State Water Board Adopts Emergency Curtailment Regulation for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Watershed
August 9, 2021
Citing water levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at “alarming lows,” the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) voted on August 3 to approve an emergency curtailment regulation to protect drinking water supplies for public health and safety, prevent salinity intrusion in the Delta and minimize impacts to fisheries and the environment.
Under the regulation, about 5,700 water right holders in the Delta watershed could be ordered to curtail diversions beginning mid-August. Those with riparian or older water rights could also be subject to curtailments if drought conditions worsen.
“It is imperative that we move urgently to better manage the water we still have and prepare for the continuation of drought conditions,” Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel said. “The Delta watershed is a resource shared by agriculture, urban areas, rural towns and fish and wildlife, among many others. This decision is not about prioritizing one group over the other, but about preserving the watershed for all, implementing our water rights priority system, and ensuring we manage through this drought, especially for critical health and safety needs.”
The Board was directed to consider emergency regulations authorizing curtailments under Governor Gavin Newsom’s May 10 declaration of a drought state of emergency, which presently encompasses 50 counties.
Ag Council joined with California Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups to provide written comments to the Board expressing concern regarding the very short timeline to review and comment on the regulation, among other issues. Should the drought become more severe, the letter asks for stronger transparency and participation to allow for greater stakeholder engagement to develop solutions. In addition, where feasible, we ask that the Board allow voluntary or cooperative measures and alternative compliance options to comply with the curtailment regulations. The letter also requests triggers to remove curtailments if water becomes available this winter and drought conditions cease.
Ag Council understands that in a time of water scarcity it becomes difficult to meet competing demands for water and recognizes the extreme challenges facing the Board. However, we implore the state to use its authority narrowly to focus on minimal health and safety water needs, Delta salinity control and other extraordinary exceptions detailed in the regulation.
With California facing climate change and drought, Ag Council urges the governor’s administration to prioritize both above and below ground water storage projects moving forward to help our state better prepare for times water scarcity.
California’s current water system was designed for less than 20 million people and was built for the 20th Century, not the 21st. Meanwhile, California has grown to about 40 million residents today.
Ag Council President Emily Rooney said, “Simply put, our current water infrastructure system does not fit the needs of our state. Couple a deficient water system with extreme weather, and the problem is exacerbated. Our droughts are becoming more and more routine and should be considered as part of our normal weather patterns. However, this state continues to act like each drought is a surprise, and we have seen no new meaningful movement on water storage or conveyance projects, even as we experience record budget surpluses. Not only is this approach senseless – it is negligent.”
Ag Council appreciates funds in the state budget for repairs to restore the capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal, the Delta-Mendota Canal, and the California Aqueduct, in addition to funds for crucial groundwater recharge efforts. These are positive steps to improve conveyance and boost water supplies. However, much more must be done. This means investing in projects that would make a major difference to build climate and drought resilience, such as Sites Reservoir, which was approved by the California Water Commission, but it has not moved forward toward completion.
Ag Council looks forward to working with state leaders to help address the challenges before us in the coming months.
The curtailment regulation is awaiting approval at the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) before it becomes effective. Curtailment orders cannot begin until OAL approves the regulation, and it is filed with the Secretary of State. Once finalized, water curtailments could start by mid-August.
Ag Council Urges Timely Drinking Water Solutions
February 3, 2020
Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street, 24th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Subject: Comment Letter – Draft Policy for Developing the Fund Expenditure Plan for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund
Dear Ms. Townsend:
Agricultural Council of California (“Ag Council”) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Draft Expenditure Plan for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (“Draft Plan”). Ag Council represents approximately 15,000 farmers across California, ranging from small, farmer-owned businesses to some of the world’s best known brands. Many of our member companies reside in communities with drinking water concerns and therefore we have been engaged on this issue for the last few years. Our work with the environmental justice community ultimately resulted in SB 200, which is the basis for this fund. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Through the pending Needs Assessment, the State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”) should be able to fully quantify the scope of the drinking water crisis in California. In our discussions prior to SB 200, we were able to estimate the total cost and population of those in the impacted areas through existing studies, so we are confident that rough estimates could be developed at this time. For that reason, we urge SWRCB to add measurable goals and timelines to achieve and resolve the drinking water problem in the Draft Plan. This will keep the underlying goal of resolving the problem at the heart of all of our work and ensure funds are utilized in the most efficient and expeditious way possible.
As a member of the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (“SAFER”) Advisory Group, at the January meeting, we were asked how the funds should be prioritized. We urge the funds be granted in the following order (based on readiness of the projects): interim water; planning for long-term solutions; operation and maintenance for systems serving small populations in disadvantaged communities; capital costs; and lastly, technical assistance. Again, this order will keep the funds focused on getting water to communities in need. We also recommend that the Draft Plan expand upon when, or what types of systems would eligible to receive Operations and Maintenance (“O & M”) funding. O & M is an integral part of the funding needs, and more clarification needs to be provided around this issue.
There are a number of Key Terms and Definitions in the Draft Plan that are unclear but vital to the execution of the Expenditure Plan:
• “Administrators,” (Page 3; Purpose and Objective; Page 6; Key Terms and Definitions): The ability to act as an administrator may be too broad. We urge SWRCB to highlight thresholds for qualifications or leadership experience to determine who acts as an Administrator for failing systems.
• “Affordability Threshold,” (Page 6; Key Terms and Definitions; Page 10; Funding Terms and Conditions): How does SWRCB plan to develop the affordability threshold? Is it going to be an ongoing factor in the prospective of project funding? The Draft Plan addresses O & M costs, and should continue to do so. How is affordability different than O & M? Is this a number or an equation that will be updated periodically by SWRCB? When is this key term going to be developed?
• “Consistently Fails,” (Page 6; Key Terms and Definitions): We urge SWRCB to offer more clarity regarding this definition. As currently defined, a single exceedance could fall within this definition. We do not believe that this is uniform with what most would associate with consistently failing.
The remainder of our comments support the issues highlighted by the Central Valley Salinity Coalition (“CVSC”) leadership surrounding “responsible parties,” and associated funding obligations:
The Draft Policy proposes that the Fund Solution List should also identify systems/projects for which other parties have an obligation to provide funding support. Other parties may include responsible parties or dischargers pursuing alternative compliance pathways. The language as written is problematic in two respects: 1) the language does not define what constitutes a responsible party, and 2) the funding obligation language implies liability rather than funding responsibilities as identified as part of an alternative compliance pathway.
With respect to defining “responsible party,” we are concerned that as proposed, a “responsible party” could mean anyone for which an allegation has been made as being a responsible party. For the Fund Solution List, responsible parties should only be listed if the State Water Board has gone through a full adjudicatory process that finds that a person is a responsible party under the law. Allegations, suggestions, or general presumptions are not adequate to identify a person as a responsible party on the Fund Solution List.
For the second issue, as it pertains to alternative compliance pathways, the term “funding obligation” implies that there is a certain level of liability. In the context of the Central Valley’s Nitrate Control Program, dischargers are required to identify funding to implement nitrate drinking water projects, which may include local, state, and federal funds. Ultimately, the lack of funding from other sources is not an excuse for compliance with a management zone plan. Unfortunately, the funding obligation language in the Draft Policy turns this backstop language into responsibility in the first instance. This is inconsistent with the Nitrate Control Program and with SB 200 as expressed by the Senate’s Pro Tem, Senator Atkins. After the passage of SB 200, Senator Atkins stated as follows:
Solving California’s water crisis has been one of our top priorities. It’s also been one of our toughest challenges. We had to look at how to provide ongoing funding for the safe water communities need without any burdensome taxes or charges on working Californians or on our farming community. And we had to make sure we prevented any special breaks for those who pollute our drinking water. This week we passed SB 200, which allocates $130 million in ongoing funding to ensure communities throughout our state that suffer from groundwater pollution and a lack of municipal water supplies have safe and affordable drinking water.
To address these concerns, but still maintain the general intent of the language, we support the recommended language from CVSC that this section of the Draft Policy language be replaced with the following paragraph:
The Fund Solution List should also identify systems and projects for which other entities may be addressing drinking water needs as a responsible party, or through efforts associated with compliance pathways. When evaluating these systems for funding, the State Water Board will consider whether it is appropriate to fund the project and seek full or partial reimbursement, fund all the project due to the circumstances involved and not seek reimbursement, or fund part of the project in cooperation with the other entities.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Draft Plan. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at (916) 443-4887.
State Budget to Address Safe Drinking Water Needs in California
June 12, 2019
Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leadership negotiated a mechanism to address safe drinking water for all Californians, and it is included in the state budget. A continuous appropriation to ensure safe drinking water in future years is also provided within a budget trailer bill. Legislators are set to vote on the state budget this week in order to meet the June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a budget.
The budget agreement utilizes both Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF – funded via cap and trade) dollars and General Fund dollars to guarantee $130 million to provide clean drinking water for all Californians.
As an ardent advocate of a solution to address the safe drinking water crisis in California, Ag Council appreciates the governor’s commitment and the efforts of legislators to put together a budget package tackling this crucial issue plaguing low income and disadvantaged communities.
We urge legislators to pass the budget bill and the budget trailer bill because this is real money to address the lack of safe drinking water throughout the state.
Though the agreement does not include all of the elements Ag Council sought, we thank the governor and legislative leadership for working to ensure safe water for Californians who are desperately in need of a solution now.
The 2019-2020 budget bill contains the following:
- $100 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) for Safe Drinking Water;
- $30 million General Fund for Safe Drinking Water; and
- $3.4 million General Fund for the State Water Resources Control Board for administrative costs.
Trailer bill accompanying the budget includes:
- 5 percent GGRF continuous appropriation beginning 2020-21 for Safe Drinking Water;
- Cap of $130 million for Safe Drinking Water;
- If 5 percent of GGRF falls below $130 million in a future budget year, a General Fund backstop is provided to safeguard the Safe Drinking Water Fund beginning in 2023-2024 with a 2030 sunset; and
- Creates the administrative framework of the Safe Drinking Water Program and Fund.
Implementation of the Unimpaired Flows Plan Delayed
November 7, 2018
The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) voted to delay implementation of the unimpaired flows plan for another 30 days at the request of Governor Brown and Governor-Elect Newsom. Late yesterday, the Governor and Governor-Elect sent a joint written request to SWRCB members asking for a delay to allow the process of the voluntary settlement agreements to proceed.
After much deliberation and split public comment, the Board ultimately voted in support of the delay. The vote was not unanimous — there were three votes in support and two abstentions. The item will come back for consideration on December 11th, with no further delays.
The letter from Governor Brown and Governor-Elect Newsom can be found by clicking HERE.
Statement on the Safe & Affordable Drinking Water Fund
August 31, 2018
Despite a tremendous effort on the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund – SB 844 and SB 845 – the legislation will not be moving forward this session, which concludes tonight at midnight. It is clear Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) was not comfortable putting his caucus up on a tax/fee vote during an election year.
We thank SB 844 and SB 845 author Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and principal coauthor Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) for their leadership on this important issue.
To say we are disappointed is an understatement. There were strong political undercurrents working against our bills despite the fact that communities continue to suffer from the lack of clean drinking water. However, had the Speaker let the bills proceed, we were confident we had the votes, and that gives us optimism for next year.
Ag Council is now in conversations with our large and diverse coalition on strategies for next year and creating the expectation that this package will be voted on early in 2019. Asm. Heath Flora (R-Ripon) offered his leadership to work on this endeavor in the Assembly, along with his colleague Asm. Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella Valley).
We are proud of the work we accomplished and the coalition we built. With over 140 organizations in support, this is the furthest any effort has gone regarding drinking water or protections for agriculture from the State Water Resources Control Board. And, almost every editorial board across the state was in support of our movement, from the LA Times to the Sacramento Bee.
We are not deterred — not even close. Ag Council has already participated in meetings with legislators today in the Capitol to work on the path forward.
Thank you to all of our members for your unwavering support of this effort. It helped create the movement. Now, there is more work to be done.
We will relentlessly continue to pursue passage of this legislation because it is the right thing to do. As Sen. John McCain said in his farewell statement to Americans recently, “We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”
Click HERE to read Speaker Rendon’s statement on this issue.
Rally at the State Capitol Against the Proposed Flow Objectives Plan
August 20, 2018
On August 20th at noon, farmers and community leaders are invited to the State Capitol (North Steps facing L Street) in Sacramento to rally against the regulatory proposal to slash water resources for farms and communities by considerably increasing the amount of water flows for fish and wildlife purposes from the lower San Joaquin River and its three tributaries, the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers.
Ag Council and many others are urging the State Water Resources Control Board to reject the proposed Bay-Delta Plan Amendments for Flow Objectives on the lower San Joaquin River, which mandates that water users provide significantly more flows for fish and wildlife. The proposal removes flexibility needed in the water system to manage drought and address impacts relating to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Rather than the extreme board proposal, local water districts and stakeholders are offering science-based plans including functional flow and non-flow solutions. The water users should be given the opportunity to engage in renewed voluntary settlement discussions with state officials to work toward a more collaborative solution that protects the environment without sacrificing people in disadvantaged communities and the production of locally grown food.
We encourage members to attend the rally to help garner media attention regarding the severe impacts of the proposal to cut water resources for farmers and communities. Click HERE for more details about the rally, including information regarding transportation options from locations throughout the state.
The State Water Resources Control Board begins two days of meetings to hear public comments on the regulatory proposal on August 21 and 22 at CalEPA headquarters located at 1001 I Street, 2nd floor. Ag Council President Emily Rooney plans to comment at the meeting.
To read the recent comment letter signed by water districts, business groups and ag organizations, including Ag Council, click HERE. The letter urges the board to reject the flow objectives proposal. Please contact Ag Council at ph. (916) 443-4887 if you have any questions
Speaker Rendon Statement on the Legislature’s Commitment to Safe, Clean Drinking Water
SACRAMENTO — Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) released the following statement on the Legislature’s ongoing commitment to safe and clean drinking water:
“The Assembly is committed to identifying a sustainable funding source to ensure safe drinking water for all Californians. That’s why we put Proposition 68 on the ballot, which included $540 million for water projects. In the budget this year, we also included over $25 million for emergency drinking water projects, lead testing and remediation, and other water projects.
“But much more needs to be done, and a piecemeal funding approach won’t work. Building on the hard work of Senator Bill Monning and others in this area, Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia and Heath Flora have agreed to lead our house’s safe water efforts.
“Working together, the Legislature will ensure that all Californians have access to this fundamental human need.”
Website of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon: https://speaker.asmdc.org/
Backers of Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund Applaud Reintroduction of Safe Drinking Water Legislation and Urge Swift Vote
SACRAMENTO — Governor Brown and lawmakers have introduced bipartisan consensus legislation–SB 844 and SB 845 authored by Senator Monning (D-Carmel) with Senator Vidak (R-Hanford) as principal coauthor–to solve California’s longstanding drinking water crisis. The legislation builds upon the original proposal for a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, with changes made to ensure broad support and effective implementation – because California families with toxic water cannot afford to wait any longer.
The bill has been amended in two key ways:
Changes the mandatory safe drinking water fee to a voluntary program, giving Californians the ability to opt out if they so choose, similar to other existing models such as community choice aggregators. Funding will be used to help disadvantaged communities afford to create, operate and maintain critical drinking water treatment. The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) will also work with stakeholders to develop best practices and other measures deemed necessary to meet the unique needs of low-income Californians as part of the voluntary program.
Preserves the mandatory fees and regulatory implementation provisions on agricultural operations and dairies, while increasing the fertilizer mill fee from the original proposal. Fees are set to collect a fair amount of revenue in proportion to the costs to treat water impacted by nitrate.
Taken together, this safe drinking water legislation represents a major step forward towards finally achieving the California promise of safe, clean, and affordable drinking water for all.
Below is a joint statement from supporters of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund:
“California is on the verge of a historic step forward to provide safe and affordable drinking water for the estimated one million Californians with toxic tap water. After extensive deliberations with lawmakers and stakeholders, Governor Brown and Senator Monning have introduced a consensus proposal in SB 844 and SB 845 that builds upon the original Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. We remain in strong support and appreciate the thoughtfulness and deliberation that informed this revised legislation. We also appreciate the bipartisan champions who are leading this effort. And we believe the diversity of strong support from environmental justice, environmental, public health, business, agricultural, labor, local government and water leaders speaks to the strength and urgency of this proposal. We urge a swift vote so that we can finally achieve the California promise of safe, clean, affordable and accessible water for all.”
For more information, please visit fundsafewaterca.org.
Below are individual statements from just some of the many supporters of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
Agricultural Council of California: Emily Rooney, President
“We are wholeheartedly committed to solving this crucial drinking water issue this year. We remain dedicated, along Governor Brown and over 140 other groups and community partners, to solving this ongoing problem for low-income and disadvantaged communities throughout the state. As the Sac Bee Editorial Board said on June 4, ‘This is 21st century California. There is simply no excuse for water that isn’t safe.’”
Community Water Center: Laurel Firestone, Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director
“For decades, our communities have been given the unacceptable choice of drinking contaminated water from the tap or purchasing costly alternatives. Now, for the first time, we are within reach of a real solution in California and our Legislature must act by passing the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This Fund will provide critical resources for drinking water solutions urgently needed in our state. Local community leaders impacted by unsafe water continue to lead the way of an unprecedented group of stakeholders supporting this solution including environmental justice, public health, business, and agriculture. We can’t let this opportunity pass — our families are depending on it.”
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability: Phoebe Seaton, Co-Director
“California is so close to rectifying this decades-long wrong, this chasm in our image of health, well-being, and equity. We stand this week with the million Californians who still live each day without safe drinking water and ask that the Legislature — north and south, urban and rural, blue and red — make safe drinking water a reality.“
“I support the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. More than a million Californians are being forced to take a risk each time they drink water from the faucet. This is an injustice and a disgrace in the richest state in the nation. I’m calling on the Legislature to join me in supporting Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund!”
Clean Water Action: Dan Howells, California State Director
“It is unconscionable that nearly one million California residents must risk their health just by drinking from their own faucet. In the next two weeks, the State Legislature will be able to change that, by approving SB 844 and SB 845, authored by Senator Monning.”
Water Foundation: Wade Crowfoot, CEO
“Right now, one in 40 Californians risks exposure to arsenic, nitrate and other dangerous chemicals every time they turn on the tap. We have the laws and tools to fix this. We just need the political will. I applaud Governor Brown and the many legislative and community leaders that have developed a bipartisan solution to our longstanding drinking water pollution problem, and urge lawmakers to approve the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund this year so every family in the state can count on clean water in their homes, schools and workplaces.”
NextGen America: Arnie Sowell, Vice President of California Policy
“Access to clean and affordable drinking water is a universal human right — and California has the responsibility to deliver on that right for everyone in our state. The people of California are watching, and as a progressive leader, California needs to do more to live up to that standard. This month, our representatives have an opportunity to show their commitment to environmental justice and equality by passing SB 844 and SB 845.”
California Environmental Justice Alliance: Gladys Limon, Executive Director
“Safe and affordable drinking water is a human right. Today, however, more than 1 million Californians cannot drink or cook with water from their taps. We are proud to be part of a broad coalition demanding healthy water for all in California, which is a cornerstone of a just society. We urge the Legislature to fulfill this promise by taking swift action to create the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.”
Silicon Valley Leadership Group: Mike Mielke, Senior Vice President
“Far too many Californians lack access to safe, clean drinking water. This is a shameful problem, especially for the 5th largest economy in the world. California law recognizes the right to “safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.” After years of deliberation and with fair and workable compromise at the heart of the legislative package, we are finally on the cusp of making this human right to water a reality for all Californians. We must make the most of this opportunity and pass SB 844 and SB 845.”
California Water Service: Justin Skarb, Director of Community Affairs and Government Relations
“It is long past time for every Californian to have access to safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water. As one of California’s largest water utilities, we believe we must all accept responsibility to address the current divide between those who have safe drinking water and those that do not. The creation of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund is an important step toward achieving that goal.”
Environmental Defense Fund: Pablo Garza, California Political Director, Ecosystems
“Passing this legislation will ensure that all Californians have access to clean and affordable drinking water. It is unconscionable to delay any longer. Clean water is a fundamental right and key element to making all California communities more resilient in the face of climate change.”
Western Growers: Dave Puglia, Executive Vice-President
“By passing these measures, the Legislature can deliver on the promise of clean drinking water for all Californians and provide a measure of certainty to the family farmers who sustain the economies of the regions most affected by these challenges.”
American Heart Association: Dr. Sanchez-Mata, American Heart Association
“To improve cardiovascular health, a key priority for the American Heart Association is to encourage populations to replace their sugar-sweetened beverage consumption with healthier beverage choices like water. Creating a system that provides safe and affordable water is an important strategy to increase consumption of water and decrease consumption of unhealthy sugary drinks. We are proud to support these bills to ensure safe and affordable drinking water for children and families in order to safeguard the health of our communities.”
Western United Dairymen: Lucas Deniz, President of Western United Dairymen
“California dairy families are committed to being an engaged partner for the communities we work in and serve. Providing the citizens of the state with certainty to drinking water access is a fundamental responsibility we all have.”
Ag & Business Stakeholders Join Together to Urge State Water Board to Reject Proposed Flow Amendments
Letter drafted by the legal team at California Farm Bureau Federation and signed by numerous organizations. Please see the full list at the end of the letter below.
Ag Organizations Urge Water Commission to Implement 2014 Water Bond without Bias against Surface Water Storage Projects
Mr. Armando Quintero, Chair
Carol Baker, Vice Chair
Andrew Ball, Member
Joseph Byrne, Member
Daniel Curtin, Member
Joe Del Bosque, Member
Maria Herrera, Member
Catherine Keig, Member
David Orth, Member
California Water Commission
P.O. Box 942836
Sacramento, CA 94236-0001
RE: Water Storage Investment Program
Dear Commission Members:
The organizations listed below were on the front line of securing legislative passage and public approval of Proposition 1 in 2014. We thereafter engaged in the administrative process to ensure the intent of this measure is fully implemented. Based on the alarming recent comments by staff of the California Water Commission (Commission), which are inconsistent with the language and intent of Proposition 1, we are now writing to express our objection and disappointment.
Chapter 8 of Proposition 1 was intentionally designed to provide funding for large surface water storage projects, such as Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Reservoir. This has now been undercut by staff assertions that the projects do not provide sufficient public benefits. Water Code 79751(a) clearly calls out the CALFED Record of Decision Projects as eligible for bond funds and these large surface water storage projects are an integral piece of the success of Proposition 1. They will provide a new and reliable surface water supply that will be used to enhance environmental habitat, promote watershed health and restoration, improve regional self-reliance, and enable communities to bring their groundwater basins into balance under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Chapter 8 specifies that the Commission must select projects through a competitive public process that ranks projects “based on the expected return for public investment as measured by the magnitude of public benefits provided” (Wat. Code § 79750(c).) The public benefits that may be funded are defined in Water Code section 79753(a)(1)-(5):
1. Ecosystem improvements, including changing the timing of water diversions, improvement in flow conditions, temperature, or other benefits that contribute to restoration of aquatic ecosystems and native fish and wildlife;
2. Water quality improvements in the Delta, or in other river systems, that provide significant public trust resources, or that clean up and restore groundwater resources;
3. Flood control benefits, including, but not limited to, increases in flood reservation space in existing reservoirs by exchange for existing or increased water storage capacity in response to the effects of changing hydrology and decreasing snow pack on California’s water and flood management system;
4. Emergency response;
5. Recreational purposes.
Numerous storage projects can provide some of these public benefits, but none can provide all and to the magnitude as Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Reservoir can.
All of the foregoing was known to the Legislature and to the Governor when AB 1471 (Rendon) was approved by a near unanimous vote of the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. The public then added its stamp of approval with passage of Proposition 1 in 2014, with 67% of the voters supporting the measure.
After all this, imagine our alarm when staff concluded, contrary to the input of highly regarded engineering and other technical professionals, that Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Reservoir did not provide adequate public benefits to justify funding under Chapter 8. Additionally, the barring of applicants from asking staff for clarification of their findings because of the appeals process shows a clear departure of the Commission from the language of Chapter 8 and the will of the voters.
The Governor made it clear in his State of the State Address on January 25, 2018, that surface storage would be built. As to Proposition 1 he stated, “In addition, you passed — and more than two-thirds of voters approved — a water bond that invests in safe drinking water, conservation and storage. As a result, we will soon begin expending funds on some of the storage we’ve needed for decades.” Further, “Difficulties challenge us but they can’t discourage or stop us. Whether it’s roads or trains or dams or renewable energy installations or zero-emission cars, California is setting the pace for America. Yes, there are critics, there are lawsuits and there are countless obstacles. But California was built on dreams and perseverance and the bolder path is still our way forward.”
The Commission needs to ensure project applicants are able to provide the information required for proper scoring of public benefits, without prejudice against large surface storage projects the voters supported and expect. We ask the Commission to immediately correct this abuse of discretion and implement the language and intent of Chapter 8 as it was meant to be.
Will Scott, Jr., African American Farmers of California
Tricia Geringer, Agricultural Council of California
Nat DiBuduo, Allied Grape Growers
Andrea Harvey-York, Almond Alliance
Bill Ferriera, Apricot Producers of California
Debbie Murdock, Association of California Egg Farmers
Carl Hoff, Butte County Rice Growers Association
Bob Brown, CALAMCO
Terry Gage, California Agricultural Aircraft Association
Chris Zanobini, California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers
Michael Miiller, California Association of Winegrape Growers
Jane Townsend, California Bean Shippers Association
Joel Nelsen, California Citrus Mutual
Roger Isom, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association
Darrin Monteiro, California Dairies, Inc.
Chris Valadez, California Fresh Fruit Association
Chris Zanobini, California Grain and Feed Association
Karli Quinn, California Pear Growers Association
Tim Johnson, California Rice Commission
Chris Zanobini, California Seed Association
Ann Quinn, California State Floral Association
Mike Montna, California Tomato Growers Association
Laura Brown, California Women for Agriculture
Michael Kelley, Central California Almond Growers Association
Case Van Steyn, Dairy Farmers of America
Brandon Harder, Farmers’ Rice Cooperative
Kirk Squire, Horizon Nut Company
Manuel Cunha, Nisei Farmers League
Barry Powell, North Valley Ag Services
Dan Vincent, Pacific Coast Producers
Roger Isom, Western Agricultural Processors Association
Dave Puglia, Western Growers
Tyler Blackney, Wine Institute
Cc: The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor, State of California
John Laird, Secretary, California Natural Resources Agency
Nancy McFadden, Executive Secretary, Office of the Governor
Kim Craig, Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Office of the Governor
California Department of Water Resources
Attn: Lauren Bisnett, Public Affairs Office
P.O. Box 942836
Sacramento, CA 94236
RE: Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan Emergency Regulations
Dear Ms. Bisnett:
Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan Emergency Regulations (Draft Regulations). Ag Council represents approximately 15,000 farmers across California, ranging from small, farmer-owned businesses to some of the world’s best-known brands. As such, many of our member companies and their farmer owners will be regulated under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Ag Council has been engaged in discussions over SGMA since its inception and also currently participates in DWR’s Agricultural Advisory Group.
Ag Council values DWR’s transparency in its regulatory development process. DWR’s collaboration with stakeholders and other state agencies is prevalent throughout the draft regulations. Additionally, we thank DWR for allowing local control and jurisdiction over development of their groundwater plans. DWR has provided flexibility in many areas for localities to determine their future course with SGMA, and we support this draft regulation in this regard.
Ag Council has concerns with some areas in which DWR requires further obligations of localities than what was deemed necessary by SGMA. Many of these additional requirements will increase costs and draw out timelines of the regulation. Ag Council is hopeful that DWR will take the following issues into consideration when finalizing its regulations.
Ag Council urges DWR to minimize the cost of this regulation to the greatest extent possible. Reporting requirements of the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) are outlined in great detail, and it is evident that local agencies will need to hire technical experts and consultants to complete the paperwork in order to comply with the regulation. DWR should allow GSAs to use existing data and measurement tools to create and comply with their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP). Requiring the development of new information or monitoring tools will significantly add to the cost of the regulation in an unnecessary way.
Furthermore, the draft regulations create a possible “Coordinating Agency,” as a sole point of contact with DWR for the purposes of SGMA. While it is not clear whether or not this is a requirement, it potentially creates an additional governmental agency in addition to the GSAs. DWR should grant flexibility to the localities to self-appoint a member or board to interact with DWR. There is no need for another agency to be created for the sole purpose of communicating with DWR when this could be handled by the GSAs.
Implementation of SGMA is on a very aggressive timeline. Ag Council understands the constraints DWR and localities are under to comply with the regulation. In the regulation, DWR requires GSPs to be submitted with an open, public comment period of 60 days, however, DWR has two years to approve the plans. If DWR does not approve the GSP and notifies a GSA at the end of two years, it could run into the timeframe in which the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has the obligation to intervene, by the time any corrective action is taken. Ag Council urges DWR to either notify GSAs earlier of potential noncompliance or create another notification process that does not conflict with SWRCB intervention. The ambitious timelines of SGMA may require tighter turn-around times for each of the regulatory agencies as well.
Additionally, Ag Council is concerned with the ability of GSPs to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). If there are projects within various GSPs that require getting through the CEQA process, timing of completion of these projects could conflict with the SWRCB intervention plans. Going through CEQA is not an expeditious process. Furthermore, the act of going through CEQA will greatly add to the cost of each of the plans.
Ag Council urges DWR to consider implications to local governments and minimize these issues as much as possible. Ag Council also encourages DWR to consider the following matters specific to the proposed regulations as it finalizes them.
352.4 Best Management Practices
SGMA does not require GSAs to adopt best management practices. If an agency chooses to do so, that should be within the discretion of that agency. So long as the GSA is meeting the requirements of SGMA through the development of its plans, meeting its milestones and eventually achieving sustainability within the required timeframes, the GSA should not be required to take on additional, potentially redundant, steps in order to fulfill its duties under SGMA. Best Management Practices should not be required as part of a GSP.
354.10 Notice and Communication
Ag Council urges DWR to request that measures be taken by local GSAs to conduct specific outreach to all groundwater users potentially impacted by SGMA within their GSP. These outreach efforts can be included in subsection (e) and implemented into the GSA’s communication plan.
354.18 Water Budget
SGMA only requires water budgets for the use of coordination agreements between multiple GSAs. The draft regulations proposed by DWR require water budgets for each GSP. This is beyond the scope of SGMA and will greatly add to the overall cost and regulatory burden for each GSA. Furthermore, subsection (b) requires historical data and trends outlining the demand for surface water supply and how historical conditions impacted the basins. While historical information will be useful, it may not be available within all basins at this time.
354.22-§354.30 Introduction to Sustainable Management Criteria, Sustainability Goal, Undesirable Results, Minimum Thresholds, Measureable Objectives
Ag Council supports DWR’s allowance of GSAs to define terms and goals such as “undesirable results,” “minimum thresholds,” “sustainability goal,” and “measureable objectives” for each sustainable management plan. This allows the GSAs to have some flexibility to acknowledge differences in hydrology, land use plans and other regional conditions, while DWR provides parameters so that the terms are not too loosely defined.
354.44 Projects and Management Actions
This section outlines the items to be included in the description of the projects and management actions adopted to meet measurable objectives and prevent undesirable results. GSPs must outline plans and relevant timetables for completion. Contingency plans also must be developed in the event that groundwater basins do not adequately respond. However, nothing describes the process or what to expect should a project fail to get the permitting approved in a reasonable timeframe to ensure it is consistent with the requirements of the GSP.
If a certain project exceeds the regulatory timetable due to permitting issues, does this automatically trigger SWRCB intervention? Ag Council urges DWR to highlight steps GSAs should take if permitting projects becomes an issue within implementation of GSPs.
355.2 Department Review of Initial Adopted Plan
Subsection (e) states that DWR has two years to determine whether or not an initial GSP is adequate, conditionally adequate or inadequate. Ag Council is concerned that if DWR exercises its authority and waits the full two years to make this determination, the timetable is significantly shortened for SWRCB intervention. Therefore, a GSA could be operating under a GSP it thinks is adequate, but then learns the GSP is inadequate at a time when it may be too late to avoid SWRCB intervention. DWR should allow for a right to cure timeframe so GSAs have time to incorporate potential changes and resubmit the GSP for approval prior to SWRCB intervention.
354.34 Monitoring Network
Ag Council agrees that a GSP should not adversely impact a neighboring basin. However, a GSA should not have to speculate as to whether or not an adjacent basin will be able to meet a sustainability goal as highlighted in subsection (a)(5). There are likely too many factors beyond a neighboring GSAs understanding in order to make an adequate determination. If negative impacts are underway, the basins should coordinate to minimize or mitigate those impacts and provide notice to DWR of their plans.
355.4 Criteria for Plan Evaluation
This section highlights the parameter that will dictate whether or not a plan is adequate as well as DWR’s assessment criteria in determining whether the GSP is likely to achieve the sustainability goal for the basin. The terms in this section are not egregious, but there is significant information lacking. The draft regulations do not highlight the steps taken that lead to SWRCB intervention.
Ag Council requests that DWR highlight some of the following information in this section:
- What specific actions will be taken to indicate that SWRCB is going to exercise its authority to intervene?
- What type of notification will a GSA receive prior to SWRCB intervention?
- How long is the SWRCB intervention process?
- What are the estimated costs of SWRCB intervention?
- What specific actions are needed in order to complete the SWRCB intervention process and allow GSA management of a regional area again?
Ag Council would welcome information on the SWRCB intervention process within the draft regulations. This would provide additional clarity to GSAs as to how DWR and SWRCB will interact and outline expectations relating to the intervention process so that localities can take the necessary steps to comply with SGMA and prevent SWRCB intervention.
Thank you for your time and consideration of our comments. If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (916) 443-4887.
Ag Council Comments on Safeguarding California Draft Plan
November 30, 2015
Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and Energy
California Natural Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814
Subject: Draft Report, Safeguarding California: Implementing Action Plans
Dear Mr. DeLaRosa:
Thank you for the opportunity for Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) to comment on the Draft Report entitled Safeguarding California: Implementing Actions Plans. As background, Ag Council is a member-supported organization advocating for more than 15,000 farmers across California, ranging from farmer-owned businesses to the world’s best-known brands.
Ag Council appreciates the sections included in the agricultural chapter of the Draft Report released in October 2015. The plan to help agriculture adapt to a changing climate and the disruptions farmers may experience is a positive first step toward understanding our vulnerabilities and boosting our resiliency.
The Draft Report states, “One of the most practical and cost effective methods for ensuring aquifers are sustainable into the future is utilizing on-farm groundwater recharge during months of heavy precipitation.” Ag Council agrees that groundwater recharge on agricultural lands is critical to ensuring long-term use of groundwater for multiple purposes and for future needs. However, we stress the importance of finding ways to incentivize this activity through streamlined permitting and/or cost recovery for famers who have to forgo crops for recharge projects.
The Draft Report also discusses the state’s responsibility under Prop 1 to fund the public benefits of water storage projects through the Water Storage Investment Plan. We support and look forward to the implementation of this effort, particularly as it relates to surface water projects, which have multiple benefits and provide flexibility to our water management system.
We appreciate your consideration and the opportunity to comment. Should you have any questions or need anything further from us, please feel contact Rachael O’Brien at (916) 443-4887 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ag Council Opposes Bill To Publicly Shame Commercial & Industrial Water & Energy Use
July 7, 2015
TO: Members, Senate Judiciary Committee
Agricultural Council of California
American Planning Association
Automotive Specialty Products
Alliance Building Owners and Managers Association of California
California Business Properties Association
California Chamber of Commerce
Chemical Industry Council of California
California Construction and Industrial Materials Association
California Farm Bureau Federation
California League of Food Processors
California Manufacturers and Technology Association
California Paint Council
California Restaurant Association
Consumer Specialty Products Association
Family Winemakers of California
Independent Energy Producers
International Council of Shopping Centers
NAIOP – Commercial Real Estate Development Association
National Federation of Independent Business
SUBJECT: AB 1520 (COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY) PUBLIC RECORDS
SET FOR HEARING – JULY 14, 2015
OPPOSE – AS AMENDED JULY 2, 2015
The California Chamber of Commerce and above listed organizations must OPPOSE AB 1520 (Committee on Judiciary) as amended July 2, 2015, which inappropriately makes industrial, institutional, and commercial water and energy use public information. It is an attempt to shame business under the guise of ensuring that large users are meeting conservation goals.
The current privacy protections for commercial industrial and institutional water and energy customers serve an important purpose. These protections are there to protect them from their competitors gaining information and knowledge regarding energy and water usage, which could be used to find out production capacity and other production knowledge for others in that same industry. Giving this information to the public serves no purpose. Without knowing how an industry uses water or energy and the regulatory requirements they operate under, the volume of usage is not useful and serves no purpose other than to exploit a business’ operation. Allowing this information to be made public will serve no purpose than to shame businesses who may be deemed as unfavorable to some and provide an avenue for protest.
In addition, current law also levels the playing field between customers of private investor owned utilities and utility customers of local agencies. In 1997, SB 448 (Sher), determined that utility usage information from local agencies was not public information. Yet, this bill is deliberately trying to overturn that, picking and choosing which information should remain private.
Most large commercial, industrial, and institutional users of water and energy pay based on volume they use. Under existing regulations, local water districts, for example, are able to determine if conservation goals have been met. If the conservation goal is not met, the local agency can impose fines of up to $10,000 per violation, and $500 per day thereafter for every day the violation continues to enforce compliance.
It is unclear how the information required by AB 1520 would help reduce water usage or energy consumption. For these reasons and others, we must OPPOSE AB 1520 (Committee on Judiciary).
cc: Jacque Roberts, Office of the Governor
Martha Guzman-Aceves, Office of the Governor
The Honorable Mark Stone, Chair, Assembly Committee on Judiciary Alison Merrilees, Assembly Judiciary Committee
Benjamin Palmer, Senate Judiciary Committee
Mike Petersen, Senate Republican Caucus
Senate Office of Floor Analyses
District Offices, Members, Senate Judiciary Committee
Ag Council Weighs-in on Groundwater Sustainability Draft Plan
June 1, 2015
Department of Water Resources P.O. Box 942836
Sacramento, CA 94236
Attn: Lauren Bisnett
Dear Director Cowin,
On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Groundwater Sustainability Program Draft Strategic Plan (Plan). We appreciate DWR’s outreach to the agricultural community and the creation of an Ag Advisory Group. This type of communication will assist all parties with working through some of the more complex issues related to implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
We are pleased with DWR’s transparency in its development of the regulations. The Plan is very clear in regards to explaining the authorities created for DWR’s engagement on the issue, highlighting the data used (and to be compiled) for creation of the various maps and the development of timelines that outline when to expect future developments of SGMA implementation. Additionally, DWR recognizes that many factors contribute to the current state of groundwater pumping throughout California. Specifically, page five states:
“Population growth, expansion of agricultural practices, allocation of water to environmental resources and restrictions to protect threatened species all have contributed to either increased water demand or decreased availability of surface water supplies in California. In response, many water users pump groundwater to offset the reduction in surface water supply.”
We agree with this assessment and underscore that all uses throughout the state create demands for groundwater. Due to these potentially competing interests, we are pleased that DWR further acknowledges the need for Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP) to be managed at the local level.
We appreciate the approach DWR has taken by establishing goals and parameters for localities, which dictate the implementation process. However, there are a handful of areas in which DWR proposes language that could be too binding and other areas that need further clarification.
KEY INTENDED OUTCOMES AND BENEFITS OF THE SUSTAINABLE GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT ACT
Surface Water and Groundwater as “a Single Resource”
We support that DWR has recognized the need for the localities to have flexibility when developing and implementing the GSPs. In this regard, we are concerned with language on page 18 stating that surface water and groundwater are managed as “a Single Resource,” and will require local agencies to develop comprehensive water budgets. Given the diversity of the groundwater basins in this state, these prerequisites may or may not make sense in development of each and every GSP. There may be areas of the state with hydrologic conditions that require these practices, but others that do not. These decisions should be made at the local level in order to achieve the necessary flexibility noted by DWR.
Elimination of Long-term Groundwater Overdraft
Additionally, the total elimination of long-term groundwater overdraft is unrealistic. Even under the most successful GSPs with meaningful groundwater recharge programs, it is likely that California will experience prolonged drought in future years. Therefore, it would be more appropriate and feasible for DWR to acknowledge a more realistic objective of “Minimizing long-term groundwater overdraft,” as opposed to an unrealistic goal of the “Elimination of long-term groundwater overdraft.”
Oversight and Enforcement
Similarly, binding language is found on page 19. Regulatory oversight and enforcement for each Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) would likely look different. The verbiage under this bullet also appears to direct the GSA to implement groundwater adjudication plans as opposed to managing a basin. More permissive language acknowledging that enforcement would need to be consistent with implementation of the GSP would create a more logical approach and ensure that GSPs are fully administered at the local level.
We will work with DWR to seek public funds for the implementation of this regulation. Due to the diverse group of stakeholders putting pressure on the groundwater basins as stated in the Plan, a comprehensive funding approach is necessary. Agriculture has experienced numerous years of fee increases within programs administered by the State Water Resources Control Board and transparency is lacking at several different levels. Although we continue to work with the SWRCB to improve their fee process, we urge DWR to work to secure public funds, such as those that can be appropriated under Proposition 1, to avoid the unnecessary challenges many stakeholders have experienced in other fee based programs.
GROUNDWATER SUSTAINABILITY GOALS, OBJECTIVES, AND ACTIONS
Role of SWRCB
While this is a document drafted by DWR, it would be helpful if DWR or the SWRCB specifically outlines the process in which the SWRCB is obligated to intervene at the local level, the work to be completed, and the process for SWRCB to withdraw. We believe that localities egregiously violating the regulation should experience tougher enforcement, however, the way this regulation has been drafted has given too much flexibility for the SWRCB to intervene and participate in local plans without providing clear expectations for local agencies to avoid SWRCB intervention. The timeline titled “Key SGMA Milestones” offers some explanation of the role to be played by the SWRCB. However, the Plan should include a dedicated section clearly outlining the process in which the SWRCB intervenes and the requirements that must be met by a local agency in order for the SWRCB to withdraw.
Clarification Needed on Key SGMA Milestones Timeline
The timeline outlining the steps for submission and acceptance of a GSA and GSP is confusing. DWR is currently posting GSA notifications on its website. DWR must adopt regulations for evaluating and implementing GSPs (and alternatives) by June 1, 2016. By June 30, 2017, the SWRCB may hold a hearing to designate a basin as “probationary” if a GSA or alternative is not established. However, DWR does not “establish” the GSAs until that same date.
Under this proposed timeline, a locality that assumed it was an established GSA – because it was posted to DWR’s website – could start working on its GSP and then receive notice on June 30, 2017 that not only is it NOT an “established” GSA by DWR, but it is now also under probation by SWRCB. The SWRCB also adopts a fee schedule related to the costs of enforcement within this timeframe. This confusion could also lead to unforeseen penalties incurred by local agency. Therefore, we recommend that the probationary period for the SWRCB be delayed by at least six months after DWR establishes the GSAs to avoid this confusion.
DWR OBJECTIVES AND CORRESPONDING ACTIONS
Throughout this and the preceding section, DWR states an “online information system” is critical to ensure “public transparency” and the need to make “information available to agencies and the public through a web-based information management system.” We are supportive of efficient means of information sharing, but urge DWR to continue to keep well log information confidential. Currently, well logs must be submitted to DWR and are available to appropriate public agencies, including GSAs, to manage groundwater. For example, counties, cities and water districts have access to the information for groundwater management purposes. Providing this data to the general public serves no beneficial purpose except to encourage litigation. In addition, public access to well logs could result in the release of sensitive business information that should otherwise be kept confidential. The Administration has recognized the negative impact litigation could have on the implementation of this regulation and providing private well log information to the public could bring these concerns to fruition.
The Plan states that basins managed under adjudication are required to submit their final judgment to DWR by April 1, 2016. There is legislation working through the Capitol at this time to improve the efficiency of the adjudication process. Given the strong bipartisan support this legislation has received so far, we urge DWR to either delete the date or include language that allows basins to be managed by future adjudications after the April 1, 2016 deadline.
Groundwater Recharge Projects
The Plan states that DWR will identify regulatory barriers and assist in removing those barriers for locally managed groundwater recharge projects. We support this effort. Without meaningful groundwater recharge, the State is simply regulating a diminishing resource without the tools necessary to bring it into balance.
RIGHT TO USE GROUNDWATER
Critical to SGMA is the provision that groundwater rights in California remain unchanged and are not determined by GSAs or GSPs. Given this, page 4 under “Groundwater in California” should include a recognition of the right to use groundwater.
Water is a vital resource to agriculture as it is required to grow food. The industry has improved water use efficiencies over the last several decades and, with recent technology, agriculture will achieve further advancements.
However, given the current drought and lack of investment in water infrastructure, pressures will continue to grow on groundwater use from all users.. Going forward, we will continue to work with DWR and the SWRCB on implementation of SGMA, but we urge DWR and the SWRCB to continue to collaborate with other agencies on a statewide strategy to develop meaningful infrastructure that will provide the necessary storage and conveyance to meet California’s future demand for water.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to comment. We look forward to working with you.
Agricultural Council of California
California Cattlemen’s Association
Ag Council Supports Measure to Streamline Groundwater Adjudications
April 8, 2015
Agricultural Council of California
Almond Hullers and Processors Association
Association of California Egg Farmers
California Association of Wheat Growers
California Bean Shippers Association
California Cattlemen’s Association
California Chamber of Commerce
California Citrus Mutual
California Cotton Ginners Association
California Cotton Growers Association
California Dairies Inc.
California Farm Bureau Federation
California Fresh Fruit Association
California Grain and Feed Association
California Pear Growers Association
California Seed Association
California Tomato Growers Association
Pacific Egg and Poultry Association
Western Agricultural Processors Association
Western Growers Association
The Honorable Marc Levine
Chairman, Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife
State Capitol, Room 2141
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: AB 1390 (Alejo): Groundwater Adjudication —SUPPORT
Dear Mr. Chairman:
The above listed organizations support Assembly Bill 1390 (Alejo), which would add a new chapter to the Code of Civil Procedure making improvements to the judicial proceedings of comprehensive adjudications of groundwater rights in a basin. These changes will reduce the burden of groundwater adjudications on both the courts and claimants without altering the law of groundwater rights and without disrupting the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act planning process.
When Governor Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act bill package last year, interest in improving the groundwater adjudication process was expressed by the Administration and authors of the bill package. In basins impacted by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, AB 1390 will work in conjunction with the Act to clarify groundwater rights in a basin, which may be important to the planning process, and allow the court to encourage the parties to cooperatively develop a groundwater sustainability plan pursuant to the Act to serve as the basis of a stipulated judgment setting forth a physical solution for management of the basin.
The goal of AB 1390 is to address the time sinks that occur in current groundwater adjudications by clarifying the processes that must be followed. Particular challenges exist in groundwater adjudications including determination of venue, identification of basin boundaries, disqualification of judges, notice and service of parties, discovery and ability of the parties to reach settlement. This bill would reform procedural rules to improve the functioning of each of these areas by providing tools to the court and claimants to move more efficiently through the adjudication process, such as trial phasing, deadlines for disclosures of water usage and submission of written testimony and expert disclosures.
The bill would also facilitate and encourage the early settlement of groundwater adjudications by providing tools and opportunities for courts, claimants, and local groundwater management entities to develop solutions in a more timely manner.
In closing, we support AB 1390’s approach to addressing the time sinks in the current groundwater adjudication process by easing the burden on the courts and providing claimants with the most efficient resolution possible, all without impacting due process or changing California water law.
Cc: The Honorable Luis Alejo
Members, Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee
Tina Cannon Leahy, Consultant, Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee
Steve McCarthy, Assembly Republican Caucus
Martha Guzman-Aceves, Office of the Governor
Summary of 2015 Drought Package
- Over $1 billion for drought relief and infrastructure projects to make the state’s water infrastructure more resilient.
- Acceleration of $267 million from Proposition 1 Water Bond funding for safe drinking water and water recycling from the Governor’s January budget proposal.
- Acceleration of drought related expenditures from the Governor’s January budget proposal augmented by $31 million in targeted additional expenditures ($132 million total), including efforts to implement the Water Action Plan and provide direct assistance to workers and communities impacted by drought.
- The additional $31 million in new targeted expenditure items which were not included in the Governor’s January budget proposal include the following:
– $17 million in additional funding to support emergency food aid to drought impacted communities.
– $4 million for emergency drinking water in disadvantaged communities.
– $5 million to the Department of Water Resources to provide emergency drinking water support for small communities, including addressing private wells.
– $1.4 million to the Department of Water Resources to increase advertising and public relations related to the Save Our Water campaign.
– $2.8 million to the Department of Water Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife for additional modeling support and species tracking in the Delta and greater Central Valley to support efficient management of the state’s water system.
– $1 million to address critical infrastructure deficiencies at remote fire stations that have run out of water.
- Acceleration of $660 million from the Governor’s January budget proposal of Proposition 1e bond monies for flood protection in urban and rural areas to make the state’s infrastructure more resilient to climate change and flood events.
Ag Council Speaks Out in Support of Flexibility in our Water System
At a February 18 workshop held by the State Water Resources Control Board (Board), Ag Council spoke out against action by the Board’s executive director to deny the portion of a petition that would allow state and federal agencies to increase pumping to drought-stricken communities. The executive director rejected that portion of the petition due to concerns about salmon and smelt impacts.
Ag Council asked the Board to reconsider the position taken by its executive director and instead requested that the Board support the petition as originally submitted by the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation so that water, however limited in quantity, can be beneficially used in agricultural and other areas in desperate need of water.
The original petition asked the Board to review Delta standards to allow for increased pumping, through operational flexibility in the management of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, in order to send more water to areas hit hard by drought. Environmental protections would remain in place.
Over 300 individuals attended the workshop and many of those were farmworkers who rode busses for hours to express their support for the original petition and explain their plight given the ongoing drought.
A decision was not made on this matter at the February 18 workshop given that the forum was intended for public comment only. Ag Council will remain engaged in this issue on behalf of our members and will communicate any developments.
To read a recent SacBee editorial on this issue, click HERE.
Water is Key Topic at World Ag Expo Breakfast
On February 12, Ag Council held its Fourth Annual World Ag Expo Breakfast. Over 70 attendees gathered to hear California Water Commission Vice-Chair Joe Del Bosque and State Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) speak.
Del Bosque discussed the California Water Commission’s (CWC) role in the implementation of the water bond, which voters approved in November 2014. Del Bosque said, “We need to ensure that water is available when needed.”
The CWC is responsible for developing regulations relating to the quantification and management of the public benefits for water storage projects and for selecting storage projects under the water bond through a competitive public process. Funding must go toward the public benefits portion of chosen projects.
When asked what the agriculture community should do at this time, Del Bosque said, “We need more people in agriculture engaged. The public’s involvement is going to be critical.”
The CWC will review public comments and collaborate with other agencies before finalizing regulations by December 2016.
During his remarks at the breakfast, Senator Vidak spoke about last year’s positive, bipartisan work on the water bond and also about the challenges as the groundwater bill was moving through the Legislature.
In 2015, Senator Vidak said he is looking forward to working with his Central Valley colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, as part of the newly launched Central Valley Caucus. He said, “The Caucus is trying to find more common ground.”
To view photos of the event on AgNet West’s website, click HERE.
Groundwater Forums Reveal Next Steps
With last year’s passage of the groundwater law, Ag Council has been taking a leadership role in outreach to the agencies writing the implementation rules. Our staff has now shifted our priorities to help our members understand the law and make improvements where possible in the actual implementation process and remains engaged regarding potential legislation to make changes to the law.
The legislation comprises historic changes to California groundwater law. Ag Council held two Groundwater Forums in December to help members connect with key officials from the California Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board to better understand the law’s implications.
Ag Council member Campos Brothers Farms hosted the first forum, held on Dec. 4 in Caruthers. Over 100 guests attended the forum to hear presentations by David Gutierrez, program manager of the Groundwater Sustainability Program at the Department of Water Resources (DWR)
and DeeDee D’Adamo, a member of the State Water Resources Control Board.
On Dec. 9, Ag Council held its second Groundwater Forum in Sacramento. Steven Moore, member of the State Water Resources Control Board (Board), presented and David Gutierrez joined us once again.
Groundwater represents 40 percent of California’s water supply. Citing issues such as wells going dry, lack of groundwater recovery in some areas and subsidence in other areas, Gutierrez said the new groundwater measures “empower local agencies to manage groundwater sustainably.” He added that, “DWR’s role is to make locals successful.” Gutierrez said DWR efforts include the creation of technical and planning assistance to locals, in addition to financial assistance.
Gutierrez outlined four phases to implementation of the groundwater package. In phase one, the creation of governance areas—called Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs)—is mandated by June 30, 2017. Many communities have already started the discussion to move forward on this initial governance requirement.
Phase two includes the development and adoption of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). The deadline for GSPs in high and medium priority groundwater basins in critical overdraft is Jan. 31, 2020. GSPs for high and medium priority basins not considered to be in critical overdraft must be developed and adopted by Jan. 21, 2022.
Phase three is the early implementation of the GSPs beginning in 2020 for areas in critical overdraft and 2022 for other areas. Phase four, sustainable groundwater management, begins in the year 2040.
The state water bond, Proposition 1, included $100 million for sustainable groundwater management agencies. In addition, GSAs have been provided broad fee, compliance and enforcement authorities. GSAs can choose to assess fees, monitor groundwater pumping and levy fines for violations, among other actions.
In outlining next steps, Gutierrez said DWR is completing a Draft Strategic Plan and is working on outreach plans to ensure public input. In addition, a Groundwater Information Center was developed with further information available (http://www.water.ca.gov/groundwater/).
D’Adamo discussed how our state groundwater resources are under stress and she added that the Board, like DWR, believes groundwater should be locally managed.
D’Adamo outlined what many call the state “backstop,” which is state intervention triggered by a specific failure to act by locals. Under the groundwater law, the Board can designate a basin or sub-basin as “probationary” if:
- By June 30, 2017 a GSA is not designated for the entire basin
- By Jan. 31, 2020, no GSP is developed or the GSP is inadequate for basins in critical overdraft
- By Jan. 31, 2022, in other basins, no GSP is developed or the GSP is inadequate and the basin is in long-term overdraft
- By Jan. 31, 2025, DWR or the Board determines a GSP is inadequate and there are significant depletions of interconnected surface waters
The ag community is concerned about the scope of intervention that will potentially be imposed by the Board. This issue was raised at both Groundwater Forums. At the Dec. 9 Groundwater Forum, Moore said it is “not appropriate for the state to come in and manage groundwater basins,” adding it is “temporary, if needed.”
According to Moore, the Board’s view is that enforcement is needed because the state wants to prevent those who are not following the rules from gaining an economic advantage. Moore said the Board is “not interested in micromanaging the process.” D’Adamo added, “The Board is only stepping-in where there’s an undesirable result. The Board has a lot on its plate and does not want to get involved unless necessary.”
Now that this historic legislation has passed, Ag Council is working to make sure key state officials understand the rights and protections needed to sustain our agricultural community.