds in November, nearly a fourth of it for flood control and water management.
The administration is proposing another $40 billion-plus to address additional needs, as part of an overall $200 billion plan.
In addition to opposing dams, Perata claims that it is bad policy to ask for more money from voters before completing what they have already approved.
Sen. Darrel Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, told the Tribune that one of the first steps -- environmental impact reports -- will not be ready on the inland sites until winter 2008 on one and summer 2009 on the other.