What’s on the State Legislative Horizon?
The California State Legislature has been in session since January; and while some proposals have been defeated, other bills are still being considered. Westlands staff and its legislative advocates continue to track several bills along with state budget proposals that could impact Westlands and other water agencies, with the goal of educating Members of the Legislature to secure favorable outcomes. A sampling of legislative efforts are:
SB 623 (Monning) and the Governor’s proposed budget trailer bill would levy a statewide tax on drinking water, fertilizer and dairy to fund a new Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund administered by the State Water Resources Control Board. The new Fund would provide an ongoing revenue stream to finance safe drinking water solutions in impacted communities. The proposals also include temporary enforcement protections for specified agricultural operations relative to nitrate use. Westlands is part of a coalition of over 150 California businesses, associations, cities, and ag and urban water agencies that opposes the bill, primarily because of the proposed tax on drinking water and the precedent for future creation of fees or taxes on the use of water to fund programs that, in Westlands’ view, should be funded, if at all, from the general fund. The coalition is actively engaged in developing alternative funding solutions to the proposed drinking water tax.
AB 1876 (Frazier) would have eliminated the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC), shifting all powers and duties, authority and jurisdiction, to the Delta Protection Commission, a Delta-centric entity. The bill author stated
the purpose of the bill is to “ensure Delta needs are met while working with statewide stakeholders to provide certainty of greater water security for all Californians.” However, Westlands and other water agencies opposed
the change in jurisdiction because it would hinder efforts to develop balanced solutions to issues in the Delta. AB 1876 failed passage in the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.
AB 2543 (Frazier) would require water agencies advancing infrastructure projects costing $100M or more to post on their websites any change in the cost or schedule that would result in an increase in established budget by more than 10% or a delay of 12 months or more, to the project schedule. Westlands, along with other local water agencies, opposes the legislation
because the state has adequate oversight authority through the annual budget process, and the public has adequate access to information through agency websites and review of public records.
AB 2649 (Arambula) would designate the diversion of water to groundwater storage, including groundwater recharge, a beneficial use, would codify the existing State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) temporary permit program for the capture of high precipitation events for local storage or recharge projects, and exempt these projects from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In general, Westlands agrees with and supports these principals. However, as introduced, the diversion of water for a new beneficial use could reduce the District’s supplies when natural flow in streams tributary to the Delta is insufficient to meet instream flow objectives and Delta water quality standards. Westlands staff and its legislative advocates are working with the author to amend the bill to avoid these unintended water supply reductions.
These bills are still being reviewed and may be amended in the next month. As such, Westlands staff and advocates will continue to monitor closely. The legislature is currently in session until July 6th, at which time they will take a onemonth recess, returning on August 6th to complete 2017-2018
Water Supply Update for April 2018
Regulatory restrictions on Delta pumping operations limit the amount of water delivered to San Joaquin Valley communities. The Water Supply Update document outlines the overall Jones Delta pumping capacity, how much water was pumped at the Jones pumping plant, and the “missed
opportunity” at the Jones Pumping plant. Around the middle of each month, Westlands Water District will be distributing an updated Water Supply Update detailing the previous month’s deliveries and missed opportunities. Feel free to “share” the monthly Water Supply Update within
your network or on your personal social media platforms to help educate the public on the status of water supply and deliveries to the San Joaquin Valley. Click here for a shareable link.