On August 15, the Assembly Committee for Water, Parks, and Wildlife held an informational hearing to gather public comment as they continue to work on developing a new water bond, titled “The Clean Drinking Water & Climate Change Response Act of 2014,” to address California’s water infrastructure needs.
“What we’re here to do today is to present our framework for a water bond,” began Chair Anthony Rendon, noting that the Water Bond Working Group has been working for about two months or so. “ As everyone knows, a water bond was developed four years ago at $11.14 billion. … a lot of polls showed a bond of that size would be likely to not pass. It was a bond that was too large for many and flawed in the minds of others as well. A lot people believed that voters had no confidence in the way the water bond had been developed.”
In spite of that, Mr. Rendon said that the state still has very significant needs which are growing more urgent each day, and with climate change already impacting California, the state can’t afford to wait. “There is a tremendous need to balance a workable water bond, a water bond that voters will have faith in with our tremendous needs.”
About a month and a half ago, the water bond working group began with the principles developed from the public comments and focused on the determining the most urgent water needs of the state,focusing on what voters would be likely to approve while also considering issues of accountability. “We also wanted to make sure we adopted assurances that were central to bond funding, and as a result we retained the accountability measures and the assurances from the old bond because we felt that they were absolutely important to voter confidence,” said Mr. Rendon. “We have also added additional accountability provisions into the framework for the new bond. We also decided not to use the bond as a vehicle to adopt new policy; we believe that policy belongs in policy bills, and there has been a consensus among the water bond working group members to make sure that we do not include earmarks in the bond as well.”
The water bond working group identified five principles for the bond: the Delta, regional self-reliance and climate change adaptation, safe drinking water, watershed protection, and water storage, he said, noting that the order in which the principles are discussed does not necessarily reflect priorities.
The five identified principles were then used to develop five categories for bond funding, each allocated $1 billion each. Those categories are:
Water Quality: Clean and Safe Drinking Water ($1billion): This category would provide funding to address drinking water contamination and water quality issues; funding would benefit disadvantaged communities, as well as focus on groundwater clean up, wastewater treatment facilities, and stormwater management.
Protecting Rivers, Lakes, Streams and Watersheds ($1billion): This category would protect the economic benefits of watersheds, fishery and instream flows by funding a broad range of activities to benefit watersheds, wetlands, and water quality, including removal of barriers to fish passage.
Climate Change Preparedness & Regional Self-Reliance for Water ($1billion): This category would provide funding for climate change adaptation and improving regional self reliance by funding a broad range of activities such as Integrated Regional Water Management, conservation, recycling, stormwater capture, and desalination coupled with renewable energy generation and reduced Delta exports.
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Sustainability ($1 billion): This category would provide funding for ecosystem restoration and Delta sustainability projects.
Storage for climate change ($1 billion): This category would provide funding for expanding groundwater and surface storage for climate change, and includes funding for public benefits and restoration of the storage capacity of existing dams.
Click here for more details on the bond framework.
“Moving forward, we’re looking at a bond of $5 billion,” said Mr. Rendon. “This is fairly consistent with poll results which have shown that that is a bond that is in the sweet spot in terms of voter preference and where voters are comfortable with. It’s also consistent with a bond framework that was developed that was released recently by the Senate.”
“What we need moving forward is your help in documenting water bond funding needs and the right mix in terms of each of these categories,” he said. “Obviously, water is and will continue to be an exceptionally controversial, historically so, topic in California in public policy, but we believe that with the water bond working group and with the folks on the water parks and wildlife committee, we have an excellent representation of folks throughout the state. The folks in this room have a lot of the water expertise to help us continue to develop a framework that will reach some degree of consensus.”
Mr. Rendon noted that there have already been several hearings on the water bond, and two previous rounds of public comments that have been compiled and distributed. The next stage is focusing on the documentation of funding needs: “That’s the feedback that we’re asking to hear from folks today. We are inviting all experts to advise us with facts on funding needs specific to your areas of concern and specific to your areas of the state. … We will use information gathered here in making our decisions about allocations.”
Mr. Rendon then invited comments from other members.
ASSEMBLYMEMBER HENRY PEREA
“I see this as an opportunity for us to reengage on the various issues within the water bond to see if there is something we can craft out of this legislature that will receive a 2/3rds approval in this legislature that will also translate into support with the voters so that we can pass what I believe to be a critical bond in providing for greater needs in meeting our water needs,” he said. Mr. Perea said he was glad to see the commitment to clean and safe drinking water, noting that dealing with groundwater contamination is important. Water storage is also critical in his perspective, being from the Fresno area: “I want to put a marker down today to say how critical for me it will be to ensure that storage is funded in a way that is meaningful, in a way that allows for projects to be built, and in a way that allows for both surface storage and below ground storage projects to be built, not just in the Valley but wherever it makes most sense as determined by our experts in the water world who understand the entire system and know best where to site various storage projects.”
ASSEMBLYMEMBER TONI ATKINS:
“I don’t think this is going to be an easy discussion, and for those of you that have participated in this multiple times as it relates to the bond, you know it’s not an easy discussion,” said Ms. Atkins. “Our state is an incredible state with a lot of different kinds of issues . … as I travel the state, I see different communities have different issues, and so I think that further complicates all of the issues we have to deal with, whether it’s dealing with long term drought, stormwater management, restoring watersheds, certainly protecting and enhancing our water resources overall.” She noted that due to lack of action on the bond, local communities have had to deal with local sustainability and reliability themselves, such as in San Diego where they are working on desalination and potable reuse. “We must make sure that we are being as broad as we can in terms of all of the issues and balance and at the same time we have a collective responsibility to the overall system and making sure each of these communities is really respected and the work they’ve done locally on the ground to try to deal with their own circumstances.” Ms. Atkins also added that agricultural water needs are important to consider as well.
ASSEMBLYMEMBER RICHARD GORDON
“It strikes me that those of us who are elected to serve in the Assembly have this interesting dynamic. We’re elected to represent our districts, but we’re also elected to serve California,” he said. “As we move forward and think about the diverse needs of this state, a state where we do not simply have enough water to begin with, we will certainly have to work to acknowledge and deal with all of our differences, and do so in a way that acknowledges all Californians.”
ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM GRAY
“It’s clear I think that our water infrastructure struggles to meet the demands of agriculture, growing urban populations and environmental regulations,” said Mr. Gray. “In some areas, certainly Mr. Perea’s district, Ms. Eggman’s and my own, the shortage of water supply has caused folks to pump groundwater at unsustainable levels, causing groundwater overdraft, subsidence, and certainly water quality issues. I think it’s also clear to us that we need a 21st century solution, an investment in water infrastructure that will allow us to meet these needs and solve some of these problems. … I’d like to put down a marker for myself personally that a 50% 50/50 level investment in infrastructure and storage is ultimately where I’d like to see us go. … I think it’s critical that we invest in new and enhanced storage projects, projects like Sites Reservoir or Temperance Flat to capture the water during good years. Storage coupled with improved conveyance will give us the tools we need to move the water where we need it and when we need it. Conservation, increased storage and certainly updating and improving our conveyance system will achieve those goals.”
ASSEMBLYMEMBER SUSAN TALAMANTES-EGGMAN
“In the State of California we’ve had a long history of conflict over water. Anything that is in short supply is always in great demand, and water certainly has proved to be no exception to that,” said Ms. Eggman. “We are all appointed to represent out districts which is our areas of interest, but also the greater state of California … As someone who represents where the conveyance occurs, I have a great interest and will try and represent our area as well as the state as we embark on this journey.” Ms. Eggman said she appreciates the willingness of members to engage in a thoughtful and productive way, and was happy to see many of the members come out for a tour of the Delta recently. …. “I look forward to the conversation as we go forward for a fair and equitable distribution of water across the state and also as the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture, the understanding the needs and prominence that agriculture has in California.”
ASSEMBLYMEMBER PAUL FONG
“Aside from the comprehensive issues outlined in the water bond framework, I’m interested in ensuring that the Delta community has a voice, because they have the most to lose,” said Mr. Fong. “I’d like to see the Delta ecosystem is protected and that investments are made to restore the environment, as California’s distinctive natural environment is a key contributor to the growth of our state’s economy. California’s rich diverse unique ecosystems are facing threats due to climate change projections. In addition, it is home to widespread number of species of wildlife, I want to make sure we protect their habitat. This is also in line with the coequal goals of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.”
ASSEMBLYMEMBER RAUL BOCANEGRA
“As a representative of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, I just want to be very clear that something that I’ve tried to emphasize in the working group which is reflected is the notion of regional self reliance,” said Assemblymember Bocanegra. “No amount of water from the Delta, no reliable source of water from the Delta will prepare or be adequate for southern California, so we’ve got to be self-reliant…. Much like Perea’s district, my district has problems with groundwater contamination, and with the City of LA’s recent announcement that they will be building the largest groundwater treatment facility in the San Fernando Valley from what I’ve told, the largest in the nation, I think that’s a good way for us to start thinking about how all parts of the state can be part of the solution.”
ASSEMBLYMEMBER JIM FRAZIER
“First and foremost, I really do support the idea of groundwater storage; I think it’s imperative that in high flow years, we have the ability to store water,” said Assemblymember Jim Frazier, noting the successful expansion of Contra Costa Water District’s Los Vaqueros Reservoir. “With 80% of the Delta in my district, one of the things that is imperative to me is the preservation of the habitat and the ecosystem going forward, and acknowledgement of that because I do believe that the BDCP is a mitigation for what was happening from the central valley water projects many many years ago. I think this bond is the fix. … I do agree with my colleague Mr. Gray about the 50% commitment to storage. … I’d like to have carbon tetrachloride added to the list of contaminants as I do have an issue with brownfields in my district, and it is moving close to the Delta. … … I do want to go on record as saying that all methods of self-reliance I think should be considered as the important factor going forward.”
ASSEMBLYMEMBER MARIKO YAMADA
“What struck me that in all of the discussions here in this framework is that there are only two lines about Sacramento-San Joaquin sustainability,” said Assemblyman Mariko Yamada. “Although I see that the bond allocation is equal – it’s a 20% allocation – it just seemed vague to me … I am hoping that as the discussion develops, there will be some additional opportunities, both in a public setting as well as informal settings, to discuss exactly what does that mean. … I do know that there are certainly a broad range of activities that the new bond will need to undertake … but I’m certainly going to reserve judgment on that until we have a little more specificity.”
ASSEMBLYMEMBER V. MANUEL PEREZ
“In planning the new water bond, it is important that the focus remain on meeting California’s long term water needs and effectively managing our resources for the future,” said Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez. “Therefore it is my strong opinion that we cannot overlook existing commitments made by the state, such as those negotiated in the Salton Sea QSA, and we must build these obligations into the water bonds so that they can also be fulfilled.”
“From time to time the state of CA has intervened in litigation involving public trust water assets by bringing the litigating parties together and reaching settlements that are amicable and protect the interests of the state,” he continued. “In these cases, the failure of the parties to have reached settlement would have threatened billions of dollars in commerce, threatened access to adequate drinking water, or resulted in threats to the environment or public health. In short, these cases addressed much more than regional needs; rather they addressed statewide water challenges that necessitated involvement from the state. Absent state intervention, it’s unlikely settlement would have been achieved. In the case of the QSA, I can assure you that settlement would not have been possible without state intervention. As policymakers we must make every effort to make sure the state has the resources to meet its commitments under these settlement agreements.”
“As California continues to grow, the new pressures placed on public trust water assets and it’s likely that this state will once again be called on to intervene,” said Mr. Perez. “Ultimately the ability of the state to play a role in mediating these kinds of disputes in the future rests on its credibility to meet its existing commitments.”
“Now I understand and appreciate that some may not be interested in making sure the state has the resources to meet its commitments in these settlement cases, and while I understand and appreciate these concerns, the reality is that the parties to these cases agreed to settle their claims in accordance with their respective settlement agreements, and we must honor those terms,” Mr. Perez pointed out. “Moreover, with respect to the state of California, these settlement agreements represent contractual obligations that will not go away simply because they are a contract. This was a point that the appellate court explained at some length in its decision upholding the constitutionality of the QSA agreement in 2011.”
“In closing, I fully support the committee’s decision to not target 2014 water bonds to specific local projects that benefit a given locality; I firmly believe and in fact support that the settlement cases are quantitatively and qualitatively different and that they involve statewide public water assets with compelling statewide economic, environmental and public health interests at state.”
“For these reasons, I respectfully request the committee include adequate funding in 2014 water bond to ensure the state has the resources to meet the commitments it made in the settlement cases,” Mr. Perez concluded.
CHAIR ANTHONY RENDON
Chair Rendon then noted that he would be reading a written statement developed with Assemblymember Chesbro, who is in another meeting right now. “The state has legal obligations for these water settlements; the state has negotiated in good faith during these settlements with anticipation that funding would be available. The water bond does seem to be an appropriate vehicle for the state to meet these types of legal obligations,” said Mr. Rendon. “While the bond may not list specific settlements, removal of the Klamath Dams, and the issue regarding the Salton Sea, would resolve a lot the water related problems that we have in the state.”
“With respect to the Klamath Dam region, salmon restoration including the removal of the Klamath Dams to restore Klamath fishery and the restoration of all north coast streams is necessary to help mitigate existing Trinity diversion and ongoing damage to Sacramento-San Joaquin fishery and the basis for commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries,” he said. “For the state commitments for water settlements would also support the good things that the state is doing in the San Joaquin River and the Salton Sea.”
“As we move forward in developing the water bond framework, I strongly support language stating the state commitment to water settlements protecting the rivers, lakes, and stream section again, without naming individual examples,” Mr. Rendon concluded.
Mr. Rendon then opened the floor for public comment. Over 30 people gave their comments, expressing support for Delta sustainability, Integrated Regional Water Management Programs, watershed protection, and the need to support projects that will increase regional self-reliance, such as recycled water, groundwater clean-up, and stormwater capture. A number of those commenting expressed support for funding for Salton Sea restoration, while others wanted the needs of disadvantaged communities to receive consideration. Funding for more storage projects also received wide support.
Comments and documentation are due to the Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee by the end of the day on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Please send hard copies to the Committee address listed on the home page, submit them by facsimile to (916) 319-2196, or click here to submit by email.
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