News Worth Noting: Poll shows CA voters would redirect High Speed Rail funds to water storage projects; DWR announces $232M in IRWM grants; Draft plan for Shasta Dam fish passage project; CA Water Ass’n supports effort to remove transaction fees; Weekly water and climate update

Hoover Institute Poll: California Voters Would Redirect High Speed Rail Funds to Water Storage Projects

From the California Water Alliance:

Cal Water AllianceThe Hoover Institution/Golden State Poll announced today that fifty-three percent of Californians would vote for a ballot measure ending high-speed rail and using its unspent money on water-storage projects if the election was held now, while only 31% would vote against the measure.

“California voters know that the drought has changed our state’s priorities and needs,” said George Runner, proponent and Vice-Chair, California State Board of Equalization. “When given the choice, they choose water storage over high speed rail.”

The Golden State Poll also found that only 39% of most likely voters still approve of Gov. Jerry Brown’s support for the High-Speed Rail project, while 41% do not and the remainder is undecided, and 62% ranked water storage construction as their top priority for state governmental spending, over six times higher than the next most popular priority, highway expansion.

“Water remains our state’s most important issue and our ballot measure provides a clear path for funding surface and groundwater storage and recycling projects,” said Senator Bob Huff (R-San Dimas). “It does so without a penny of new taxes or borrowing by the state. Voters are demanding that state government does what every family does when faced with a challenge – change its priorities.”

“In the face of prolonged drought, government gridlock and politics as usual, California voters realize that this initiative gives them a chance to reprioritize the needs of California,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, the executive director of the California Water Alliance, the measure’s sponsor. “While trains are nice, water is a necessity for survival, food and our economy.”

The poll also found that a measure directing High-Speed Rail Project funds to water storage would be more likely to pass than a measure directing its funds to other infrastructure projects. While 53% would support the water storage shift, only 49% would back a more broadly worded infrastructure measure.

As a measurement of how unpopular continuing the state’s High-Speed Rail Project has become, it scored last in a list of 21 issues Gov. Brown mentioned in his last State of the State speech, with 17% support, while “Dealing with the state’s water problems” topped the list in first place, as the first preference of 77% of California’s most likely voters.

The Hoover Institution/Golden State Poll, administered by the survey research firm YouGov and designed in conjunction with Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West, sampled 1,800 Californians (age eighteen and above) statewide from November 30 to December 13. Among the poll’s questions, voters were asked to prioritize twenty-one policy concerns facing the state. The full poll results for the survey, which has a margin of error of +/- 3.31 percent for the full weighted sample, can be found here: http://www.hoover.org/sites/default/files/hoover_gsp_january_2016_release_public_results_final_011216.pdf

About the California Water Alliance: The California Water Alliance is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the nature of water and promoting long-term, sustainable solutions that meet the health and security needs of families, cities, businesses, farmers and the environment. To learn more, visit www.CaliforniaWaterAlliance.org.

DWR Announces $232 Million in Grants to Improve Water Management across California

From the Department of Water Resources:

NEW_DWR_LOGO_14inchThe California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced approximately $232 million in grant funding of 26 proposals for Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) projects that will leverage hundreds of millions of additional local and federal dollars.

The award of funds from a 2006 water bond passed by voters statewide will support projects and programs to meet California’s long-term water management needs, including delivery of safe drinking water, enhancement of recycled water use, water conservation, flood risk reduction, watershed protection, ecosystem restoration, protection of water quality and management of groundwater.

The grant recipients, dollar amounts and related purposes include the following:

• Association of Bay Area Governments, $41.3 million, 10 projects for dam seismic retrofit, groundwater infrastructure, watershed protection and other purposes;
• San Diego County Water Authority, $31.1 million, 14 projects for urban water conservation, turf removal rebate program, water treatment facility and other purposes;
• Los Angeles County Flood Control District, $27.7 million, 26 projects for meter installation, storm water management, water conveyance infrastructure and other purposes;
• Humboldt County, $11 million, 25 projects for water and wastewater conveyance and treatment infrastructure, watershed protection and restoration, agricultural efficiency and other purposes.

A list of the projects, their grant requests, their final awards and the grants’ percentage of the projects’ total costs can be found here: http://water.ca.gov/irwm/grants/p84implementation.cfm

The new awards come from the final round of DWR’s Proposition 84 Integrated Regional Water Management Implementation Grant Program. The 26 proposals that were awarded funding involve 136 projects with total costs in excess of $1 billion.

DWR Director Mark Cowin said, “The award of these funds represents a significant milestone in advancing Integrated Regional Water Management, which continues to be a key initiative in managing water resources throughout California.” Cowin said that all together, DWR has awarded $808.5 million to fund almost 600 projects in four rounds of Proposition 84 IRWM implementation grant solicitations.

This latest round of grants will advance the Brown administration’s two-year-old California Water Action Plan, which sets forth the actions needed to provide more reliable water supplies, restore important species and habitats and create a more resilient, sustainably managed water resources system that can better withstand climate change and additional population growth. The Plan is available here.

In May 2015, DWR issued the final 2015 IRWM Grant Program Guidelines and the 2015 Implementation Grant Proposal Solicitation Package. Applicants were required to submit grant proposals by August 7, 2015. DWR received proposals from 37 IRWM regions requesting approximately $307 million.

Funding for the projects is available through Proposition 84, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006, as amended 2010 (Proposition 84 IRWM). Proposition 84 was passed by California voters in November 2006 and authorized the Legislature to appropriate $1 billion for IRWM. Administered by DWR, Proposition 84 IRWM grants are awarded to local public agencies and non-profit organizations for projects and programs consistent with an adopted IRWM Plan that help meet long term water needs of the State.

Reclamation Releases Draft Pilot Implementation Plan for the Shasta Dam Fish Passage Evaluation

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

ReclamationThe Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service and other partnering agencies have released a draft of the Pilot Implementation Plan for the Shasta Dam Fish Passage Evaluation for public review. The Pilot Plan can be downloaded at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/BayDeltaOffice/shasta-dam-fish-pass.html.

This Pilot Plan provides a general overview of winter-run Chinook Salmon reintroduction to historical habitats in the Study Area, including the recovery priorities for salmon and viable salmonid populations, and the benefits, opportunities and constraints associated with the reintroduction. It provides information on species and habitat conditions within the Study Area, and also discusses stock selection considerations, genetics, and potential sources of donor stock for reintroduction.

In addition, the Plan describes the implementation and describes the metrics and performance measures to be used to evaluate the success of the implementation techniques compared to the overall goal of the Pilot Program. It also provides a blueprint for obtaining additional critical information about the opportunity for successful reintroduction. As described above, the Pilot Plan is a living document, and it will be reviewed and updated annually as new information is gained regarding feasibility of reintroduction.

The 2009 NMFS Reasonable and Prudent Alternative includes a Fish Passage Program (Action V) to evaluate the reintroduction of winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon and steelhead. Action V of the RPA applies to three dams operated by Reclamation: Shasta, Folsom, and New Melones. The near-term goal for Action V is to increase the geographic distribution and abundance of the listed fish. The long-term goal is to increase abundance, productivity, and spatial distribution, and to improve the life history, health, and genetic diversity of the target species.

Written comments are due by close of business Wednesday, February 24, 2016, and can be sent to John Hannon, Bureau of Reclamation, 801 I Street, Suite 140, Sacramento, CA 95814, or emailed to jhannon@usbr.gov.

California Water Association supports effort to make payment options more customer friendly

Bill would remove transaction fees for payments made with debit and credit cards

From the California Water Association:

CWA logoRepresentatives from the California Water Association (CWA), which represents investor-owned water utilities throughout California, and California American Water testified today before the California Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee in support of Assembly Member Cristina Garcia’s Assembly Bill 1180. The bill passed the Utilities & Commerce Committee on a 14-0 vote and will next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on January 20.

AB 1180 would direct the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to evaluate the potential for repealing a transaction fee levied on customers who pay their water utility bill by credit or debit card. Public Utilities Code §755 requires this transaction fee unless and until the CPUC determines that the use of credit and debit cards would result in no net cost to the utility.

“Paying recurring bills online with a credit or debit card has become much more popular with customers in recent years,” said CWA Executive Director Jack Hawks. “It’s not fair to penalize them by adding a $2 to $3 charge per transaction when the costs of other forms of payment, such as writing a check or paying in person, are spread across the entire customer base and recovered through rates.”

This transaction fee applies only to regulated utilities and is not the case for government utilities or state agencies, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, and has become a significant source of complaint when customers are confronted with this additional charge.

“Current law treats the payment of regulated utility bills differently than virtually all other retail transactions by requiring customers to be charged a transaction fee for paying with a credit card,” said California American Water’s Manager of External Affairs Evan Jacobs. “In a different era, this may have made sense. Today, however, customers expect to be able to pay online and by credit card as a matter of convenience.”

AB 1180 would create a pilot program that would allow a participating water utility to waive the transaction fee for customers paying by credit or debit card, and to collect information from customers in order to assist the CPUC with evaluating whether it is necessary to treat credit and debit card payments differently than other forms of payment.

The bill would allow CPUC to consider factors other than cost when evaluating the efficacy of the transaction fee, such as convenience, practicality, and avoidance of late fees.

California Water Association: The California Water Association represents 108 regulated water utilities in California. Its members provide safe, reliable, high-quality water service to approximately 6 million Californians. http://www.calwaterassn.com

California American Water: California American Water, a subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), provides high quality and reliable water and/or wastewater service to approximately 600,000 people. http://www.amwater.com/caaw/

Weekly National Water and Climate Update

From the USDA:

water mapThe Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

This week, an NRCS snow survey crew from Utah found that the Hole-in-Mountain SNOTEL site in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada was destroyed by an avalanche on December 23, after a series of storms dropped several feet of snow in the area.  …

The current snow water equivalent percent of median map shows that much of the snowpack in the West is at median or above at this time. The Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming and some stations in western Wyoming, northern Idaho, and Montana have below median snowpack at this time. …

Read the full report here: Weekly Water and Climate Update

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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