WATER COMMISSION: Conveyance projects and the human right to water

Panel discussion outlines challenges facing disadvantaged communities and small water systems

The Water Resilience Portfolio directs the Water Commission to assess the state’s role in financing conveyance projects that could help meet the needs in changing climate.  In recent months, the Commission has been hearing from panels of experts on various related subjects.

At their November meeting, the Commission heard from two panels: the first panel was from project proponents who discussed conveyance projects being proposed by their organizations, which was covered in this post here: WATER COMMISSION: Conveyance projects panel discusses Imperial Valley to San Diego pipeline, “fish-friendly” Delta diversions, and more …

The second panel discussed the human right to water within the context of conveyance projects.  The panelists were invited to share their thoughts on how conveyance projects can demonstrate that they have adequately considered the human right to water, how climate change will impact their communities, and how underrepresented communities can better be included in the planning, design, and governance of water projects.  And even though the Commission has explicitly stated they are not including Delta conveyance, the panel ended where most California water issues end up: in the Delta.

The panelists were:

  • Jonathan Nelson, Policy Director for the Community Water Center
  • Ed Pattison, General Manager of the Tuolumne Utilities District
  • Maria Elena Kennedy, President of Kennedy Communications
  • Sherri Norris, Executive Director of the California Indian Environmental Alliance

COMMUNITY WATER CENTER: Disadvantaged communities and the human right to water

Jonathan Nelson is the Policy Director for the Community Water Center, an environmental justice non-profit whose mission is to secure safe and affordable drinking water for all Californians.  The Community Water Center believes that access to safe drinking water is a basic human right and not a privilege.  The Community Water Center is headquartered in the Central Valley, with offices on the Central Coast and in Sacramento.

The approach of the Community Water Center is really three-fold. It is grounded in empowering communities themselves to be co-equal voices in securing safe water for themselves and their families.

We really believe that change has to be driven from the ground up, and we utilize three strategies to try to do that:  organizing communities, helping educate communities, and then supporting communities to advocate for the solutions that are best for them and their families,” he said, noting that many of their staff live in the communities they work in and they call those communities home.  “I am from the Central Valley myself, and so for us, this is not just our day job.  These truly are our communities and our families.”

The Community Water Center believes that having meaningful community participation needs to have at every level of government, from the local level to the regional level, the state level, and the national level.  More than 1 million Californians living predominantly in low-income communities of color right now do not have access to safe drinking water, and this didn’t just happen overnight; many of the communities the Community Water Center works with have been without safe water for years or decades.

This is the direct legacy of decisions that were made or decisions that weren’t made in the preceding decades, and it truly is a legacy of racial injustice and environmental injustice,” said Mr. Nelson.

The slide shows what the water and infrastructure often look like in the communities that they work in.  These communities are dependent on groundwater drawn from shallow drinking water wells or on private domestic wells or small water systems.   Because these communities are so dependent on groundwater, it makes the implementation of SGMA so critical, he said.

The human right to water law was something that Community Water Center advocated for years before it was passed.  It was controversial at the time, and they failed more than once.

We’re pleased now that the conversation has evolved to the point where it is a commonly recognized framework for conversations around water, or at least it’s increasingly moving in that direction,” said Mr. Nelson.  “For us, that’s important because the human right to water is a framework that recognizes the disproportionate impacts that we have now and the history that brought us to this point.  It also offers us a Northstar direction of where we wanted to be headed towards to truly provide universal access to safe water that’s affordable in California and to get there as soon as possible.  On that note, implementation of the human right to water law in our eyes is very much a work in progress, and more needs to be done.”

Mr. Nelson noted that the state did pass the Safe And Affordable drinking water plan just last year to provide a historic level of investment in safe water needs in communities; that took over 10 years of community advocacy and was bitterly opposed.

Concerning the human right to water and how that fits into project proposals and applications, there are a couple of key questions:

  1. Will this harm community access to drinking water, or will it have a positive impact? For example, recharge projects that are important to long-term sustainable groundwater management can also degrade water quality, a real concern for communities that rely on shallow domestic wells or shallow drinking water wells.
  2. Were communities and community-based organizations consulted? Were communities given adequate resources and invested in their capacity to engage consistently meaningfully?
  3. Did communities and community-based organizations have meaningful decision-making power in the decisions made? “I think too often that community feedback is not treated with a fair and equitable amount of decision-making weight and that’s important,” said he said.

Concerning the human right to water and climate change, Mr. Nelson said they are already seeing the impacts of climate change and how much that hurts small rural communities.  “In the last drought, we had communities that just wholesale lost water, and it was a human catastrophe.  We obviously haven’t recovered from that drought and we’re now increasingly moving back into drought conditions even as we speak.”

Mr. Nelson noted that based on their review of the Groundwater Sustainability Plans submitted to the Department of Water Resources in January of this year, community needs around drinking water were not adequately addressed with an analysis determining that over 120,000 Californians living in Central Valley communities will lose access to safe water if these plans are implemented.

There was a real lack of adequate community participation in local GSP development, certainly in areas of the valley that we work in, and that’s led to the result of GSPs that don’t protect community drinking water,” he said.  “That really threatens to undermine our state’s vision of safe drinking water for all.”

He said it’s important to incorporate community engagement in water projects and build the community’s capacity to engage.   Community voices need to have a fair and equal amount of decision making power and not just have a check the box approach.

Community engagement and involvement takes work,” Mr. Nelson said.  “It’s not a question of is this easy or hard; it’s necessary.  “If we think about representative government and representative processes, we have to acknowledge systemic injustice and lack of equitable capacity and work to level the playing field so that we can have equitable outcomes.  We need to do that at every level of government and for all projects.”

Mr. Nelson acknowledged the difficult road ahead, especially with SGMA.  “In order to make truly equitable policy decisions and balancing decisions, we have to understand and fully surface the needs of all the stakeholders, and right now, we have not yet adequately done that for environmental justice communities, and SGMA is a prime example of that.  So we hope the Commission will continue to support DWR to align better their programs between sustainable groundwater management act and our state safe drinking water policies.”

He also suggested considering and adopting human right to water policy, both at DWR and the Commission, similar to what the State Water Board has adopted.

TUOLUMNE UTILITIES DISTRICT: The challenges facing small water agencies

Ed Pattison is General Manager of the Tuolumne Utilities District, a position he has held for two years.  He began by describing Tuolumne County.

Tuolumne County is home to Yosemite National Park and is an area with a lot of rich history and culture dating back to the Gold Rush era.  The county was incorporated in 1850; it is predominantly rural with a population of 55,000 people.  The city of Sonora is the only incorporated city within the county.  There are two federally-recognized tribes.  Much of the land is federally owned and because of that, property tax revenues are fairly low.

The geography is diverse, starting at the valley floor, transitioning to the uplands and up to the crest of the Sierra at 9,000 feet.  The demographics are similarly diverse, ranging from multigenerational residents to Bay Area transplants to timber harvesting to mining and everything in between.

Tuolumne Utilities District serves over 14,000 potable water connections, several disadvantaged communities, and two federally recognized tribes.  The County created the District in 1992 to consolidate the large number of old water districts, public and private, that had developed since the Gold Rush era.    Many systems were developed before modern-day construction standards and specifications and were really never designed properly; they have narrow, small diameter pipelines and inadequate fire flows, among other problems.

We’ve inherited a lot of problems that we’re forced to try to correct under the current regulatory mandates,” Mr. Pattison said.

A lot of reservoirs have been built in Tuolumne County.  There’s New Melones at 2.4 MAF and Lake Don Pedro at over 2 MAF; The Tri-Dam project with Donells, Beardsley, and Tulloch reservoirs;  and in the San Francisco project, Hetch Hetchy, Cherry, and Eleanor.

In total, there’s 5.5 MAF of reservoir storage in Tuolumne County …  how much reservoir capacity does TUD have for Tuolumne County? The answer is zero,” said Mr. Pattison.  “Despite all of the water resource development in Tuolumne County and the old history of Tuolumne County, downstream agencies and communities and metropolitan areas have built-in Tuolumne County and diverted the water out of Tuolumne County.  Why Tuolumne was overlooked and why it doesn’t own any of its own reservoirs, water rights, or resources is a good topic, but a topic for another day, but just to point out, there’s 5.5 MAF of active reservoir storage in Tuolumne County and the County does not own any of it.”

Tuolumne County does have a contract with PG&E at a small reservoir called Pinecrest Lake and Lyons Reservoir, which adds up to about 25,000 acre-feet.  A Gold Rush-era wooden flume is the one single conveyance supply source to 55,000 people in Tuolumne County, which is probably the highest fire risk area within the west slope of the Sierra, he said.  The groundwater is from fractured rocks so they cannot implement conjunctive use.

The water conveyance system was built during the Gold Rush era.  The water is diverted from the South Fork of the Stanislaus River through a wooden flume canal; it runs along the ridgeline in the mountains with ditches that drop down to convey water to the valleys below.  It’s an elaborate system, with a 17-mile wooden flume canal and 71 miles of ditches.Since it is the District’s only diversion, they are working with the Bureau of Reclamation to acquire a federal water supply contract from New Melones Dam located downstream.

It’s challenging because it’s in a deep narrow incised canyon and we have to work through the US Bureau of Reclamation, but to the degree we can diversify our points of diversion and water supply sources, it will help us establish watershed resiliency for our County,” Mr. Pattison said.

The District has some wells, but those are on fractured rock, of poor water quality, limited in supply, and frequently fail during drought.

When the District was established, there were over 30 water treatment plants that have since been consolidated to 14; they are working to consolidate those to two or three.  Many small water treatment plants were failing; they were old, beyond their useful life and technology, and it would be more expensive to rebuild them than to look at regionalization and consolidation.

One of our challenges in Tuolumne County is a lot of inherited old poorly designed developments that were originally second homes that are now primary homes and growing, which is placing a lot of demand on these old facilities,” he said.

The District has a 1400 square mile service area scattered all over the county; some of these systems have a minimal number of connections, so it’s a large area with a limited number of connections per square mile.  Water affordability is important when applying for grants; median household income for Tuolumne County is low, but it looks a little better than it really is.  There are several disadvantaged areas within the poverty criteria, but the only way to determine that is to look at each small community and perform income surveys, which increase the level of difficulty of acquiring state and federal grants and partnerships to help fund some of these necessary water infrastructure projects.

Right now, we’re looking at water rates that are greater than the 2% of medium household income, which is the criteria for affordability, so we’re already above that affordability criteria,” said Mr. Pattison.  “When we talk about $200 million in deferred capital improvements and increasing state regulations on water conservation that don’t provide any funding and other stringent water quality mandates, it’s a death spiral that’s killing some of our small rural communities to try to keep up with the regulations and make headway on infrastructure replacement while keeping water rates at an affordable level for low-income customers.”

The District has 14 different systems. The reality is that the larger systems are subsidizing the smaller systems, and the cost per marginal unit of water delivery is approaching $2500 per acre-foot for some of the small systems.  Larger systems can produce the water at a lower cost with the economy of scale principle.

Our small communities can’t survive if TUD did not provide the water, but they cannot afford to pay for $2500 per acre-foot water,” Mr. Pattison said.  “So this slide is to reinforce this principle of economy of scale.  It’s a reality that we have to work with … some of the state’s laws make it impossible legally to be able to provide appropriate subsidies, so then the question becomes how do you provide an affordable rate to water users when you can’t do that under Prop 218?

Mr. Pattison said that Integrated Regional Water Management is alive and well in Tuolumne County, which had a great vision to be water resilient by watershed, but in his view, it has largely been ineffective at assisting water agencies with infrastructure replacement.

We have $200 million in deferred capital improvements and 80 water storage tanks that are failing,” he said.  “There is no way that our limited ratepayer base is going to be able to replace those water storage tanks before they catastrophically fail, and it is just through ingenuity and hard work that we keep these systems going.   I think it still has a role but it has had limited success in really helping water utilities replace infrastructure and become watershed resilient.  And on top of that, it’s subject to infrequent funding through propositions.”

With respect to the new water use efficiency regulation, it is far-reaching, comprehensive, and very expensive.  He pointed out that whether water agencies are small or large, they all have to live according to the same mandate.  It is next to impossible for small agencies to be able to comply with all the state water quality regulations both for surface water and for wastewater treatment.

So these conservation mandates really are a double impact to small agencies because not only are we reducing water sales and reducing our revenue base, but we are at the same time are taking money out of capital improvement program to be able to meet the regulations and these new mandates and so it is a double impact to us,” Mr. Pattison said.  “We’ve really reached a lot of demand hardening, and any additional conservation is on an exponential curve where we’re spending a large amount of money for a very small amount of water savings.  It emphasizes the principle that perhaps we’re overemphasizing this in lieu of some other technological advances on infrastructure interconnectivity and conveyance and conjunctive use that might give a bigger bang for the buck.”

In Tuolumne County, they are heavily reliant on snowpack.  Their reservoirs are so small that there is no carryover storage.  The term that they use is ‘end of spill’, which is the date when their reservoirs are full and no long spilling;  the drier the year is, the earlier the end of spill.  After that point, they are completely reliant on that reservoir for the remainder of the year until it rains again.

During the last drought, they had over 100 failed wells and 50% water rationing.  The District lost $200 million in revenue loss which can’t be made up, so it was a real impact on the utility.  The state invested $1.6 million in a state emergency grant to 44 properties, costing the taxpayers $36,000 per connection.  Being reactive rather than proactive is an expensive way to fix problems, he pointed out.  There needs to be consistent reliable funding sources to do this, rather than relying on statewide propositions.

As a small to medium size utility, there are technical, managerial, and financial barriers.  Trying to seek state and federal funds and collaborate on a regional level requires technical, managerial, and financial expertise.  The District is developing that, and they have been successful at obtaining state and federal grants, but it is a struggle and an ongoing issue.

We just don’t have the same resources that large agencies do and so to the degree the state and federal agencies can reduce the barrier to be able to participate in these programs, it would really help with the human right to water,” said Mr. Pattison.  “When we talk about disadvantaged communities, there’s not one person you’re talking to, it’s a community and who represents those communities, and I would suggest one of the best vehicles for this conversation are through your water utilities because they are our customers and our rates.  The rate necessary to deliver that water needs to be affordable and that is a real benefit to this human right to water discussion.”

One of the challenges with state and federal loan grant financing is with the reimbursements.  The District has about $2.5 million outstanding in state reimbursement grants.  The turnaround time can take six months to the year because of the bureaucracy.  He said they just don’t have the financial resources to wait 6 months to a year.  It’s tying up too much cash and it shouldn’t be that difficult.  Sometimes, they look for iBank or USDA grants because they work more quickly than state agencies.

Mr. Pattison then gave his recommendations.

Do more for less: Less bureaucracy; streamline environmental processes.  “We recently did a sedimentation removal project from a manmade lake,” Mr. Pattison said.  “The permitting process took two years and the soft costs of permitting and planning and environmental ate up almost 50% of our project cost, which was grant funded.  Almost 50%.  It was estimated to be 20%, it more than doubled, and that took cash away from infrastructure replacement and sediment removal.”

Streamline and develop a concierge grant funding program to facilitate and advocate for rural funding solutions.  “We really need to think smart about how we’re helping our smaller agencies to be able to navigate this process,” he said.

Develop a market-based infrastructure investment solution.  Mr. Pattison noted that in 1992, the state created the drought bank for assisting those that needed water.  “Why couldn’t we do something similar to that for bundling infrastructure projects whereby metropolitan areas or utilities with the larger economy of scale could invest in various projects throughout the state and incentivize this market-based approach to say, letting a river flood, buying certain lands, removing some of the levees, or maybe taking an old regional wastewater treatment plant to something state of the art that is able to recycle water.  Water conservation projects, distribution line replacements, each of these discrete projects represent water savings or conjunctive use or a volume of water throughout California that together add up to quite a bit of water.”

Develop a reliable state funding source.  The District is limited to the system built 50 years ago and beyond.  The easy work has already been done, the hard work’s ahead, but the current funding source mechanisms really limit them.

Consider bottled water tax to consistently fund DAC communities. The reality is that our public water agencies are heavily regulated in terms of being able to meet MCLs and how we provide water and how we charge our rates and so forth.  We need a consistent revenue stream to help our disadvantaged communities and the human right to water.  The bottled water community has very few regulations, and it is a big competitor.  Why isn’t that taxed?  There’s a lot of externalities associated with bottled water that is not good for our communities and our environment … it may be a consistent revenue stream to add a marginal tax to that and use that for assisting communities with the human right to water.”

KENNEDY COMMUNICATIONS: Urban disadvantaged communities and the importance of communications

Maria Elena Kennedy is President of Kennedy Communications.  The focus of her presentation was on urban disadvantaged communities.  When most people think about disadvantaged communities with water quality issues, they don’t tend to think about the urban disadvantaged communities such as in southeast LA.

There’s a perception that very large urban water agencies serve LA and there is LADWP and Metropolitan,” she said.  “But in the midst of those large water agencies, we actually have very small mutual water companies that serve sizeable populations, especially in the Central Basin.”

One of those is the community of Maywood, which received a lot of attention from the US EPA, State Water Board, and NGOs because the community was suffering from brown water spikes for many years, largely caused by iron and manganese that was found in the groundwater.  It made the residents very fearful of their water.

The city of Maywood and the surrounding area is served by three mutual water companies that altogether serve 5118 connections.  They really don’t have a lot of wherewithal to solve their iron and manganese problems.  These systems are severely disadvantaged, and every one of them is working on some kind of conveyance project.

Those who were involved in Maywood were also involved in the passage of the Human Right to Water, so Maywood, in many ways, is a poster child for the success of the human right to water, said Ms. Kennedy.  Speaker Anthony Rendon helped get state funding of $1 million to help out with the Maywood mutual water companies, which was directed through the Water Replenishment District of SoCal.  Ms. Kennedy worked to apply for an additional $2 million that was needed, and they are now in the process of finishing construction of the treatment plant scheduled to be online by next spring.

We’re really happy with the outcome of this project simply because it took it from a community problem to a brick and mortar solution that now these residents can depend on this treatment plant to continue to serve them safe drinking water,” said Ms. Kennedy.

Maywood Mutual Water Company #1 was able to obtain funding to build a treatment plant, but they could not get the plant permitted because they lacked the technical, managerial, and financial capabilities.  So they were able to help them get the permit they needed to operate, which got them off of Metropolitan’s water supplies, which are considerably more expensive.  They are also working on obtaining a grant for storage and pipeline replacement.

We help them get the funding they need, we hire the engineers which is oftentimes a challenge for these communities, we then actually build the project, so when we turn it over to the community, they have a turnkey project,” she said.  “This is critical to these small systems because they don’t have the wherewithal to put the money upfront because of the challenges of having a system that works by reimbursement.  The good thing for our small systems is we do have large agencies that we’ve been able to convince to take a leadership role in helping our small systems with not only obtaining the funding but actually building the project for them and ensuring that they have a safe drinking water supply.”

One of the challenges are the water stores, which take advantage of the residents’ fear of the water coming out of their faucets and that the water from the water store is somehow safer.  “I want to point out that where do you think they are getting their water from?,” said Ms. Kennedy.  “It’s very misleading the way these companies are telling them the water is not safe, but here you have water that is safe, even though they are getting the very same water source as the mutual water company.”

This is why communication is so important when building these projects, she said. The residents oftentimes are not told about these water projects, whether they are very large conveyance projects or these wellhead treatment plants. If they don’t’ know there is a solution, they will continue to worry about their water quality and go to the water stores.  The residents are spending enormous amounts of money that they really don’t have to provide safe drinking water for their families, all the while, we are building treatment plants that meet high regulatory standards.

The information must be conveyed to the residents in a culturally sensitive way.  It needs to go beyond social media because some older residents don’t have a cell phone or a computer.  Ms. Kennedy said she uses flyers often because it’s something they can read; she also includes a lot of graphics, so if the person doesn’t have a high literacy rate, they still can understand that the project is trying to provide a solution for their needs.  Ms. Kennedy always puts up signs in the neighborhood that includes a picture of the treatment plant and who is funding the work.

One example of this was the city of Perris’s Enchanted Heights Sewer Project about 10 years ago.  The city of Perris is a disadvantaged community with a high undocumented population. When Eastern Municipal Water District wanted to do a septic to sewer conversion, the residents weren’t cooperating because they distrusted the government.  There were a lot of mobile home parks on individual lots owned by the person who owns the mobile home, so property owners had to sign a right of entry for the contractor to build the laterals that would connect them to the mainline sewer.  Initially they were very distrustful, but Ms. Kennedy walked the project for nearly two years, successfully getting them to understand it was in their interest.  In the end, the residents would pass out the flyers for the meetings and they attended in droves.

That’s why I’m dedicated to the idea that we really have to engage these communities in a way they can understand,” said Ms. Kennedy.  “This is the formula.  If the residents are engaged and they are happy with the project, you’re going to have a successful project.  One of the reasons I have successfully built these projects is I always engage the community and have them guide the process.  I just serve as the facilitator.  I write all the applications and all the technical stuff, but they are really the ones who are guiding the process.”

CA INDIAN ENVIRONMENTAL ALLIANCE: The Tribal perspective

The last panelist was Sherri Norris with the California Indian Environmental Alliance. She began by saying that the history of water management in this state is really a history of mismanagement in many cases and the overuse of water that has placed the environment in peril.

When you look at it through the lens of the communities that are impacted and the Tribes, there was the fish kill that took place in the Klamath where the choice was made by the President Bush that we were going to move water to the Central Valley regardless of what it did to the fish.  That is not forgotten,” she said.  “There is the Central Valley dewatering.  When you drive through I-5, it used to be wetlands, and yet you can no longer recharge in the Central Valley.  There are the pending extinctions that are in front of us.  And there’s the subsistence and cultural uses for tribes who coordinated and managed land and water biodiversity in the state of California before any of us lived here.”

Big infrastructure projects can either cause great harm or do good things.  “When we look at it, we look at the loss of environment, what it really means for California Indian people and what it means for native people is the loss of subsistence foods, cultural continuance, and the healing of tribes and tribal family,” Ms. Norris said.  “So when the Governor is talking about healing on one hand, and with the other hand is planning to remove the ability for the communities up and down that watershed to actually heal, it’s intense and it’s hard, and we’re asking the tribes to yet sacrifice another final piece that could be the piece that allows them to heal, if it’s still there for them in future generations.”

The Delta Conveyance Project is seen by the Tribes as a continuation of policies that dewater by failing to recharge aquifers and by not allowing for the seasonal flush of rivers that protect against the harmful algal blooms and don’t provide enough water for fish passage.   With tribal engagement and consultation moving forward, the tribes in the footprint area of the projects have expressed that they are disheartened.

These are their words,” said Ms. Norris.  “They said that DWR is not taking seriously its responsibility under CEQA to consider a no project alternative and that despite years of studies and Native American consultations that have occurred during previous versions of the project, DWR managers and engineers are not considering the importance and the significance of tribal cultural resources as a constraint for engineering or for siting purposes.  During tribal consultation efforts, tribes have repeatedly repeated that tribal value and cultural and ecological significance in the region and they are not being heard.  So much of the wetland region is sacred for its religious, cultural, biological, ecological and archeological resources.  The DWR presentations that are moving forward based on these consultations and conversations are not reflecting that and the tribes are dismayed.”

Tribes outside of the region in the source and receiving waters are concerned that their cultural resources, foods, and medicines will also be adversely impacted, and that they are not being engaged in state conversations,” she continued.  “So when it comes to healing and cultural continuance and traditional foods, tribes do need to be heard meaningfully, and not just to be told about what you’re going to do to them.”

When Tribes hear statements that the Delta tunnel is the obvious and only option to solve our drinking water, agriculture and climate mitigation issues, it’s really concerning because it doesn’t sound like the state is seriously considering a no Delta conveyance alternative, or looking for local solutions to water needs.”

However, Ms. Norris said they do see opportunities.  There are innovative strategies in California to fight climate change, conserve biodiversity and boost climate resilience, including agricultural reforms and choosing sustainable crops, localized water capture, desalination plants, and upland meadow restoration.  The rivers need to be flooded. There needs to be wetlands because otherwise, there’s the wildfires, so there is a connectivity there that needs to be considered, she said.

We have a choice on the table to sacrifice one resource for the other, one community for the other, but does it really have to be that choice?” said Ms. Norris.  “Because it’s being given to us as that’s the only way.  I encourage the agencies to include tribes in decision development before the state expends more funds on outcomes that might not solve our problems.  Meaningfully including tribes in solution development would be in keeping with the Governors Executive Order to allow tribes to assist in restoring tribal traditional management practices; it would support tribe to tribe conversations and intertribal coordination planning and decision making on what solutions could be put forward instead of being handed solutions and being told those are the only solutions on the table.  We need to reclaim water, restore habitat. Why are large scale conveyance projects the only solutions for California?  How has this benefitted the environment and our state’s food securities in the long term before?

Lastly, during the Water Fix, Mrs. Norris said that there was a bifurcation of environmental mitigation from the planning of the project.  “That cannot happen,” she said.  “We have to instead confirm ahead of time that expending large amounts of planning money will not result negatively on the environment.  We have to make sure that what we’re planning to do will be protective of the environment, and then come back and proceed to create the plan.  Right now, we’re doing the opposite.  We’re creating the plan and then looking to see how we can mitigate the impact.”

NEXT STEPS

As directed by the Water Resilience Portfolio, the Commission is assessing a State role in financing conveyance projects to meet the needs of a changing climate. The end product is a report with recommendations for state policymakers to consider as they weigh the financing options for water conveyance infrastructure. The paper will describe the essential criteria for resilient water conveyance projects that meet the needs of a changing climate, the potential public benefits of such projects, and the implications of various financing options.

The California Water Commission is in phase 2 of the project to determine the state’s role in financing conveyance projects which involves collecting public input.  The Commission has been hearing from panels of experts on various topics; these panel discussions will continue in the upcoming months.

The Commission will also be hosting four regional conveyance workshops to hear from the public about their particular area’s conveyance needs.  The workshops will be held:

  • Southeastern California – December 8th
  • Southern California – December 10th
  • Northern California – January 12th
  • Central California – January 26th

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