US government allocates $110 mn for drought relief in western states

Washington, June 14 (IANS) The US government announced an investment of $110 million to ease the effects of the drought in Pacific Coast states, particularly California, which announced historic new restrictions on the use of water for agriculture and stock raising.

President Barack Obama and his Cabinet had a conference call on Friday with the governors of several of the nation’s western states to inform them of federal plans to provide financial aid in the summer months to deal with drought and wildfires, Efe reported.

A new allocation of $110 million would be made available, added to the $190 million already set aside this year to combat drought nationwide.

That amount includes $18 million for creating jobs in the California areas most affected by the lack of water and aimed at people long unemployed, young people and families whose income has diminished as a result of the drought, and workers left jobless for the same reason.

“These are temporary positions…to conduct drought-related relief work,” said Portia Wu, the assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, adding that participants won’t be hired for longer than six months or until they have earned $14,000, whichever comes first.

The Agriculture Department would allocate $21 million for ranchers and landowners to help them take effective water-conservation measures and adapt better to drought conditions.

A large part of that money would go to California, said Robert Bonnie, undersecretary for natural resources and the environment at the Agriculture Department, while the Interior Department will have $6.5 million available for environmental programs based on the efficient use of water and destined entirely for California.

“The drought conditions that several states across the West are facing are severe and the wildfire conditions are tough as well,” White House senior adviser Brian Deese said. “So we’re going to do everything that we can to try to be supportive both in terms of resources, but also in terms of authority in coordinating and problem solving.”

This outlook has led the California State Water Resources Control Board to boost restrictions on the use of this resource in the valleys of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and the delta where they both flow into San Francisco Bay.

The measure affects 114 senior owners of water-use rights for agriculture and stock raising.

The regulatory agency says there’s not enough water available, and therefore it will impose a series of fines on people who do not comply with the restrictions and use water irresponsibly.

Added to the problems caused by the drought is the danger of fires this summer, federal agencies warn.

 

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