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.
Making water conservation a way of life – that was the topic
during a symposium, Tuesday, sponsored by the Water Association
of Kern County. The discussion focused on the challenges
of complying with new state laws that will set water
conservation targets for homeowners and businesses.
The restoration site is one of three south of the
U.S.-Mexico border, in the riparian corridor along the last
miles of the Colorado River. There, in the delta, a small
amount of water has been reserved for nature, returned to
an overallocated river whose flow has otherwise been
claimed by cities and farms. Although water snakes through
an agricultural canal system to irrigate the restoration sites,
another source is increasingly important for restoring these
patches of nature in the delta’s riparian corridor:
The Gila River Indian Community is threatening to blow up the
drought-contingency plan because of efforts it says will
undermine its claim to water rights. House Speaker Rusty Bowers
is proposing changes to state laws in a way he said will
protect the rights of farmers in the Safford Valley who have
been “scratching it out” to water from the Gila River. But
attorney Don Pongrace, who represents the Gila River Indian
Community, said … courts have ruled those rights — and the
water that goes with it — belong to the tribe.
The State Water Resources Control Board has proposed flow
requirements for rivers that feed the Delta based on a
percentage of ‘unimpaired flows… If approved, this
‘unimpaired flows’ approach would have significant impacts on
farms, communities throughout California and the environment.
We join many other water agencies in our belief that
alternative measures …
The Trump administration’s bid to restrict the Clean Water
Act’s reach over streams and wetlands is backed by an …
assumption that 29 states “may” or are “likely” to bolster
dredge and fill regulations as federal oversight retreats.
… Thus far, only California has made moves toward
beefing up its wetlands protections.
Longstanding urban-rural tensions over a proposed drought plan
have escalated after Pinal County farmers stepped up their
request for state money for well-drilling to replace Colorado
River water deliveries. “Enough is enough,” responded 10
Phoenix-area cities through a spokesman. They say the state has
already pledged millions to the farms for well drilling, and
plenty of water to boot.
When it comes to water, the lifeblood of the Central Valley,
Democrats don’t have all the answers. So says freshman
Representative Josh Harder, suddenly one of the most powerful
Democrats in these parts. … “We need to make sure we’re
all working together to advance the agenda of the Central
Valley,” continued Harder, 32, of Turlock. “I was very
encouraged to see some of the measures the Trump
administration put forward on water.”
Without a change in how the Colorado River is managed, Lake
Powell is headed toward becoming a “dead pool,” essentially
useless as a reservoir while revealing a sandstone wonderland
once thought drowned forever by humanity’s insatiable desire to
bend nature to its will. … Absent cutbacks to deliveries
to the Lower Basin, a day could come when water managers may
have little choice but to lower the waters that have inundated
Utah’s Glen Canyon for the past half-century.
For decades, the New River has flowed north across the
U.S.-Mexico border carrying toxic pollution and the stench of
sewage. Now lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento are pursuing
legislation and funding to combat the problems. “I feel very
optimistic that we’re going to be able to get some things done
on the New River issue,” said Assemblymember Eduardo
With Lake Mead now 39 percent full and approaching a first-ever
shortage, Western states that rely on the Colorado River are
looking to Arizona to sign a deal aimed at reducing the risk of
the reservoir crashing. The centerpiece of Gov. Ducey’s
proposed legislation is a resolution giving Arizona Department
of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke the authority to
sign the Drought Contingency Plan. The package of proposed
bills also would appropriate $35 million and
tweak existing legislation to make the plan work.
California’s new governor looked at the rainfall and saw
millions of dollars in uncollected water taxes going right down
the drain. In one of his first moves as chief executive, Newsom
declared that he wants to tax the state’s drinking water, in
order to give poor people access to safe and affordable water.
I guess this is his idea of trickle-down economics.
A declining Colorado River in Arizona. Orcas and salmon stocks
in Washington state. Forest restoration in Idaho to protect
drinking water sources from wildfire. And renewable energy
seemingly everywhere. These are some of the water issues that
U.S. governors have mentioned in their 2019 State of the State
speeches. The speeches, usually given at the beginning of the
legislative session, outline budget or policy priorities for
the coming year.
The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water
Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the
measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee
meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted
barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more
complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been
hashing out for months.
The confluence of California’s two great rivers, the Sacramento
and the San Joaquin, creates the largest estuary on the West
Coast of the Americas. Those of us who live here call it,
simply, the Delta. It is part of my very fiber, and it is
essential to California’s future. That’s why we must save it.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California …
began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from
Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A.
takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger
emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are
they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show
turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy
and broke the story for Politico Pro.
A proposed Colorado River drought plan that will cost well over
$100 million is just the beginning of what’s needed to protect
the over-allocated river, says Bruce Babbitt, the former
governor who rammed through Arizona’s last big water
legislation nearly four decades ago. After Gov. Doug Ducey
urged legislators to “do the heavy lifting” and pass the
proposed drought-contingency plan for the Colorado, Babbitt
said Monday that authorities will have to start discussing a
much longer-term plan immediately after it’s approved.
The budget specifically calls out funding for Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water. It discusses the need to find a
stable funding source for long-term operation and maintenance
of drinking water systems in disadvantaged communities, stating
that existing loan and grant programs are limited to capital
A Bureau of Reclamation program awards grants to water
districts and other project sponsors seeking to reuse water and
add to supplies. From 1992 through 2017, it awarded about $715
million for 46 construction projects and 71 studies. Nearly all
of the funding—about $703 million—went for construction
projects that recycled water.
While most Californians believe strongly that all Californians
should have safe drinking water, most Californians don’t
understand the breadth of contaminants that impact communities
throughout the state, and how significant those impacts are.
Specific details have not yet emerged on Newsom’s plan, but
it’s expected to be similar to a rejected 2018 proposal from
state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, to tax residential customers
95 cents a month to help fund water improvements in rural
farming communities in the Central Valley and throughout the
state. It would raise about $110 million to get clean water to
what the McClatchy News Service estimated last year to be
360,000 people without such access. Others looking at the
problem see it as much worse.
A bipartisan bill in Congress would designate PFAS
chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund program,
allowing federal agencies to clean up sites contaminated
by harmful fluorinated compounds. Health officials
have said continued exposure to
certain PFAS chemicals in drinking water could harm
human health. Studies link exposure to developmental effects on
fetuses, cancer and liver and immunity function, among other
Arizona legislators and staff are attending closed-door primers
on water policy in advance of a critical January 31 federal
deadline for the state to approve the Drought Contingency Plan.
The first of three meetings occurred on Friday afternoon and
lasted two and a half hours. The session was led by Central
Arizona Project general manager Ted Cooke and Arizona
Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, if he is to successfully steer the state
into the future, has to bring to his water agenda the same
steely-eyed, reality-based drive that the two previous
governors brought to limiting carbon emissions. It is
time for the state to respond to its water challenge with the
same sense of urgency with which it adopted Assembly Bill 32,
the landmark law capping greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006.
Up against a federal deadline to approve a Colorado River
drought plan — a “generational change” in Arizona water
management — four key legislators say they’re optimistic
they’ll meet it. Led by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa
Republican, they see the Legislature as ready — finally — to
officially endorse the plan. That’s even though competing water
interest groups still have highly visible disagreements about
The House approved legislation that would fund and reopen the
Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest
Service in an 240-179 vote on Friday, the latest effort by
Democrats to put pressure on Republicans and President Trump to
end the partial shutdown. … Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not bring any of
the bills up to a vote in the Senate until there is a deal
between Trump and Democrats on the president’s demand for
border wall funding.
California’s failure to provide safe, affordable drinking water
to the remaining roughly 1% of residents is probably the most
solvable and affordable of California’s many difficult water
problems. There will always be isolated small systems
with vexing problems, but the number of Californians currently
without access to safe affordable drinking water is
embarrassing and irresponsibly high.
Tackling what promises to be a controversial issue, Gov. Gavin
Newsom proposed a tax on drinking water Thursday to help
disadvantaged communities clean up contaminated water systems.
Newsom’s plan for a “safe and affordable drinking water fund,”
included in the new governor’s first budget proposal, attempts
to revive an idea that died in the Legislature last year.
With a federal deadline to sign a Colorado River drought deal
three weeks away, Arizona water managers are still
grappling with several unresolved issues that could get in the
way of finishing an agreement. The outstanding issues,
some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’
concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up
funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to
pump more groundwater.
Congressman John Garamendi, D-3rd District, has
reintroduced the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National
Heritage Area Act along with a handful of other
representatives. A National Heritage Area designation would
authorize $10 million in federal funding over 15 years to
provide matching grants to local governments, historical
societies, and community nonprofit organizations throughout the
One of the Water Education Foundation’s most popular
events, Water 101 offers a once-a-year opportunity for anyone
new to California water issues or newly elected to a water
district board – and anyone who wants a refresher — to
gain a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious
natural resource. It will be held Feb. 7 at McGeorge School of
Law in Sacramento.
Gov. Doug Ducey used his second inaugural speech Monday to
exhort lawmakers and others with a claim to Colorado River
water to approve a drought contingency plan before a solution
is imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s simple: Arizona
and our neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado
River than Mother Nature puts back,” the governor told his
audience. “And with critical shortfall imminent, we cannot kick
the can any further.”
Saying it will continue to protect environmentally sensitive
waterways such as wetlands in California, even if federal
protections on waters of the U.S. are limited, the State Water
Resources Control Board has unveiled a final draft on how it
plans to regulate dredge-and-fill activities in the state.
The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has spent
five years drafting a comprehensive update to 30 sections of
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
guidelines. Several changes to the Guidelines address two
hot button topics: global climate change and statewide
affordable housing shortages. Many of the changes will
significantly alter the application of CEQA to future projects.
As his term as governor drew to a close, Jerry Brown brokered a
historic agreement among farms and cities to surrender billions
of gallons of water to help ailing fish. He also made two big
water deals with the Trump administration. It added up to
a dizzying display of deal-making. Yet as Gavin Newsom takes
over as governor, the state of water in California seems as
unsettled as ever.
The State Water Resources Control Board will accept public
comments on the draft report on Options for Implementation of a
Statewide Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Program. The report
analyzes options for the design, funding, and administration of
a program as well as other options to improve water
affordability. Comments are due Feb. 1.
A coalition of environmental groups has called on California
members of Congress to prioritize the San Luis (B.F. Sisk)
Dam seismic remediation over federal funding for new California
dams. San Luis Dam is in a very seismically active area.
Independently reviewed risk assessments for Reclamation have
shown that a large earthquake could lead to crest settlement
and overtopping of the dam, which would result in large
uncontrolled releases and likely dam failure.
Butte County may soon have a better idea of what lies beneath
its surface. Starting in late November, a helicopter took off
for several days from the Orland airport to fly a pattern over
an area between Chico and Orland, and southeast into Butte
Valley. Dangling beneath the helicopter was a hoop loaded with
devices that created a weak magnetic field and instruments that
measured how that interacted with layers beneath the soil.
In February, following a string of severe natural
disasters in 2017, Congress provided a record $16 billion for
disaster mitigation — building better defenses against
hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes. Eleven months later,
the Trump administration has yet to issue rules telling states
how to apply for the money.
Each year, several thousand weather forecasters, researchers
and climate scientists from all over the world gather for the
American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting to exchange
ideas to improve weather prediction and understanding of
climate change. This year, due to the partial federal
government shutdown, hundreds of scientists will not attend the
conference set to begin this weekend in Phoenix.
Colorado River water managers were supposed to finish drought
contingency plans by the end of the year. As it looks now,
they’ll miss that deadline. If the states fail to do their job,
the federal government could step in. Luke Runyon, a
reporter with KUNC who covers on the Colorado River Basin
recaps what’s been happening and why it’s so important.
There’s every reason to expect that 2019 will be far better,
largely because of Measure W, which was passed by voters in
November. The initiative imposes a Los Angeles County parcel
tax that will generate $300 million per year to reduce
pollution from runoff and capture storm water to add to the
At the Groundwater Resources Association’s Western Groundwater
Congress, a panel of experts discussed emerging issues as
agencies work to develop their plans to comply with the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which became law in
California in 2014.
President Trump on Thursday signed the 2018 Farm Bill,
which alters language in agricultural conservation
programs to make the Salton Sea eligible for millions in new
federal funding. … The bill’s inclusion of the Salton
Sea could also nudge California closer to approving a
Colorado River drought contingency plan.
Congressional leaders reached a short-term spending deal
Wednesday that effectively punts most of the contentious
funding decisions into the new year. That includes the question
of whether to extend a federal law designed to deliver more
Northern California water south, which has become a factor in
the Delta water-sharing agreement reached earlier this month.
It’s not smooth sailing for California’s lawmakers in
Washington, as a push to extend a controversial water bill is
dividing the caucus along unusual lines. … At issue is
the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, or
WIIN. The bill was signed December 2016, when California’s
water infrastructure was being tested by a historic drought’s
California agriculture interests will find the farm bill
Congress passed this week largely means more of the same. …
The farm bill helps agricultural producers — whose business
interests can often run contrary to environmental well-being —
protect the environment, providing money so they don’t have to
pay more out of pocket in order to be environmentally
Sen. Dianne Feinstein is joining forces with House Republicans
to try to extend a controversial law that provides more water
for Central Valley farms, but with a sweetener for the
environment: help with protecting California’s rivers and fish.
The proposed extension of the WIIN Act, or Water Infrastructure
Improvements for the Nation Act, would keep millions of federal
dollars flowing for new dams and reservoirs across the West.
A sweeping conservation bill introduced Wednesday by U.S. Sen.
Kamala Harris would expand the boundaries of the San Gabriel
Mountains National Monument to include popular hiking trails
north of Pasadena and create a federally designated recreation
area along the San Gabriel River, including the western portion
of the Puente-Chino Hills.
State Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Santa Monica) introduced
the Wildfire, Drought and Flood Protection Bond Act of
2020 as another tool the state can use to offset a pattern of
increasingly destructive and deadly blazes.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Friday backed a bid by Sen.
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Kevin
McCarthy (R-Calif.) to extend provisions in a 2016 bill to
shuttle more water from the Golden State’s wet north to farms
and cities in the arid south.
California’s most senior Democrat and most powerful Republican
in Washington are teaming up to extend a federal law designed
to deliver more Northern California water south, despite the
objections of some of the state’s environmentalists. While
controversial, the language in their proposal could help settle
the contentious negotiations currently underway in Sacramento
on Delta water flows — the lifeblood of California agriculture
as well as endangered salmon and smelt.
After touring the devastation of the Camp Fire in Paradise,
Calif. on Saturday, President Donald Trump announced that the
federal government would provide an additional $500 million in
funding to the 2018 farm bill for forest management to help
mitigate future fires.
This event guided attendees on a virtual journey along the San Joaquin River to learn 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.
Under the now $1.2 billion plan, efforts are aimed at restoring flows to a 60-mile, mostly dry stretch of the San Joaquin River to revive chinook salmon runs while reducing or avoiding adverse water supply impacts to farmers.
The U.S. Senate approved a compromise policy Wednesday on
dumping ship ballast water in coastal ports and the Great
Lakes, a practice blamed for spreading invasive species that
damage the environment and the economy. The plan, part of a
$10.6 billion Coast Guard budget authorization bill, includes
provisions sought by environmentalists as well as the cargo
President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan infrastructure bill
this week that could lead to raising the Shasta Dam and funding
other reservoir projects. The plan is to spend $6 billion
throughout the country over 10 years.
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.
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 snaked 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
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
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
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.