By Tim Parker, GRA Legislative Committee Chairman,
Chris Frahm and Rosanna Carvacho, GRA Legislative Advocates
In the middle of a fourth year of drought, the focus on water remains. In the face of a worsening drought, Governor Brown signed on March 27th emergency legislation that fast-tracks more than $1 billion in funding for drought relief and critical water infrastructure projects. Then on April 1st, following the lowest snowpack ever recorded, Governor Brown ordered, for the first time in state history, the State Board to implement mandatory water reductions for urban water suppliers to achieve a statewide reduction of 25% in potable water use. On May 5th, the State Board adopted regulations that require reductions of between 8 and 36 percent in urban water usage throughout the state.
GRA's Annual Legislative Symposium
Please see the cover story in this issue of HydroVisions for a summary of GRA's Annual Legislative Symposium, titled The Infancy of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act - What's Next?
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in September, and went into effect on January 1, 2015. The focus for local agencies is now on implementation of SGMA with the formation of the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). The GSAs must quickly begin the task of creating a groundwater sustainability plan. To aid the GSAs with this task, the Governor's 2015-16 proposed budget includes $6 million from the General Fund for the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to provide additional technical assistance to these agencies on the development of their groundwater sustainability plans and the subsequent evaluation of those plans. The Governor's proposal also includes additional staff to implement specific requirements of SGMA, such as the adoption of basin boundaries and best groundwater protection practices. GRA remains engaged with staff at the DWR and the State Board responsible for implementation of the Act.
DWR has published a Draft Strategic Plan for its Sustainable Groundwater Program that outlines DWR's responsibilities, vision and key actions for developing regulations and providing assistance to local agencies in accordance with the SGMA. The draft plan is available at http://www.water.ca.gov/groundwater/sgm/index.cfm.
As expected, many bills have been introduced that are aimed at making changes to the Act.
GRA Supported/Opposed Legislation
Currently, GRA has taken a support position on one bill, described below. The Legislative Committee is continuously reviewing bills as they are amended and is closely monitoring all groundwater bills.
SB 20 (Pavley) - Makes well completion reports available to the public with specific requirements: a) request must be on a form identifying requestor's name, address and reason for request; b) a disclosure statement regarding the appropriate use of the data; c) release must comply with the Information Practices Act; and d) authorizes DWR to charge a fee for providing the reports.
Continued Changes in the Legislature
With the election of former Senator Mark DeSaulnier to Congress on November 4, 2014, a vacancy was created in Senate District 7. The primary election was held on March 17, 2015. No candidate captured more than 50% of the vote, so a runoff election between Assemblymember Susan Bonilla and fellow democrat Mark Glazer will be held on May 19, 2015.
There have been changes in the committees most important to GRA. Senator Vidak replaced Senator Fuller on the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. Also, in early April, Assemblymembers Gray and Ridley-Thomas were replaced by Assemblymembers Dababneh and Salas on the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.
On March 11, 2015, Governor Brown made three appointments to the California Water Commission: Paula Daniels, Jose Del Bosque, Jr., and Maria Herrera; all require Senate confirmation.Paula Daniels is a Pritzker Environment and Sustainability Education Fellow for 2015. She has worked on issues related to food systems, water, and climate as a volunteer at the Governor's Office of Planning and Research. Jose Del Bosque, Jr. was reappointed to the Commission where he has served since 2010, and is a member of the Western Growers Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation. Maria Herrera is a community development specialist at Self-Help Enterprises. Prior to this, she was a community advocacy director at the Community Water Center from 2008-2014 and a former ag-aid inspector at the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
As 2015 continues, the importance of water policy and regulation only increases as the State tries to find a balance between urban users and agricultural users, the implementation of SGMA and the potential for groundwater storage. The continued persistence of the drought, surface-water depletion and expanded groundwater pumping will keep both the Administration and Legislature focused on groundwater into the foreseeable future.
As the year and legislative session progresses, GRA's Legislative Committee and its Legislative Advocates will continue to monitor issues and legislation important to GRA. GRA will continue to be a key source of information and sound science for Legislators and the Administration.