It's hard to conceive that $1 billion in any state project would be seen merely as a good start, but that's the general consensus of the drought relief package unveiled Thursday in Sacramento.
"There's more to do," said Gov. Jerry Brown at a news conference with legislative leaders from both parties, a sentiment each of them echoed in discussing the proposal.
Language of the legislative proposal wasn't unveiled on Thursday, and may not be complete until next week. But the outline provided by legislative staff shows that the largest chunk of funds -- $660 million from a 2006 statewide flood control bond measure -- would not directly provide additional water to thirsty California interests.
The lion's share of the actual drought package, some $121.6 million, would pay for projects outlined in the governor's January state budget plan. That includes emergency drinking water for parched communities; food assistance for those whose dinner tables have taken a hit during the drought; and new money to help coordinate statewide emergency drought response activities.
"This is just a down payment on our efforts to address this drought," said Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). "This is just the first round. We have much work to do."
Still, water policy officials around the state said they were pleased with the package.
"The expedited bond funding," said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, "will help needed projects get out of the gate more rapidly -- including recycled water projects that are ready to go and can be brought on line relatively quickly."
Brown defended the large amount of money earmarked for flood control, telling reporters that the drought should be seen in the context of "extreme weather events" brought about by climate change.
The announcement, originally billed as one by the governor and top Democrats, became a bipartisan event at the last minute when the Legislature's top two GOP members joined at the podium. But they took the opportunity to, in effect, lower the expectations that some supporters might otherwise have been selling.
"I would be remiss if I didn't point out that this is a Band-Aid," said Assembly GOP Leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto). "This is a temporary, small step toward fixing a monumental problem."
And when it comes to the historic water crisis, there is no lack of signs of just how big the problem is ... or... how hard it will be to forge the right path forward.
Three times during the news conference, the governor was asked about whether he has come around to backing mandatory water restrictions or whether state water officials (who took new action this week) have done enough.
There was a twinge of frustration in the answer.
"I'm not going to second-guess them," said Brown. " But I would share your urgency that we step it up in the weeks and months ahead."