By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Sep. 4, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Gov. Jerry Brown, moving beyond the ever-vexing state budget that occupied his first months in office, is engaging in two other issues that are just as complicated.

They are California’s never-ending water war and the much-troubled project – or pipe dream – to build a bullet train system connecting the northern and southern halves of the state.

Both involve almost countless billions of dollars, stakeholders too numerous to count, big-think construction concepts and intricate political and financing deals with federal and local governments and private interests.

Brown signaled his engagement by word – saying he wanted to jump-start the bullet train and put his own stamp on the water plan that predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger worked through the Legislature.

And he did it by deed by placing two trusted advisers – one-time gubernatorial aide and utility executive Dan Richard and ex-banker Michael Rossi – on the High-Speed Rail Authority and blocking confirmation of two Schwarzenegger appointees to the California Water Commission.

Although Brown mused about a bullet train during his first gubernatorial stint three decades ago, it never got beyond the what-if phase.

Brown has a more intimate knowledge of water because he gained legislative approval of a peripheral canal around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, only to see voters reject it in a 1982 referendum.

The bullet train project suffers from escalating costs, voter-imposed limitations, heated route fights, sharp criticism of its ridership projections and eroding support in the Legislature.

The rail authority wants to begin construction on an initial segment in the San Joaquin Valley next year but still must produce an acceptable business plan.

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