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Government & Politics

Did Fresno's Water Project Just Get More Complicated? Brandau Says He Won't Vote On The Plan

Ezra David Romero
Valley Public Radio

Leaders in Fresno would like to change the way the city’s water is managed through a massive infrastructure project, but one city council members new stance on the plan could complicate its passage. 

A planned $429 million water project in the city of Fresno would replace an existing system relying on groundwater and instead treat surface water from area rivers for drinking. But not everyone is happy about the plan, which could double residents’ water bills.

Fresno City Council member Steve Brandau, who voted for the project in 2013, now says he won’t vote at all on the plan, and instead will abstain. That could make passing the proposal difficult. He says the rates would hurt residents across Fresno.

BRANDAU: “Before I burden our rate payers I’ve got to make sure that every avenue has been investigated. Until I can look them in the eye and say I have done my job then I can’t cast a vote prematurely.”

Brandau instead wants to explore using funds from the state water bond to pay for Fresno’s system improvements. He also would like to have a city organized water summit with state lawmakers before the council votes to come up with funding alternatives.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin says she’s still optimistic about the water project, and that she’s already in contact with state leaders about additional funds.

SWEARENGIN: “It’s not going to be possible to entirely replace our local funding with state grants and state low interest loans. So hopefully it’s a balance, it’s a both/and, not an either or.”

A petition process is underway protesting the rate increase. Depending on its outcome, the plan could go before the council in early February.  

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