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October 2004

Reclamation Board's Mission Remains Flood Control

AB 1983, a disconcerting proposal presented by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, that would have negatively impacted the flood control system that protects farms, cities, and vital infrastructure, was held under submission on August 12th due to a unanimous vote of the Senate Appropriations Committee, effectively halting the furtherance of this bill during the 2004 legislative session.

Family Water Alliance (FWA), in cooperation with a large coalition of water, agriculture, and flood control interests, as well as local governments and agencies, successfully voiced strong opposition to this legislation. The opposition was due to the proposed amendments to the Reclamation Board’s authority, changing its sole focus from flood control, to include ecosystem restoration.

Special thanks must be given to State Senator Sam Aanestad, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who heard and understood the concerns voiced by this constituency, and was instrumental in working to assure that this proposal did not proceed. This development can certainly be considered a victory for all of us living in the Central Valley. However, this legislation is likely to rear its ugly head again next year.

While FWA agrees with the stated intent of the legislation, removal of institutional barriers that have slowed downed or blocked much needed flood control projects and maintenance, the solution proposed by Wolk, and supported by environmental groups such as The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, and Friends of the River, is not the answer. AB 1983 would have served to actually increase the institutional hurdles needed to further much needed improvements to the flood control system, caused a permanent conflict of interest between flood control projects and ecosystem restoration, promoted river meander, threatened vital hard points, and furthered the concept of setback levees. Members of the informal coalition who share these concerns welcomed the idea of expediting and streamlining the process to achieve improvements to the flood control system, and offered such an alternative solution, to no avail.

As such, FWA will continue to advocate against proposals such as AB 1983, that fail to foster good policy regarding the maintenance of the flood control system. This system must be (1) properly cared for to preserve our ability to adequately convey flood waters, (2) be managed in a manner that protects vital infrastructure like highways, bridges and diversions, upon which the constituency of the region relies, and (3) fosters an environment that does not negatively impact our agricultural lands and private property rights.

While we have dodged the AB 1983 bullet for the time being, concerned individuals throughout the region must remain vigilante in their efforts to oppose this measure as currently proposed. FWA hopes that the failure of this legislative proposal will ignite much needed discussions that will finally address some of the issues that have been ignored, or mired in a political stalemate, resulting in the dangerous degradation of our flood control system.

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