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Farmers Press Lawmakers For More Water Storage Projects

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – State lawmakers' proposal to build new water storage for the first time in decades died Monday afternoon.

A hundred or so people were at the Capitol, holding signs urging lawmakers to cut the red tape and build more water storage.

One farmer went as far to bring a dead almond tree to show the impact the drought has had and how badly he needs new ways of getting water.

"We're in survival mode, that's the bottom line," farmer Dan DeWees said.

DeWees drove from Merced, where he's been losing money and cattle because of the drought for a few years, desperate to get lawmakers to move on new water projects.

"Even our Exchequer Dam, we just want a spillway raised 10 feet which could increase our capacity," DeWees said. "With these politicians, it's hard to get all of this through."

DeWees and others joined two lawmakers proposing a bill that would fast track two new reservoirs in part by speeding up the environmental review process.

"If we want to prevent [a] future dire situation related to drought that will inevitably hit California again, then we have to work together today," said Assembly Member Kristin Olsen.

The state is looking at several options, like raising Shasta Dam and building a new reservoir like the Sites Reservoir northwest of Yuba City.

Department of Water Resources Deputy Director Gary Bardini says new storage facilities could cost upwards of $3 billion and would take around five years to complete – and that's if the state even decides to build it.

But how much water could a new reservoir add to our system?

"We may be able to improve 3 to 400 thousand acre feet of reliability under the current proposal," Bardini said.

That's about half of what Folsom Lake holds when full.

Bardini says the state will decide how it wants to spend two billion of water bond money by the end of 2016.

"Why have we waited more than 30 years to build new water storage?" we asked Bardini.

Bardini says many of the good locations have already been taken.

"With the awareness and the issues with have with California water and storage, it's again looked at a potential tool to help us with our water management issues," Bardini said.

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