Today Californians face increased risks from flooding, water shortages, unhealthy water quality, ecosystem decline and infrastructure degradation. Many federal and state legislative acts address ways to improve water resource management, ecosystem restoration, as well as water rights settlements and strategies to oversee groundwater and surface water.
Congress has approved a sprawling bill to improve the nation’s ports, dams and harbors, protect against floods, restore shorelines and support other water-related projects. If signed by President Donald Trump, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 would authorize more than $6 billion in spending over 10 years for projects nationwide, including one to stem coastal erosion in Galveston, Texas, and restore wetlands damaged by Hurricane Harvey last year.
A law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will expand California’s requirement to test water in schools for lead to day care centers and pre-schools that serve nearly 600,000 children. The law marks the first time California’s day care centers have been required to test for lead in water. Only two other states require both K-12 schools and day care centers to do such testing.
The Senate has passed legislation that would provide $1.7 billion to help residents of the Carolinas and elsewhere recover from recent natural disasters. … The bill also makes changes to Federal Emergency Management Agency programs that would allow more disaster aid to be used on projects that reduce the damage from future storms, such as rebuilding levees and buying out landowners in flood plains.
A popular program that supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the country expired after Congress could not agree on language to extend it. Lawmakers from both parties back the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but the program lapsed Monday amid dispute over whether its renewal should be part of a broader package of land-use and parks bills.
Fifty years ago, the tide was turning in the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement was in full swing, and the cold war was raging—but American industry was booming. The United States Congress and the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, however, recognized the danger that industry and development posed, particularly to America’s rivers. Responding to that threat, President Johnson signed the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act (“the Act”) into law on October 2, 1968.
Ending years of controversy and debate, Gov. Jerry Brown late Thursday signed a new law phasing out the use of giant ocean fishing nets used to catch swordfish, but blamed for accidentally killing sea turtles, dolphins and other sea creatures. The bill, SB 1017 by state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Redondo Beach, requires the state to set up a program to buy back nets and fishing permits from commercial fishermen who work in the state’s drift gill net fishery.
A years-long disagreement between cattle ranchers and conservation groups over which grazing animals should get precedence on the grasslands covering Point Reyes National Seashore — dairy cows or native Tule elk — took a step toward being settled on Tuesday, when the House of Representatives passed a bill in favor of the ranchers.
Galvanized by court rulings protecting grizzly bears and gray wolves, Congressional Republicans on Wednesday pushed sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act despite strong objections from Democrats and wildlife advocates who called the effort a “wildlife extinction package.” Republicans began with a morning vote in the House Natural Resource Committee to strip protections from gray wolves across the contiguous U.S.
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed the nation’s first state law barring dine-in restaurants from giving customers plastic straws unless they are requested, saying discarded plastic is “choking our planet.” Brown cited the damage that discarded plastic has done to marine life and its threat to human health.
The three-bill bundle includes: … — $44.6 billion for energy and water programs, including programs to ensure nuclear stockpile readiness and spur innovation in energy research. The bill also funds flood-control projects and addresses regional ports and waterways.
The Natural Resources Committee — helmed by Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, a vocal critic of federal expansion of public lands — approved a bill that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, set to expire at the end of this month. The bill, introduced by Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva in January 2017, has languished in that committee for more than 18 months.
The House of Representatives unanimously approved America’s Water Infrastructure Act, a sprawling bill that would authorize and fund projects across the country, from bridge repairs to school drinking fountain replacements.
A Compton water district that could be abolished for delivering brown water is waging an eleventh-hour campaign for its survival. The push comes after legislation sailed through the state Assembly and Senate last month that would dismantle the Sativa Los Angeles County Water District’s five-member elected board of directors and install a new general manager by year’s end.
California officials have been pushing for more natural water storage since the last large-scale facility was built in 1979. Now they’re finally going to get it, thanks to political pressure, President Donald Trump and some congressional creativity. The House approved several provisions Thursday that help fund water storage projects. The Senate is expected to concur shortly, and Trump is expected to sign the legislation into law next week.
For more than a month, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue have been calling for a rollback of environmental regulations on forest-thinning projects they argue will help reduce the risk of wildfires, including the ones ravaging California. … Congress, however, is poised to brush aside their pleas.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed two bills that would block new offshore oil drilling in California by barring the construction of pipelines, piers, wharves or other infrastructure necessary to transport the oil and gas from federal waters to state land.
The clock is ticking down to the Sept. 30 expiration date on the [Land and Water Conservation] fund, established by Congress in 1964 to conserve open spaces, fish and wildlife habitat and cultural, historic and recreation sites. A new poll of roughly 822 owners and managers of outdoor businesses in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Montana found that eight in 10 business support reauthorizing the conservation program, speakers in a teleconference said Thursday.
An effort to impose a “voluntary” water tax on residents to pay for safe drinking water projects died in the Legislature on Friday. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said “a piecemeal funding approach” to the problem “won’t work.”
Karen Lewis knows about water problems. The 67-year-old lives in Compton, where the water coming out of her tap is tinged brown by manganese, a metal similar to iron, from old pipes. The water is supplied by the troubled Sativa Los Angeles County Water District. … Now, in the wake of the state’s prolonged drought and the notorious water crisis in Flint, Mich., a number of new solutions have been proposed in California, including a consumer water fee that people could decline to pay.
The next two days could help determine the fate of a proposal by Cadiz Inc. to pump groundwater in the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern California cities. … The state Assembly approved the measure in a 45-20 vote Wednesday evening. But the bill could face an uphill battle in the Senate, and the legislative session ends Friday night.
A last-minute effort to require more state oversight of a company’s plan to pump water from underneath the Mojave Desert passed a key committee Tuesday, advancing in the final days of the legislative session. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor, all urged lawmakers to pass it.
Environmentalists are mounting a last-minute bid in the final week of the California legislative session to revive a stalled effort to require more review for a project to pump more groundwater from the Mojave Desert. The project by Cadiz Inc. to sell that water to urban Southern California has been the subject of a long-running political drama.
Families across California unhappy about the condition of their drinking water will hold protests at the Capitol each day until the end of session. They are calling on the Legislature to pass Senate Bills 844 and 845.
Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers are rebooting an effort to pass a new tax to attack unsafe drinking water in California. But there’s a twist: The proposed tax on water bills would be voluntary, increasing its chances of success among skittish lawmakers in an election year.
Spot quiz: Of the dozens of rivers that flow through California, how many are completely undammed? Answer: Just one. (Read on to find out which.) But that number would likely be zero, were it not for a law passed by Congress 50 years ago: the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
The Senate will try this week to finish work on a spending package that’s been held up in part by sparring over a popular conservation program. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed to end debate on the minibus spending legislation last week after senators pressed for adding several policy riders, among them an extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Fishermen and environmentalists are at odds over a suite of changes to American fishing laws that was approved by the House of Representatives, and the proposal faces a new hurdle in the Senate. The House passed changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a 42-year-old set of rules designed to protect American fisheries from overharvest, on July 11, largely along party lines.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke paid a visit Friday to two reservoirs that are embroiled in an intense fight over water allocations in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. … Zinke was accompanied by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, whose two amendments to block part of the state’s “water grab” passed the House of Representatives on Thursday. Zinke, along with Congressman Tom McClintock, sat at a picnic table to talk with media at Don Pedro.
The Pentagon is objecting to a Republican proposal in a defense policy bill that would bar the Fish and Wildlife Service from using the Endangered Species Act to protect two chicken-like birds in the western half of the U.S.
Less than two weeks after state regulators announced sweeping new water allocation limits, the GOP-controlled House is expected this week to pass spending legislation that would block federal funding for that allocation plan. It also includes measures that would bar legal challenges to major water infrastructure projects in the state.
The Army Corps of Engineers will spend $74 million to enlarge Success Lake east of Porterville, doubling flood protection for the city and boosting the water supply for farmers. It’s not the only Army Corps project in the majority leader’s district that got major funding. Lake Isabella in Kern County is getting $258 million for a dam safety modification project.
In late June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 2083, which would amend the 46-year-old Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow for state fisheries managers and tribal officials to kill as many as 930 sea lions a year on the Columbia and its tributaries to protect beleaguered fish populations.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Rep. Doris Matsui’s office announced that the [Sacramento] region has been allocated nearly $1.8 billion to strengthen levees and raise Folsom Dam. … In total, the Army Corps allocated $17 billion for flood projects around the country Thursday, as part of a congressional appropriation in February.
Suction dredge mining, a practice in which individuals use vacuum-like devices to extract minerals from the bottom of waterways, has been restricted by a series of new laws passed in the California State Legislature. Earlier this year, miners’ rights groups were optimistic that a bill authored by Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, would narrow the scope of the restrictions and allow them to apply for permits to return to rivers and streams with their suction dredge equipment once again.
The U.S. Senate passed on Monday the 2019 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill, which requires an independent risk analysis of Oroville Dam. Additionally, the bill would order the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to report the findings of an independent panel reviewing the state Department of Water Resources’ dam safety practices to the Senate committee.
The Senate on Monday approved a $145 billion spending bill to fund the Energy Department and veterans’ programs for the next budget year. … The bill includes $43.8 billion for energy and water programs, including programs to ensure nuclear stockpile readiness and spur innovation in energy research. The bill also funds flood-control projects and addresses regional ports and waterways.
The Senate will vote Monday on a minibus spending bill that would fund the Department of Energy into the next fiscal year, a measure that swelled with the addition last night of an assortment of energy and resource bills. Senate leaders had hoped to pass the package — which includes the energy-water, military construction-veterans affairs and legislative branch spending measures — before leaving for the weekend.
California has always been America’s leader on environmental policy, and water is no exception. So it was hardly surprising when the state made headlines across the nation in early June with a new policy on residential water use: Californians will be limited to 55 gallons per person per day for their indoor water needs.
California’s two Democratic senators have committed themselves to opposing a controversial House provision that would block judicial review of the state’s WaterFix tunnel project, reprising a familiar Capitol Hill plot. These California water narratives start bubbling up in the House, and then they often, although not always, dry out in the Senate.
The California budget doesn’t include it, but Gov. Jerry Brown is not done pushing for a new charge on water users, which would fund clean drinking water in rural areas of the state that currently have unsafe tap water.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, got the Coyote Valley Dam project — in one 13-word sentence — on a list of feasibility studies for some 30 Corps projects from Alabama to Alaska to be expedited by the Secretary of the Army. Tucked into the 122-page Water Resources Development Act of 2018, the list was approved two weeks ago on a lopsided 408-2 vote in the House and was forwarded to the Senate.
The Senate’s stack of finished bills includes one with a notorious track record for poison pill riders: The measure that funds the EPA. That Interior-Environment bill was tripped up by partisan riders during the entire span of former President Barack Obama’s tenure, and it hasn’t reached the Senate floor since 2009.
Tuesday’s move by Sen. Lisa Murkowski extends an olive branch to Democrats and could allow the first floor debate on a key spending bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency since former President Barack Obama’s first year in office. It’s all part of an effort to avoid a catchall “omnibus” spending bill.
California is one step closer to getting a cut of $2.5 billion over the next decade for its water needs now that the House has passed a bill aimed at funding water research and infrastructure projects.
Recognizing that complying with federal requirements can cause water utilities to raise rates, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced a bill this week aimed at helping low-income households pay their bills.
A proposed tax on California’s drinking water, designed to clean up contaminated water for thousands of Californians, was abandoned by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders Friday as part of the compromise on the state budget. Lawmakers and Brown’s office scrapped the “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act,” which would have taxed residents 95 cents a month to raise millions for cleaning toxic wells.
On Thursday, Brown signed two bills, SB 606 by Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and AB 1668 by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), that require cities, water districts and large agricultural water districts to set strict annual water budgets …The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District — which serves approximately two-thirds of county residents across several municipalities and community services districts — initially opposed the legislation unless it was amended.
The House on Wednesday night approved a nearly $3 billion bill to improve the nation’s ports, dams and harbors, protect against floods, restore shorelines and support other water-related projects. … Lawmakers approved the bill [Water Resources Development Act] 408-2, sending it to the Senate, where a similar bill is under consideration.
Proposition 68 was approved with 56 percent of the vote to authorize the state to borrow $4.1 billion for investments in outdoor recreation, land conservation and water projects, according to the latest results Wednesday morning.
Taking aim at two water-conservation laws signed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown, a conspiratorial far-right financial blog called Zero Hedge reported Sunday that Californians could be fined $1,000 a day if they bathe and wash their clothes on the same day.
As more than a million Americans face losing food stamps under President Trump’s vision for reauthorizing the farm bill, his vow to wean families off dependence doesn’t apply to thousands of others who have been relying much of their adult lives on payments from the government’s sprawling agriculture program.
With the help of emergency funding requested by Assembly member Joaquin Arambula (D-Kingsburg), whose largely rural district is in the [San Joaquin] valley, the emergency water supply program will likely continue another year at a cost of $3.5 million. Also included in the emergency relief efforts is $10 million to address failing domestic wells and septic tanks, and $10 million for the Drinking Water for Schools Program that funds treatment solutions for schools that struggle with contamination.
For the first time in the state’s history, California is setting permanent water-consumption goals to prepare for future droughts and climate change, with a local elected official involved in the historic move. Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) introduced Assembly Bill 1668, one of the bills signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday.
Although he declared an end to California’s historic five-year drought last year, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed two new laws that will require cities and water districts across the state to set permanent water conservation rules, even in non-drought years. “In preparation for the next drought and our changing environment, we must use our precious resources wisely,” Brown said in a statement.
An estimated 360,000 Californians are served by water systems with unsafe drinking water, according to a McClatchy analysis of data compiled by the State Water Resources Control Board. … Now, after years of half solutions, the state is considering its most comprehensive actions to date. Gov. Jerry Brown has asked the Legislature to enact a statewide tax on drinking water to fix wells and treatment systems in distressed communities.
Legislation that creates a fund to help remove derelict commercial vessels from the Delta passed the Assembly on Wednesday. It was one of two bills authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Discovery Bay, to clear the Assembly and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Two bills proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher, one of which would have taken the State Water Project from the state Department of Water Resources and another which would have provided funding for school resource officers, failed on Friday to pass through the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
More than half a dozen bills aimed at plastic pollution were introduced in Sacramento this year alone — by both coastal legislators and more moderate inland colleagues who see the potential damage not just in oceans but also rivers, lakes and the state’s water supply. No one, they said, wants to drink a glass of water and wonder if they’re also downing a glass of plastic.
When my [Leo Heller] predecessor, Catarina de Albuquerque, visited California, what she found shocked her. Drinking water conditions were akin to those typically seen in a developing country: families without an acceptable level of safe drinking water or sanitation; exposed pipes running through irrigation ditches; crumbling or nonexistent infrastructure.
The high-ranking lawmaker who wants to block judicial review of a massive California water tunnels project calls his maneuver something close to standard operating procedure. And, like it or not, he’s right. In the latest example of a controversial tactic, the chairman of a key House panel included language blocking judicial review of California’s WaterFix project in a fiscal 2019 Interior Department funding package.
The Legislature created the Department of Water Resources in 1956 for the purpose of managing the State Water Project, then in its early stages of planning. … AB 3045 would create a new State Water Project Commission under the state’s Natural Resources Agency to run the project – the agency, whose secretary serves in the governor’s cabinet, has broad authority over DWR.
The controversy over Nestlé’s bottled water operation in the San Bernardino National Forest has prompted a review of the company’s federal permit, a lawsuit and an investigation by California regulators. Now, Nestlé’s continued piping of water out of the San Bernardino Mountains has become an issue in a congressional campaign.
Californians this year will vote on not one but two water bond measures totaling $13 billion. Given that the state still hasn’t spent all of the $7.5 billion from the Proposition 1 water bond passed in 2014, it raises a crucial question: Does California really need another $13 billion in water bonds?
California cities and towns may find themselves on a water budget in the next decade under a pair of bills approved Thursday by the legislature. The measures follow Gov. Jerry Brown’s call to make water conservation a permanent way of life in a state long accustomed to jewel-green lawns and suburban tracts studded with swimming pools.
California voters are being asked to weigh in on new borrowing, new government restrictions and a drought-friendly tax break on the statewide primary ballots that will be counted June 5. There are five propositions in all, a small menu of proposed laws all written by the California Legislature.
Amid all the excitement around marijuana legalization in America, another newly legal crop has received comparatively little attention: hemp. And yet hemp may prove to be even more transformative, especially in the West’s arid landscapes. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant that is not psychoactive.
On Tuesday, veteran Rep. Ken Calvert of Riverside County released a 142-page draft spending bill for fiscal year 2019 for the Interior Department and related agencies. Tucked into the bill, on page 141, is a brief provision that would prohibit state or federal lawsuits against “the Final Environmental Impact Report/Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan/California Water Fix … and any resulting agency decision, record of decision, or similar determination.”
With the release of California’s budget trailer bill came proposed new legislation on Friday that would add an Administrative Hearing Office within the State Water Resources Control Board. If passed, the newly formed Administrative Hearing Office would provide a neutral, fair and efficient forum for adjudications.
Advocates gathered in Merced, and similar demonstrations were held around the state, according to advocates, to get elected officials to support Senate Bill 623, which aims to provide a stable source of funding to implement California’s Human Rights to Water, Assembly Bill 685 from 2012.
San Diego is the only city in California seeking state reimbursement for testing the toxic lead levels in water at local schools, which has cost the city’s water agency more than $400,000. … The requirement, which came in response to a national outcry over lead in drinking water at schools in Michigan, immediately prompted complaints from water agencies that it was an unfunded mandate by the state.
For Fresno County resident Anne Schmidtgall the California drought never ended. Two years ago, the well on her property east of Del Rey went dry when the casing caved in. … Two weeks ago, Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, testified before an Assembly budget subcommittee requesting $23.5 million be added to the state budget for water needs.
Gaps in funding for water treatment are a major problem in California. Water providers operate independently, relying virtually entirely on customer fees to cover costs. For agencies with scale, money and access to quality water sources, this model works well. But absent those resources, contamination persists for years without resolution.
The final stretch of the McCloud River before it empties into the state’s largest reservoir is a place of raw beauty. … This part of the McCloud is off limits to almost everyone except a few Native Americans and some well-heeled fly fishermen. Its gatekeeper is an unlikely one, an organization that also happens to be a hugely controversial player in California water politics.
Spurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery.
The U.S. House approved a bill Wednesday that would reverse a federal judge’s order to spill more water from four Pacific Northwest dams to help migrating salmon reach the Pacific Ocean. The bill, approved 225-189, would prevent any changes in dam operations until 2022.
A bill proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher which would take the State Water Project out of the hands of the state Department of Water Resources passed unanimously on Tuesday through a legislative committee. Assembly Bill 3045 passed 15-0 through the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and is now headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
There are 34 storage facilities, 30 dams, 23 pumping plants and nine hydroelectric power generation plants that are part of the California State Water Project, and the Department of Water Resources is in charge of not only operating but also of inspecting all of them. Local Assemblyman James Gallagher says that’s a conflict of interest, and a bill he’s pushing looks to take some of that authority away from DWR.
California voters may be asked this year to approve $13 billion in two separate water bonds that promise to pay for safe drinking water and improve flood protection. Proposition 68, the California Clean Water and Safe Parks Act, is a $4.1 billion measure and is already set for the June 5 ballot. The Water Supply and Water Quality Act is an $8.9 billion measure and could come up for a vote in November.
[Rep. Susan] Davis, a San Diego Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, has grown concerned about untreated sewage leaking from Tijuana’s aging and overworked wastewater collection and treatment system, a problem exacerbated by surges of fecal contamination when Mexican pipes break, pumps fail and rain falls.
President Trump has aimed to undo much of the Obama administration’s policy on energy and climate. … One could argue that any of the leading candidates in the 2016 Republican primary would have taken similar actions in the climate and energy space. What is needed now, we argue, is momentum toward bipartisan climate legislation in Congress that could outlast the back-and-forth on regulations.
State lawmakers got the memo in advance. The theme of Earth Day (Sunday, April 22) is “End Plastic Pollution,” but California legislators are already on the case. Four years ago, they made California the first state to ban single-use plastic grocery sacks — and 52 percent of voters agreed with the law in a 2016 referendum.
The Tahoe-Truckee area’s water agencies say they oppose a budget trailer bill that is part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2018-19 budget. The bill, according to the Association of California Water Agencies, is essentially a modified form of State Bill 623, dubbed the “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fee.”
Every five years, a bipartisan farm bill is passed by Congress that impacts people nationwide and right here at home. On Thursday, a draft of the legislation was released by the House Agriculture Committee. While the bill is welcomed by many, some called it a betrayal to rural families.
Congress and the Trump administration are pushing ahead with a plan to raise a towering symbol of dam-building’s 20th century heyday to meet the water demands of 21st century California — a project backed by San Joaquin Valley growers but opposed by state officials, defenders of a protected river and an American Indian tribe whose sacred sites would be swamped.
First put forward as Senate Bill 623, then later slipped into the governor’s 2018-19 budget as a trailer bill, the [Safe and Affordable Drinking Water] fund’s purpose is to cover an estimated $140 million each year in improvements and ongoing maintenance in water systems that are out of compliance with water quality standards. The proposed Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund is fueling increased debate in California’s water community and in the Capitol.
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot. Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
A $1.3 trillion spending package approved Thursday by the House and early Friday by the Senate includes nearly $448 million for Environmental Protection Agency programs benefiting regional waters degraded by pollution, overdevelopment and exotic species invasions. … Aside from the Great Lakes, those staying at their current levels include Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay …
[Idaho Rep. Mike] Simpson, who chairs an Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development, called the wildfire fund one of the most significant pieces of legislation he has worked on in Congress. The concept is simple, he said: Treat catastrophic wildfires like other natural disasters.
A bill introduced by Sen. Jim Nielsen that would create a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam was amended in the Senate last week. This comes as the Oroville Dam Coalition has been lobbying over the past year for more community involvement, including through a citizens oversight committee, as a reaction to the spillway crisis in February 2017.
Democrats in Congress have stalled an attempt to jump start an expansion of Shasta Dam, California’s largest reservoir and a major water source for the Central Valley. Their objections blocked a Republican gambit to allow the $1.3 billion project to move forward without full up-front funding and despite objections from Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.
California’s seismic construction requirements are designed to protect the lives of those inside. But even with the most modern codes, building to the state’s minimum requirements would leave even new buildings severely damaged in a major earthquake — to the point of being a complete loss.
The State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to impose permanent conservation rules – such as prohibiting hosing down driveways, watering lawns less than two days after it rains and washing a car without attaching a shut-off nozzle to the hose – ran into a cascade of opposition.
Under the rules of the Endangered Species Act, once a species is discovered to be at risk of extinction, government agencies are required by law to take steps to save it. For years, critics have challenged that mandate, arguing that it undercuts the ability to weigh a species’ value or to consider the economic impact of its preservation — for instance, the cost of prohibiting logging in a valuable tract of forest.
As part of his final budget proposal, Gov. Jerry Brown wants new fees on water to provide clean and affordable drinking water to the approximately 1 million Californians who are exposed to contaminated water in their homes and communities each year. … About 100 state residents who lack access to clean drinking water will head to the Capitol today and join with several lawmakers to support Brown’s proposal …
Less than 1 percent of recent drinking water samples at California’s public schools showed elevated lead levels. But thousands more campuses still need to be tested, state officials said last week. A new law, AB 746, took effect in January requiring those tests at public schools over the next 16 months.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday that seeks to beef up dam inspections following a near disaster that caused the evacuation of almost 200,000 people living downstream from the tallest one in the United States. The measure implements several recommendations from experts who reviewed the crisis at Oroville Dam last year.
The manager of a San Joaquin Valley water district seen as a model for how to manage toxic agricultural runoff was jailed last week in Fresno on charges of embezzlement and burying 86 drums of toxic waste on the water district’s property.
Water scarcity seems likely to be a recurring part of our future. Legislators in Sacramento, therefore, would be remiss to delay the adoption of a group of bills that would place the state on a path to ensuring more sustainable water supplies.
Everyone knows about the risk from Oroville Dam after the spillway crisis, but most of the dams in the north valley are considered to have a high-hazard potential. … New requirements for these high-risk dams, including annual inspections, will come into play if Gov. Jerry Brown signs the dam safety bill on his desk soon.
Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are starting to shape the 2018 farm bill – a comprehensive food and agriculture bill passed about every five years. Most observers associate the farm bill with food policy, but its conservation section is the single largest source of funding for soil, water and wildlife conservation on private land in the United States.
A bipartisan group of members of Congress from California and other Western states had been pushing a policy fix that would create a new funding stream to fight fires, leaving more money for the U.S. Park Service to manage forests and prevent fires. Under current law, firefighting is not funded out of the same natural disaster account used to respond to hurricanes or tornadoes.
From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Bureau of Land Management oversees some of the nation’s most prized natural resources: vast expanses of public lands rich in oil, gas, coal, grazing for livestock, habitat for wildlife, hunting ranges, fishing streams and hiking trails.
In the United States, the largest single source of public conservation funding comes from an unexpected piece of legislation: the farm bill. Although the bulk of the farm bill focuses on commodity subsidies and nutrition assistance, the most recent version allocated more than $5 billion in annual funding for various conservation programs. The farm bill is also a venue to set policy and pilot new programs that grow conservation on working lands in order to balance production of crops, timber, and livestock with environmental quality.
Citing the need for more deliberation, California regulators delayed publication of a report that will outline their preferred plan to fund and manage a statewide program to help poor residents pay their water bills. As water rates increase in the United States, governments and utilities are exploring new forms of financial aid.
Worried about California’s dry winter? Interested in installing a rainwater capture system from your roof? A new state ballot measure written by an East Bay lawmaker and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown late Wednesday will put the issue before voters in four months.
A key deadline has passed to solve the irrigation drainage problem that caused massive bird deaths and deformities at Kesterson wildlife refuge. But a Westlands Water District official said Congress is still on track to pass legislation benefiting both the district, which delivers water to farms over an area the size of Rhode Island, and the federal government.
Dozens of Californians lost their lives in wildfires and other natural disasters in recent months. In response to the widespread emergencies, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators want to change insurance rules, emergency alert systems and debris removal policies and spend more money on fire protection.
California’s sweeping effort to regulate groundwater extraction is still in its infancy. But many community groups are already concerned that too little is being done to involve low-income and disadvantaged residents in managing aquifers dominated by agriculture. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, adopted in 2014, was a Herculean achievement for California.
Everyone in California would pay a monthly tax of 95 cents on their water bills, if SB 623 were to become law in its current form. The bill was introduced last year by Sen. William Monning of Carmel. It became a two-year bill available for passage in 2018.
A full slate of bills related to public lands, energy development and wildlife management are teed up for action when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill in 2018, and some of those bills may get taken up early in the year.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, the United States Senate has unanimously passed the Save Our Seas Act of 2017, which would reauthorize the NOAA Marine Debris Program for five years and encourage international cooperation to prevent and clean up plastic pollution.
The House Resources Committee has approved five different bills its members say will modernize the Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973. Critics accurately say the bills would gut the law, which hasn’t had a major rewrite since the 1980s. The law is a powerful statement in defense of creation that requires the federal government to protect all species, a message that goes all the way back to Noah’s Ark.
This year, the annual bill governing national defense policy almost settled a three-decades-old conflict in California over the drainage of toxic water from farm fields. Lawmakers finished resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions of the military bill, legislation that addresses troop numbers and overseas operations, on Nov. 8.
Participants of this tour snake along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.
Recognizing widespread public concern over drinking water contamination, Congress approved a five-year, $7-million study of the human health consequences of perfluorinated compounds, a class of chemicals that came to national prominence in the last two years amid detection in the water of hundreds of communities, households, and military bases.
Restoration and protection of forested source watersheds is a proven tool to reduce flood intensity, increase water supply and storage, improve timing and amount of water releases – especially for the hot summer months – and improve water quality. … In 2016, California enacted my [Assembly member Richard Bloom] bill, Assembly Bill 2480, which acknowledged the importance of these water banks as the essential complement to our built water system infrastructure.
This year, the annual bill governing national defense policy almost settled a three-decades-old conflict in California over toxic water draining from farm fields. Lawmakers finished resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions of the military bill, legislation that addresses troop numbers and overseas operations, on Wednesday.
California’s most important federal water reform law – the Central Valley Project Improvement Act – will celebrate its 25th anniversary on October 30. … The law was an historic effort to protect and restore California’s wetlands, rivers, migratory waterbirds, salmon and other fish species, and also to promote more sustainable water supplies for a drought prone state.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, would define hydropower as a renewable energy source and streamline the way projects are licensed, with primary authority granted to a single federal agency. Lawmakers approved the bill Wednesday, 257-166.
Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, Monday introduced to a bill that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct an additional environmental review of the Oroville Dam. The congressmen would like to see a review done before the commission approves the relicensing of the dam under state Department of Water Resources’ management.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s office is pushing a series of controversial proposals to overhaul state water management. One reason is to assure investors that Arizona has enough water for future economic development.
House Republicans are targeting environmental rules to allow faster approval for tree cutting in national forests in response to the deadly wildfires in California. … The GOP bill is one of at least three being considered in Congress to address wildfires.
In what one economic development expert calls a “unique case” of a tribe’s water rights claims being backed by all players, Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake on September 7 filed a new bill to ratify the Hualapai Tribe’s water settlement, an agreement negotiated between the tribe, Arizona, the federal government and others. … The bill, if enacted, will provide the tribe with 4,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water.
An unprecedented wave of destructive hurricanes has brought the long-struggling federal flood insurance program to the brink. Now Congress faces tough questions about whether to again bail out the nearly 50-year-old program and how to implement reforms to make it more sustainable, secure and cost-effective.
This was a busy year for water policy in the California Legislature. Governor Jerry Brown signed more than a dozen bills affecting the way we manage water. The bills cover a wide range of issues, from funding water infrastructure to reporting on new groundwater wells in overdrafted basins.
The way water is acquired and distributed throughout the Santa Clarita Valley changed forever Sunday when Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill creating one new all-encompassing water district for the SCV.
Thursday’s package, which the Senate could take up when it returns next week, includes money for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s nearly empty Disaster Relief Fund and for the financially-struggling National Flood Insurance Program.
Now, as a series of deadly fires rages in Wine Country, serious questions are once again being asked about the safety of overhead electrical wires in a state prone to drought and fierce winds. On Wednesday, Cal Fire said that investigators have started looking into whether toppled power wires and exploding transformers Sunday night may have ignited the simultaneous string of blazes.
At the root of the problem is the fact that forest fires are not treated like other natural disasters. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can tap emergency funds for hurricane or tornado response, the U.S. Forest Service has to raid its other program budgets – including fire prevention – if it runs out of firefighting funds.
If you want a new well in California, you might have to let your neighbors know how much water you plan to pump. That’s if it’s tapping a critically overused aquifer, and if a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk survives calls for a veto.
Year after year, owners of professional sports teams and developers of proposed skyscrapers have pleaded with California lawmakers to grant relief for their projects from the state’s environmental regulations. They’ve found a largely receptive audience.
It was 11:59pm last Friday, and Assembly Bill 313 sat silently in the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it had slumbered untouched for weeks. … It’s a bill backed by water agencies and despised by environmentalists – and its passage was crucial to the fate of the four-billion-dollar parks and water bond.
Immigration and housing dominated the headlines from Sacramento this year. But with little fanfare, state lawmakers working with Gov. Jerry Brown also approved a sweeping measure to provide $4.1 billion in new funding for parks and water projects — everything from building Bay Area hiking trails to expanding Lake Tahoe beaches to constructing new inner city parks in Los Angeles.
The north state assemblyman who represents Oroville, where the threat of a dam collapse in February forced 188,000 downstream residents to evacuate, is racing to tighten inspection standards before the end of the legislative session Friday night.
Late last week, we suggested watching this space for possible revival of Assembly Bill 1000, legislation to halt a controversial water-pumping project in the Mojave Desert that’s being pushed by the politically connected firm Cadiz, Inc.
Earlier this month, a proposed bond measure in the California Legislature had included $280 million to pay for building thousands of acres of ponds, wetlands and other dust-control projects around the Salton Sea. This week, after negotiations among lawmakers, the amount earmarked for the Salton Sea was slashed to $200 million.
As state lawmakers debate far-reaching bills that could reshape the energy landscape in California and across the West, some groups are urging the Legislature to require new geothermal power plants at the Salton Sea before a key deadline Tuesday* night — but those groups can’t agree on what the geothermal mandate should look like.
Though the nation’s first state law to assure the human right to safe water and sanitation was enacted in California in 2012, not much happened immediately afterward. The law existed in a dormant state, like a seed waiting for a storm. The storm eventually came, but, as it happened, it was a lack of rain that brought the seed to flower.
Soon after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, a page on climate change vanished from the White House website, sending a chill through the scientific community. Within weeks, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, proposed a bill to protect whistleblowers and safeguard data collected by scientists …
Hurricane Harvey is sure to add more crushing debt to the National Flood Insurance Program, which is already $25 billion in the red. So when Congress resumes on Tuesday, will it immediately act to fix this troubled program?
As torrential rains and dangerous flood waters pummel large swaths of Texas and parts of Louisiana, California lawmakers are eying legislation to prevent similar damage from from the state’s own disasters.
The devastation Hurricane Harvey has wrought in southeastern Texas has brought new focus to the National Flood Insurance Program — and to a pending Republican effort to restructure and partially privatize an industry that has been effectively subsidized with tens of billions of federal taxpayer dollars.
Under the bill, the National Park Service would be prevented from regulating the hunting of bears and wolves in Alaska wildlife preserves, including the practice of killing bear cubs in their dens. It also would be prevented from regulating commercial and recreational fishing within park boundaries and from commenting on development projects outside park boundaries that could affect the parks.
Tom Steyer, the San Francisco billionaire and environmentalist, promised his support Tuesday for a proposed safe and affordable drinking water fund to help communities with contaminated water in the San Joaquin Valley. … Steyer met with about a dozen water advocates at the nonprofit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability in downtown Fresno who urged him to throw his clout behind Senate Bill 623.
Though it may not stop the state’s Twin Tunnels project from diverting Delta water down south, Congressman Jerry McNerney hopes his new bill to invest in recycling projects will ensure water districts are frugal with the essential, but limited resource.
As California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown work to hammer out an affordable housing deal that includes a multi-billion dollar bond measure, they’re also negotiating a parks and water bond that would advance at the same time.
The measure, called the “Gaining Responsibility on Water Act” or GROW Act, has already passed the US House, largely along party lines. Supporters, including many Central Valley Republicans and farmers, say it would cut the red tape that prevents dams and water storage projects from being built.
A bill making its way through the state Legislature is seeking to improve quality and access to drinking water quality by creating a new state fund, but some local entities are opposing how the bill plans to raise money for this goal.
This legislation might be hard to swallow: Lawmakers are considering a bill that would clear the way for California communities to put highly treated wastewater directly into the drinking water supply. … Jennifer Bowles, executive director of the Water Education Foundation, said the California public is more open to the idea of recycling water these days because of the recent five-year drought.
As California water becomes an increasingly precious and contentious resource, the state needs an umpire with the power to enforce laws against illegal diversions and protect the rights of the public and others with enforceable claims to state water.
Republican-backed federal legislation with strong support from agricultural communities in California aims to eradicate salmon from much of the San Joaquin River. It will nullify numerous laws protecting wetlands and waterways in order to provide farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta with more northern California water.
Shirlee Zane, the chairwoman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, is set to appear before a Congressional panel in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss the county’s efforts to better manage its water supply and respond to major storms. … Zane intends to tell senators about two initiatives led by the Sonoma County Water Agency, of which she is also a board member.
As the summer sun was warming up on a July morning, a crowd of nearly 100 people gathered on the north steps of the California Capitol, many having arrived stiff-legged after a four-hour bus ride. … Most were San Joaquin Valley residents, including children as young as 5, who woke up before dawn to travel to the state capital to voice their support for Senate Bill 623, the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
Work to strengthen Oroville Dam, shore up downstream levees and other types of flood-prevention projects would be eligible for fast-tracked state approval under new California legislation lawmakers will consider when they return from summer recess next month.
The drought may be over and Central Valley farmers are getting more water than they have in years, but that hasn’t stopped congressional Republicans from resurrecting a bill that would strip environmental protections for fish so more water can be funneled to agriculture. … Some version of [Rep. David] Valadao’s bill has been introduced off and on since 2011 without success.
One of the biggest backers for building new dams and reservoirs in California is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. … As part of his push for the bill, H.R. 23, McCarthy made a claim about the dearth of water storage construction in the state in recent decades.
With a friend in the White House and their party in control of both chambers of Congress, House Republicans have embarked on their most ambitious effort yet to change the way water flows in California. Legislation that the House sent to the Senate last week outlines a bold effort to build big new dams and shift water from fish, birds and other wildlife to farms in the San Joaquin Valley.
The Endangered Species Act will come in for a spanking and a possible face-lift Wednesday as the House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on five ESA-related bills. Authored by four Republicans and one rural Democrat, the individual measures pick away at several pieces of the 1973 law that’s outlasted many previous congressional forays.
[U.S. Rep. Jerry] McNerney’s bill comes at a crucial time, as various government agencies and water districts make a series of decisions this summer and fall about whether the $17 billion tunnels project should move forward.
Whatever the prognosticators say, the latest effort by south San Joaquin Valley Republicans to wring more water out of the Delta is undeniably ambitious. A bill that cleared the House of Representatives last week requires the Delta to be governed by 20-year-old water quality standards that scientists say are inadequate for the estuary’s freshwater ecosystem.
Congress is considering sweeping changes to the debt-laden National Flood Insurance Program that could jack up flood insurance rates for hundreds of thousands of homeowners under a bill that a Florida real estate group called “devastating.”
The battle over plans by a Los Angeles company to sell water pumped from aquifers underneath Mojave Desert conservation areas heated up again this week when state legislation was amended to require a new round of state reviews.
State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, says the state needs millions more to help protect the [Salton Sea's] sensitive ecosystem. A pair of measures advancing in the Legislature aim to speed up state restoration efforts, and ask voters next year to approve a $500 million general obligation bond to improve environmental and air quality conditions.
The SGMA [Sustainable Groundwater Management Act] is now kicking into gear as its first major deadline arrives: By June 30, counties and regional water managers must form “groundwater sustainability agencies,” or GSAs – the task forces that will eventually be responsible for developing their own sustainable groundwater use plans. Districts that fail or choose not to create a GSA will be subject to intervention by the State Water Resources Control Board.
About 31,069 acres of rugged, pristine mountain land, plus 25 miles of year-round waterways located within the Angeles National Forest would be granted federal protection as wilderness areas and scenic rivers, according to a bill introduced Friday in Congress.