Dam Has Broken! Water Policy is Flowing!

Rex Hime
President and CEO of the California Business Properties Association

Ending years and years of negotiations, countless start and stop efforts, and some of the longest most bitter committee hearings in the Capitol, today’s early morning light saw the California State Legislature finally come to agreement on a package of bills that contain sweeping changes in water policy and an $11 billion bond that must be approved by voters. Reaching resolution on a measure to fix our current system that was designed for 15million Californians so that it will meet the demands of the soon to be 50 million Californians while increasing storage and protecting the delta had proven in the past to be too great a load to lift – but this time it finally came to fruition.

Not wasting any time the Governor and legislative leaders held a press conference only hours after the package of bills were passed. Quick to point out that the legislature finally had reached a resolution of a critical issue the message was clear – all major interests were at the table – environmental, business, labor, agriculture, and water providers – sending a message that the voters of California need to ratify this effort at the polls. The bond package will create tens of thousands of jobs and protects hundreds of thousands more. Now comes the heavy lifting, passing the bond that is needed to fund the storage and conveyance pieces of this package that will assure water supply and delivery. The bond will be on the ballot in November of 2010.

The agreement includes new rules and requirements for water conservation — with most localities being asked to reduce water use by 20 percent over the next 10 years — and a new system of governance for the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta.

SUMMARY OF WATER PACKAGE BILLS

SB 1,7X a comprehensive new governance structure to oversee the activities of nearly two hundred agencies with a say over actions within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta Estuary. Included within this measure are critical land use protections for development projects undertaken within the Delta Secondary Zone as well as language inserted at the last minute in the Assembly preserving existing area-of-origin law and water rights;

SB 2, 7X an expanded $11.14 billion dollar state general obligation bond to be placed before California voters in November of 2010, to finance a wide range of improvements and enhancements to the state’s water system as well as funds to restore and protect the Bay-Delta Estuary;

SB 6, 7X new groundwater monitoring requirements to measure and manage potential overdraft activity along with fiscal penalties for local agencies that fail to carry out the new monitoring and reporting requirements;

SB 7, 7X new statewide water conservation and efficiency targets for urban users (20% by 2020) and industrial users (10% by 2020). Agricultural users would be required to implement water management plans and undertake efficient water management practices;

SB 8, 7X last-minute controversial amendments aimed at cracking down on illegal diversions of surface waters from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by requiring monthly reporting to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and imposing civil penalties if diverters fail to report or accurately report these requirements. This was a major concession gained by business and water agencies over the objection of major environmental groups. The provisions were formerly contained in Assembly Bill 900 (De Leon). SB 8, 7X also includes $546 million from various funds authorized by Proposition 84 of 2006, to support a number of Delta-related projects and $3.7 million to support SWRCB enforcement activities.

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