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Farm groups and water agencies around the Central Valley are fighting hard against a proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, that would increase the cost of using water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Associated Press reported.
The proposal, which Schwarzenegger’s opponents call a "water tax," would increase water costs for all users, including farmers, who said are already under pressure from other rising costs.
The money would go to CalFed, the biggest water project in California's history – an $8.5 billion, 20-year program designed to save endangered fish in the Delta and supply more water to the Central Valley and the state’s southern counties.
Although water agencies have been aware that they would have to carry some of the cost of CalFed, as well as gain from the project, they are opposing the plan because, according to them, the spending so far has gone into saving fish, not into upgrading the facilities that would increase their water supplies.
"The idea behind CalFed was that we would all get better together, the environment and the water users," said Tom Clark, general manager of the Kern County Water Agency. "That's not happening."
Environmental organizations said the farmers are just trying to get out of paying their share.
Barry Nelson, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the water agencies’ argument that CalFed is too environmentally oriented is "a lot of hooey."
The program has spent more to develop underground water storage facilities, such as the Kern Water Bank, than on restoring ecosystems that the fish depend on, Nelson said.