California Legislative Year in Review
The California legislature concluded its 2019 legislative session on September 14, 2019. During the 2019 legislative session, the legislature paid considerable attention to water issues. Below are the legislative outcomes on three bills that will or would have affected the management of water resources.
Senate Bill (SB) 1 (Atkins), enacts the California Environmental, Public Health and Workers Defense Act.
Introduced by California State Senate President Pro Tempore, Toni Atkins (D – San Diego), SB 1 would have required federal environmental and labor laws and regulations in effect on January 19, 2017 to remain in place through January 20, 2025. SB 1 would have made the California Endangered Species Act applicable to the operations of the federal Central Valley Project, although the validity of this provision of SB 1 undoubtedly would have been challenged in court. SB 1 would also have prevented state regulatory agencies from using the best available science to improve conditions for native fish species under the Porter‐Cologne Water Quality Control Act, the California Endangered Species Act, and other environmental laws.
Position: Westlands opposed SB 1 because of the adverse impact it would have had on efforts to develop Voluntary Agreements and the conflict it would have caused between the United States and the State of California related to operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.
SB 200 (Monning) creates the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund with $130 million funding annually.
Status: SIGNED IN TO LAW
Introduced by California Senator Bill Monning (D – Carmel), SB 200 establishes the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to help local water systems provide safe drinking water. The new law prioritizes water systems in disadvantaged communities that consistently fail to provide an adequate supply of safe drinking water. Additionally, it requires the State Water Resources Control Board to provide funding for water treatment facilities and ongoing operations and maintenance.
Position: Westlands opposed the initial draft of SB 200, but removed its opposition when the bill was amended to provide that only proceeds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and the General Fund would be used to support the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
Assembly Bill (AB) 658 (Arambula) allows Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), or other local agencies, to apply to the State Water Resources Control Board for temporary permits to divert and store groundwater during high-flow events.
Status: SIGNED IN TO LAW
Introduced by California State Assembly member Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D – Fresno), AB 658 allows local agencies to apply to the State Water Resources Control Board for a temporary permit to store groundwater during high flow events, while ensuring protection for existing water rights holders, other beneficial uses, and the ability to meet water quality objectives.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires local governments and agencies to develop plans aimed at stabilizing groundwater supplies, halting overdraft, and bringing California’s groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge by 2040. SGMA authorizes Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to manage, monitor, and ensure the long-term sustainability of their relevant basin and/or sub-basin. By enabling GSAs to capture groundwater during high flow events, the new law will assist the state in meeting its 2040 groundwater sustainability goal.
Position: Westlands supported the bill and worked closely with the author to ensure the new rights to store groundwater would only be exercised when there were no redirected adverse impacts to Central Valley Project operations.