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Lester Snow, director of the state Department of Water Resources, told legislators yesterday that serious investment — $4 billion — is needed to strengthen the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, one of the major sources of San Diego’s water.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the legislative hearing:

Snow said the governor would like to place a bond measure of at least $4 billion on a 2008 ballot, even though the Legislature and Schwarzenegger have yet to begin spending the $5.4 billion from a water bond issue that voters passed in November.

More money is needed, Snow told legislators, for the heart of California’s complicated water system: the delta where the state’s two biggest rivers converge. Just before they reach the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco, huge federal and state pumps divert water to Central Valley farms and the faucets of 18 million Southern Californians.

Snow didn’t directly speak about an old idea for a peripheral canal, which would capture some Sierra Nevada snowmelt and reroute it around the delta.

Left unspoken by Snow were the words “peripheral canal,” which conjures up the nasty 1982 ballot battle after which voters rejected a 43-mile canal around the delta. The 62%-38% vote came after a campaign that one television station likened to civil war. Northern California newspapers railed against the canal plan, saying it would suck dry the Sacramento River to sprinkle lawns in Los Angeles.

ROB DAVIS

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