Sonoma County says money spent on lobbying is a good investment

Talk about getting a bang for the buck.

The Sonoma County Water Agency spent $355,000 on lobbying in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., in 2012 and got a payback of more $9 million in water project funding -- and the potential for even more from a salmon habitat restoration program.

"Pretty good return on investment," said Brad Sherwood, Water Agency spokesman.

The agency learned Thursday that its lobbying helped secure $65 million for the federal Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund, which covers six western states.

"It's on the president's desk," Sherwood said.

The Water Agency, which must compete for grants from the new funding, has received more than $2 million from the salmon recovery program in the past.

The past year's lobbying netted $9 million in federal and state grants for water supply, flood protection and sanitation projects.

Local government agencies are major players in the high-stakes business of influencing state government, largely through a cadre of paid lobbyists who mingle in Capitol hallways with advocates for private enterprise.

Local agencies across California spent nearly $95 million on lobbying activities during the 2011-12 legislative session, according to reports filed with the California Secretary of State's Office.

That spending -- the largest by any sector -- surpassed the amount spent collectively on lobbying by oil and gas companies, labor unions and utilities ($82.4 million). In all, the public and private entities spent more than $563 million on lobbying Sacramento.

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