US May Sell Water System to California

THE Bush administration is considering a request by California Gov. Pete Wilson to take control of the massive federal water system that supplies 20 percent of the state's water, an official said Wednesday.

Wilson formally asked the Interior Department Tuesday to start talks on transferring the 57-year-old Central Valley Project (CVP) - a 500-mile system of reservoirs and canals - to the state, which is suffering from a severe six-year drought.

"It's an intriguing offer that deserves serious consideration," said Interior Department spokesman Steve Goldstein.

Goldstein said a six-month negotiating timetable suggested by Wilson could be met if the administration agreed to sell. The CVP provides irrigation for tens of thousands of farmers and is also a source of electricity.

Wilson's request came as the Senate Energy Committee prepared to vote yesterday on a bill that would make sweeping reforms in water policy - including the transfer of 20 percent of CVP water from farmers to restore endangered fish runs and waterfowl habitat. The House has already passed a water bill.

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