The Legislature overwhelmingly approved a $687 million plan Thursday to provide immediate relief and emergency funding to communities reeling from California's dry spell.
The funding includes money for areas running low on drinking water and farming communities where fallowed fields, which are left unseeded during growing season, are leading to high unemployment. It comes after the state's driest year on record and a dry start to 2014, despite this week's winter storms.
The Assembly and Senate voted to approve SB103 and SB104 and send the legislation to Gov. Jerry Brown. The legislative package will take effect immediately if signed by the governor, as expected.
The plan redirects money in the state budget and draws from two bonds previously approved by voters.
It includes almost $475 million in accelerated grant funding for water conservation and recycling projects. Another $15 million will go to communities running low on drinking water supplies while $47 million provides food and housing assistance for people in drought-stricken communities.
The plan also increases penalties for illegally diverting water.
"This is a lot of money that will help thousands of California families dealing with the drought," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said.
The package's approval comes on the same day the California Department of Water Resources issued results of its latest Sierra snowpack survey. Snowpack is still well below normal, bad news for a state that just went through its driest year on record.
The department says manual and electronic readings show the snowpack's statewide water content at 24 percent of average for the date. The northern and central Sierra snowpack provides about a third of California's water supply.
The bills passed with large bipartisan majorities, even though a handful of Republicans in each house voted against them.