State and Federal legislation update: State legislature punts to 2014, House version of WRDA bill introduced

Legislation UpdateThe State Legislature has adjourned for the year, punting the water bond, CEQA reform and the possible move of the drinking water program until after they return in January.  Meanwhile in Washington, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster has introduced his version of the Water Resources Development Act which is scheduled to be voted on in Committee later this week.  Here’s a wrap-up of the latest on state and federal legislation of interest to Notebook readers.


Water bonds (AB 1331/SB 42)

The Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee has introduced their own version of the water bond, AB 1331, a $6.5 general obligation bond which is meant to replace the current $11 billion water bond slated for the November 2014 ballot. The Assembly bond includes $1 billion to “protect, restore, and enhance the Delta ecosystem; maintain and improve existing Delta levees and promote the sustainability of the Delta;” but otherwise, the funds are not explicitly linked to the ‘coequal goals.’ The bond also requires that “any project funded by this chapter shall include a line partner “that is a resident, landowner, public agency, or organization from one or more of the five Delta counties. For the purposes of this chapter, a partner from a Delta county shall have a significant role in the development and implementation of the funded project.”

AB 1331 also includes $1.5 billion for water storage projects such as projects identified by the CalFed surface storage program, groundwater storage or remediation projects that provide water storage benefits, and reservoir reoperation and conjunctive use projects. The bill stipulates that “a project shall not be funded pursuant to this chapter unless it provides measurable improvements to the Delta ecosystem or to the tributaries to the Delta.”

In mid-August, Senator Wolk amended SB 42, a $5.6 general obligation bond; it is now reportedly supported by all five Delta counties and some environmental organizations.

Both bonds contain specific provisions that prohibit the use of funds for Delta conveyance facilities or for mitigation of those facilities.

As was expected, the legislative session closed with no movement on either bond measure. On September 24th, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee will hold a joint information hearing on the water bond titled “Setting the Stage for a 2014 Water Bond: Where Are We and Where Do We Need To Go?” Look for upcoming coverage on the Notebook blog.

For more information on the Assembly water bond, visit the Assembly Committee Water, Parks, and Wildlife water bond page.

The transfer of the drinking water program

Last week, the Assemblyman Perea and the Senate Democratic leadership came to agreement on some amendments that would move only the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund from the Department of Public Health, where it’s currently being administered, to the Division of Financial Assistance at the State Water Resources Control Board; the amendments would not move the entire program.  Those amendments were then put into another Perea Bill, AB 1393; that bill did not advance prior to the close of the legislative session and is now a 2-year bill.

However, regardless of the outcome of AB 1393, it looks like the entire program will be moved next year anyway. Kathy Cole told Metropolitan’s legislative committee that there are some strong indications from administration officials that they would prefer to have the whole program transfer over to the State Board, and that they would be recommending that as part of their budget proposal next January. “Despite the fact that it’s not going to happen right now, it’s pretty certain that it will be eminent through a budget activity,” said Ms. Cole. “They prefer not to run it through a governor’s reorganization plan apparently; they want to run it through the budget process, but the legislature will still have an opportunity to help shape that as well as stakeholders because it will then shift from a legislative policy discussion to a budget discussion.”


The Water Resources Development Act (HR 3080)

The Senate passed their version of the Senator Boxer’s WRDA bill (S 601) back in May, and on Friday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster introduced the House version, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013. The bill would authorize about $8 billion in Army Corps projects and another $2 billion for modifications to existing projects, but Shuster said at a conference that those funds would be more than offset by the de-authorization of $12 billion worth of pre-2007 projects, some of those on which construction has not yet started.

WRRDA 2013 is the most policy and reform focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades,” Shuster said at a press conference. “The bill contains no earmarks and makes major programmatic reforms to increase transparency, accountability, and Congressional oversight of federal water resources development activities. Most importantly, WRRDA is about jobs and improving America’s competitiveness. A strong, effective water transportation network is essential to keeping pace with other nations that are improving their own infrastructure networks and gaining ground in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.”

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will vote on the bill on September 19.

So what’s WRRDA have to do with you –  the ‘you’  in this case meaning the general maybe-not-so-interested-in-water public?  Shuster tells you why in this ‘whiteboard’ video:


Infrastructure Facilitation and Habitat Conservation Act (HR 2280/S 1175)

In June, Representative Ken Calvert introduced HR 2280, Infrastructure Facilitation and Habitat Conservation Act of 2013; the companion bill, S 1175 was also introduced by Senator Feinstein. The bills would establish a program to provide federal funding through loans and loan guarantees for public entities to acquire land for approved Habitat Conservation Plans. In June, the Senate version was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House version referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.  No other action has been taken.

Levee Vegetation Review Act (HR 399)

Representative Matsui’s HR 399, the Levee Vegetation Review Act,  would direct the Army Corps to undertake a comprehensive review of the Corps policy guidelines on vegetation management for levees to determine whether the policy is appropriate for all regions of the United States. The legislation directs the Army Corps to consider several factors including the varied interests and responsibilities in managing flood risks, preservation of natural resources including habitat benefits for species of concern, and the protection of the rights of Native Americans. Matsui introduced the measure in January; the bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment; no other action has been taken.

NEW WEBSITE FEATURE:  You can now access the latest information on these bills from the widgets in the sidebar.


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