Legislative Year in Review
Late last month, the California Legislature concluded its 2017-2018 Legislative Session. This year, the debate over water resources included two major policy proposals: additional flow requirements within the Bay-Delta watershed, and a tax on drinking water. Below are the legislative outcomes of those proposals and other efforts.
SB 579 (Galgiani) – Following the release by the State Water Resources Control Board of the proposed update for Phase 1 of the Water Quality Plan for the Bay-Delta, which concerns San Joaquin River flow and southern Delta Salinity, Senator Cathleen Galgiani amended SB 579. SB 579 would have directed the State Water Resources Control Board to consider nonflow measures in the Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay-Delta. The bill would have required analysis of nonflow measures and adaptive management and ensured contributions therefrom are accounted for in the water quality control plan or amendment to the water quality control plan. According to the sponsor of the bill, the California Farm Bureau, the bill would have “force[d] the board to acknowledge and accept that there are win-win solutions that allow the environment, our farms, and our communities all to thrive. We know this because we do it every day on our farms.” The bill was held in the Assembly and could be re-introduced in January 2019.
As a result of State Water Resources Control Board activities, Westlands has initiated an educational effort regarding Phase 2 of the update to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay-Delta, which concerns the Sacramento River and its Delta eastside-tributaries (including the Calaveras, Cosumnes, and Mokelumne rivers), Delta outflow, and interior Delta flow; and under the current State Water Board schedule which may be released by the end of the year. Westlands has been providing briefings on the impacts, including water supply and the state’s agricultural production, that may result if the State Water Resources Control Board adopts approaches currently being developed by the State Water Board for Phase 2 of the update to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay-Delta.
SB 623/SB 844/SB 845 (Monning) – Proposed a statewide tax on drinking water, fertilizer and dairy to provide a permanent revenue stream for the “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund” to be administered by the State Water Resources Control Board. Additionally, the bills would have provided temporary enforcement protections for specified agricultural operations relative to nitrate use. Westlands joined a coalition of over 150 California businesses, associations, cities, and ag and urban water agencies to successfully defeat all attempts to impose the tax. Although the legislation was defeated, the sponsors have declared they will return next year with new legislation.
AB 2649 (Arambula) – This legislation would have designated the diversion of water to underground storage, including groundwater recharge, as a beneficial use. Westlands worked with the author, his staff, and others interested in the bill to ensure the bill achieved its intended purpose without adversely affecting the Central Valley Project. Ultimately, the author chose to hold the bill this year to provide time to work through remaining issues.
AB 747 (Caballero) – Sponsored by the Byron Bethany Irrigation District, this end-of-session compromise measure provided for the establishment of the independent Office of Administrative Hearings within the State Water Resources Control Board. The bill received broad bipartisan support and was signed into law earlier this week.
The legislature will reconvene in early January 2019, at which point the process of monitoring, tracking, and educating will begin anew. As always, Westlands staff will keep our growers apprised of legislative matters as they arise. Please contact our office if you have any questions about the bills mentioned above or other state matters.
Westlands Water Quality Coalition (WWQC) – Member Submittals
Upper Zone Wells Needed for the Groundwater Quality Trend Monitoring (No Cost) Program
Westlands Water Quality Coalition Members are needed for a newly-developed Groundwater Quality Trend Monitoring (GQTM) Program as required by the Western Tulare Lake Basin General Order R5-2014-0001 (GO).
The GQTM Program requires a network of wells (domestic, irrigation, observation, public water supply, or community water system) for water quality sampling to determine current groundwater quality conditions and to develop long-term information for evaluation of regional effects relevant to irrigated agriculture and associated practices.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
The Coalition is actively seeking Upper Zone wells varying in depth from less than 200 feet to over 800 feet below ground surface for participation in the GQTM Program. This would involve minimal commitment at no cost, and water quality constituent sampling would occur just once a year during the fall.
If you have an Upper Zone well that might be a candidate, or have questions about the GQTM Program, please contact Debra Dunn at 559-241-6242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.