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Water bond politics look poised to dominate the remainder of California's legislative session, with Senate leadership and Gov. Jerry Brown billions of dollars apart on the size of a revised water bond for the November 2014 ballot.

But they agree on one thing: the bond can't be about the tunnels.

Earlier this week, the Senate failed to pass a $10.5 billion water bond to replace the $11.1 billion offering approved in 2009 but postponed twice.

In meetings with legislative leaders yesterday, Brown put out his preferences: a bond worth around $6 billion, with about $2 billion for storage (both lower than the leading legislative proposals).

A draft of Brown's blueprint obtained by The Bee also suggests $1.5 billion for water supply and water reliability, encompassing areas like safe drinking water and groundwater cleanup; $1.5 billion for watershed protection; $500 million for flood control; and $500 million for the Delta.

Those numbers likely represent only starting points for negotiations. The document also states a general rule shared by Senate leaders: the bond must be "Bay Delta Conservation Plan neutral."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, made the case Monday that any bond perceived to advance the conservation plan is destined to fail. The BDCP requires money to bolster the Delta's ecosystem, and opponents of a proposed pair of Delta tunnels fear that a bond with Delta habitat money would therefore help lay the groundwork for the massive tunnels.

Ensuring that there is not a connection between a bond and the BDCP would be in the governor's interest, since it could help prevent a water bond vote from becoming a referendum on the tunnels he strongly supports. Developments in recent days, though, suggest that as the Legislature debates a water bond, the BDCP will hover in the background.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, watches as the votes are posted for a measure he supported that would overhaul an $11.1 billion water bond on the November ballot, at the Capitol in Sacramento Calif., Monday, June 23, 2014. Associated Press Photo/Rich Pedroncelli


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