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2009 Water Legislation Summary

Delta Governance -Senate Bill 1
(Simitian & Steinberg)

Delta Protection Commission
• 15 members, 11 Delta member majority.
• Has land-use authority.
• Must adopt an economic sustainability plan for the Delta that includes flood protections.
• Will facilitate the desigantion of the Delta as a National Heritage Area.

Delta Stewardship Council
• 7 members, encompasses a statewide view.
• Will be a state agency with power to enter into contracts, receive and expense funds, hold hearings, adopt regulations, and employ staff, including attorneys and contractors.
• Adopts the Delta Plan to implement co-equal goals.
• Develops performance criteria for measuring the heatlh of the Delta Ecosystem.

California Water Commission
• Existing body, 9 members.
• Oversees competitive process to award $3 billion for water storage.

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy
• 11 members, including 5 Delta counties.
• Primary objective is ecosystem restoration.
• Must incorporate tourism, agricultual preservation, and economic vitability in strategic plan.
• Allowed to fund projects outside the Delta.

After numerous hours of public comment, committee hearings and countless meetings the California legislature passed a comprehensive water package this past November. Contained within the package are four policy Senate Bills (SB1, SB6, SB7, SB8) and an $11.14 billion water bond, titled the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010. Key provisions in the package include Delta governance, groundwater monitoring, water conservation, water diversion monitoring, drought relief, infrastructure investment, water rights protections and ecosystem restoration.

A key phase throughout the water package debate has been the term coined “co-equal goals”. As defined in the legislation, “co-equal goals means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply system and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem”. While this may sound like a laudable goal it created the need for immense compromise on the part of water users and environmentalists to come to an agreement. The basis of the debate was water for the environment versus water for humans, but this debate is nothing new to those that have followed California’s water battle for decades. 

One of the most contentious parts of the debate was the creation of a Delta governance structure, SB 1, to ensure that the co-equal goals were met. The governance plan creates/restructures four water governing entities.

Delta governance is only one aspect of the comprehensive water package; groundwater monitoring is also included. Senate Bill 6 requires the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to create a priority schedule for monitoring groundwater basins. This monitoring and reporting will be done by local governments, but the bill requires DWR to assist with compliance and complete the monitoring if there is no local agency. The bill does include a provision to protect private landowners from trespassing, but the bill also includes penalties for nom-compliance. A major concern for local governments is adequate funding for the mandatory monitoring program. Many fear this is one step closer to the state grabbing control over groundwater resources, which have been managed by locals for sometime now.

One aspect of the policy bills that may prove to be the most difficult for Californians is the statewide requirements to reduce water use by 20-percent by 2020. The water conservation bill known as SB 7, mandates the 20-percent reduction on both urban and agricultural water users, but specifically excludes   the densely populated urban 2009 Water Legislation Pie Chartcities of San Francisco and Monterey and only requires Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana to conserve 5-percent. These exemptions make it more difficult to meet the statewide 20-percent reduction requirements. 


In addition, agricultural water users are defined as those irrigating more than 10,000 acres. Agricultural water users will be required to implement volumetric pricing regardless of its cost effectiveness. This provision will apply to many small irrigation districts and family farmers who lack adequate staff and resources to comply with the reporting requirements. The bill also requires that certain agricultural water users submit Agricultural Water Management Plans and Best Management Practices to the state every five years.

The last part of the policy bills, SB 8, appropriates over $500 million dollars from existing bonds to water projects, levee improvements, stormwater flood management projects and the creation of a Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP), which is considered the highest level of environmental protection for the Delta. The bill imposes stiff fines for illegally diverting water and allows the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt emergency regulations for the electronic filing of water use reports instead of using their existing process to draft such regulations.

Furthermore, an 11.14 billion dollar water bond will be placed on the 2010 ballot.  The Safe, Clean, Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010 would be a general obligation bond that would provide funding for water infrastructure, ecosystem restoration and other water supply projects in California. The bond would fund water improvements associated with Delta conveyance, regional funding for water-related projects, watershed and ecosystem restoration, groundwater storage and clean-up, drought relief, and water conservation. The bond is considered a comprehensive fix to California water issues. The $11 billion bond will be allocated as shown below.

A critical part of the water bond calls for the protection of Area of Origin water rights, which was a critical component for Northern California water users. Numerous other projects will be funded if the water bond is passed by the voters of California. It is imperative that the public is informed about the water bond and is allowed to make an educated decision on the passage of the bond that comes with such a big price tag and has the ability to drastically change California’s water future. It is important to remember that the only aspect of the water package that needs to be approved by the voters is the water bond, the policy bills already passed both houses of the legislature and have been signed by the Governor.

Ecosystem, Watershed Protection & Restoration Projects
Included in $11.14 Bond Measure
Coastal counties & watersheds
Wildlife Conservation Board
San Gabriel & Lower Los Angeles River watersheds
Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
Baldwin Hills Conservancy
Santa Monica Bay watershed
Coastal salmonid restoration
Lake Tahoe watershed restoration
Farmland Conservancy Program
River parkways & urban streams restoration
Sierra Nevada Conservancy
Salton Sea restoration
Watershed climate change impacts & adaptation
Watershed education facilities
Waterfowl habitat preservation
Forest restoration
Klamath dam removal
Siskiyou County economic development offset
Agricultural water use efficiency research
Ocean protection
CVPIA fish passage improvement

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