ECPAC Newsletter – March 2021
The Exchange Contractors are facing a “Critical” Water Year in 2021. Water supplies are tight and the scrutiny on water rights is intensifying. Legislators, regulators and the public do not understand our water rights system and we must engage in preserving this valuable asset. Regardless of the party affiliation, we need to build relationships to accomplish our goals. Alienating our elected officials because we don’t like their politics is the fastest way to fail, and we have too much at stake to allow that to happen. We need to engage and educate our elected officials and weigh-in on policy decisions that directly impact us. We recently took advantage of an opportunity to host we hosted a virtual reception for Senator Alex Padilla on Wednesday, March 17th. We were able to provide an update to the Senator on our efforts and invited him to visit to see our investments firsthand. We are planning on hosting a tour for him in July.
We have more of these engagements planned and will continue to interact with our elected officials.
Below, you will find information on our next Membership Meeting, Federal Programs and a Legislative Update from Dominic Dimare, ARC Strategies. We appreciate your support and look forward to moving our efforts forward.
Our next Virtual Membership meeting will be Tuesday, May 25th at 6:00 p.m. If we can meet in-person safely, we will do that. I think it is safe to say that we are all looking to get back to normal, and it has been quite a while since we were able to meet in person and enjoy each other’s company. As we get closer, more information will be made available.
Our Federal efforts have never been more critical. There are serious issues on the table impacting water reliability, property rights, climate change initiatives and more. ECPAC needs to raise significant Federal Program funds to address these and other emerging issues. Your financial support allows us to continue to directly support the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors legislative priorities, including water rights, property rights and policymaker education. If you have not yet made a recent contribution or can help again, we urge you to make a Federal contribution today. For ways to give and contribution guidelines, visit https://www.ecwaterpac.com/support/.
If you have not already made your annual contribution, we respectfully ask that you make a Federal donation. Federal contributions are limited to individuals and there is a $5,000 maximum yearly limit; other restrictions apply. For more information, mailing address or online contribution options, visit https://www.ecwaterpac.com/support/.
Your financial support allows us to continue to directly support the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors legislative priorities, including water rights, property rights and policymaker education. The ECPAC is now able to accept contributions online. Visit https://www.ecwaterpac.com/support/ and donate. Contribution guidelines are provided on the online payment form.
By Dominic Dimare, ARC Strategies
The deadline for introducing bills for the 2021 Legislative year was February 19th and the list of bills that have a direct bearing on the Exchange Contractors is relatively short. There are two bonds to watch, a bill dealing with holding landowners harmless of liabilities that arise from state-sponsored restoration projects and some budget proposals to fund SGMA activities.
Two bond measures have been introduced AB 1500 by Edwardo Garcia, the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife and SB 45 by Anthony Portantino the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
AB 1500 (E. Garcia), The Safe Drinking Water, Wildfire Prevention, Drought Preparation, Flood Protection, Extreme Heat Mitigation and Workforce Development Bond Act of 2022, as introduced, is a $6.7 billion bond that purports to fund a broad array of projects. There is $1.6 billion allocated in Chapter 4, entitled “Ensuring Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Enhancing the State’s Flood Protection” to fund various projects around water quality, groundwater and flood control. Included in the bond are some of the following proposed allocations:
- · $250 million to DWR supporting projects that implement groundwater sustainability plans.
- · $30 million to the State Water Board to fund drought contingency plans.
- · $400 million to the Resources Agency for projects that protect and restore rivers, lakes and streams.
- · $200 million to DWR for various flood control projects, including those that include off-stream groundwater recharge.
- · $50 million for Delta flood protection.
- · $35 million to the Central Valley Flood Protection Board.
SB 45 (Portantino), the Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2022, as introduced, is a $5.51 billion bond that ostensibly funds many of the same activities as the Garcia bond AB 1500, absent some of the climate resiliency provisions and with more emphasis on disadvantaged communities. Chapter 3, entitled Ensuring Safe Drinking Water and Protecting Water Supply and Water Quality from Climate Risks, includes the following proposed allocations:
- · $200 million to the Wildlife Conservation Board, or other entity designated by the Legislature for groundwater sustainability projects that provide wildlife habitat and support implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
- $130 million allocated to the Department of Water Resources for competitive grants for projects that develop and implement groundwater plans and projects
- $250 million shall be available to the Natural Resources to protect and restore rivers, lakes, and streams.
- $140 million allocated to the Natural Resources Agency for flood management projects that are components of multi-benefit flood management system improvements, including off-stream groundwater recharge
- $90 million allocated to the Department of Water Resources for projects that improve water data collection, monitoring, and management through enhanced quality and availability of water data.
- Up to $80 million shall be made available as matching grants to groundwater sustainability agencies to purchase monitoring equipment and construction of monitoring wells.
- $100 million allocated to the Natural Resources Agency for implementation of the settlement agreement to restore the San Joaquin River referenced in Section 2080.2 of the Fish and Game Code and allocated as follows:
- $50 million for restoration of the Friant-Kern Canal capacity that was lost due to subsidence, consistent with the water management goal under the September 13th, 2006, Stipulation of Settlement. To award funding under this section, a cost-share from nonstate sources of not less than 50 percent of the project’s total costs shall be required.
- $50 million to implement the restoration goal of the September 13th, 2006, Stipulation of Settlement, including funding for restoration projects identified in paragraph 11 of the September 13th, 2006, Stipulation of Settlement, and funding to support the work of the Restoration Administrator and Technical Advisory Committee. The Restoration Administrator and Technical Advisory Committee shall use these funds in part to review and provide input regarding the implementation of projects identified in paragraph 11 of the September 13th, 2006, Stipulation of Settlement.
- · $30 million to the Department of Water Resources for water infrastructure upgrades to increase climate resilience, improve wildlife and fish passage, and modernize water infrastructure.
Additionally, Chapter 5, Protecting Agricultural Lands from Climate Risks, includes allocations for the following:
- $45 million to CDFA for grants to promote practices on farms and ranches that improve soil health, carbon sequestration, water quality, and enhanced groundwater recharge and surface water supplies, and provide fish and wildlife habitat.
- $45,000,000 for grants for multi-benefit projects that improve groundwater management, water quality, surface water use efficiency, drought and flood tolerance, on-farm water use efficiency, or water supply and water quality conditions for fish and wildlife.
We are in the early days of the 2021-22 Legislative session and these bond proposals will be subject to an array of analysis and revisions based in large part on the condition of the state’s economy and the priorities of the Legislature and Governor. Presently, all attention is focused on vaccinations and re-opening schools and businesses across the state. Once the pandemic subsides, policymakers will likely turn their attention to the pressing matters of homelessness, housing and economic recovery. Water policy and these bonds will struggle to compete with the more pressing social issues around housing and education.
We are also tracking AB 315 by Assemblyman Stone, a liberal Democrat from Santa Cruz who is not usually a fan of Central Valley interests. As introduced, AB 315 would require the state to indemnify and hold harmless a landowner who voluntarily allows land to be used for such a project to restore fish and wildlife habitat from civil liability for property damage or personal injury resulting from the project and the liability arises from the construction, design specifications, surveying, planning, supervision, testing, or observation of construction related to the project to restore fish and wildlife habitat. The bill would authorize the state to enter into an agreement with the United States government, or subdivision thereof, to share the cost of any civil liability incurred. On its face the bill looks as if it could be a positive piece of legislation for landowners; however, as with any of the measures we track, the devil is in the details and we will need to inquire with the author’s office to determine the intent of the measure.
One bill that has generated a lot of interest and opposition is AB 377 (R. Rivas), the California Clean Water Act, which will change the way the State and Regional Water Boards enforce compliance with water quality standards and ensure that waterways are taken off the impaired list over time by:
- Eliminating loopholes. Currently, many discharge permits direct the permittee to comply with water quality standards but allow for the exploitation of a number of loopholes. (A permit holder may never have to provide any evidence that they’re actually complying with water quality standards, for example.) AB 377 will not change the terms of existing permits but will ensure that as new or renewed permits are issued, loopholes are eliminated and permittees are brought into compliance with water quality standards.
- Changing Water Board enforcement procedures, requiring them to spend more time and effort enforcing against the worst polluters instead of ignoring violations.
- Directing a more significant portion of existing Water Board financial resources toward cleaning up impaired waterways, without imposing any new fees or costs.
Together, these essential measures will ensure that impaired waterways are steadily removed from the 303(d) list between now and 2050. The effects will be most significant in disadvantaged communities, where residents are disproportionately more likely to struggle with poor water quality issues or even lack of access to clean drinking water under the current, flawed system.
We Are Listening
To serve you better, the ECPAC Board of Directors is conducting a brief, online member survey. To complete the survey, visit ecwaterpac.com/membership-meeting.