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Water Bond Proposals

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California legislators have introduced 11 water bond proposals this session to replace the $11.1 billion measure passed in 2009 by the Legislature and scheduled for the November ballot.  The consensus in the Legislature is that the existing water bond proposal has little chance of passage by the voters.

Of the 11 proposals put forward, seven are currently substantive and moving through the legislative process. All of the current bond proposals in the Legislature would make surface storage projects eligible for some level of funding for the "public benefits" of those projects.  They differ in whether that funding would be continuously appropriated to the California Water Commission (CWC) or whether the Legislature would appropriate the money to the CWC.  Many in industry believe that the funds should be continuously appropriated and not allow the Legislature to touch the funds.

Most of the proposals would also provide funding for groundwater storage and water quality improvements, including groundwater remediation.  Many would provide funding to address sustainability of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) and to implement Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Plan projects and programs.  Some would also provide separate chapters of funding for watershed protection projects, water recycling and conservation, and groundwater sustainability. 
To date, AB 1331 (Rendon) has been the primary Assembly water bond vehicle and subject to multiple Capitol hearings and nine field hearings in various parts of the State. AB 1331, the Clean, Safe and Reliable Drinking Water Act of 2014, repeals the existing bond and places an $8 billion measure on the November 4, 2014 ballot. AB 1331 includes $1 billion for water quality; $1.5 billion for protecting rivers and watersheds; $2 billion for IRWM; $1 billion for Delta sustainability; and, $2.5 billion for storage projects, which Senate amendments made subject to appropriation by the Legislature. AB 1331 is currently in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee and will be heard on May 7.

Currently, the primary Senate water bond vehicle is SB 848, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality, and Water Supply Act of 2014. SB 848 repeals the existing bond and placed a $6.825 billion measure on the November 2014 ballot.  SB 848 includes $900 million for water quality; $2 billion for IRWM; $1.2 billion for Delta sustainability; $1.7 billion for watershed and ecosystem improvements; $1.025 billion for water storage, subject to appropriation by the Legislature.  The bill is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In addition to this bill, AB 1331 and SB 848, there are five other substantive water bond proposals:  

  • AB 2043 (Bigelow and Conway) is a $7.953 billion proposal modeled on the 2009 bond that funds water storage at $3 billion, eliminates $1.785 billion for conservation and watershed protection, and reduces the various other chapters of the 2009 bond by anywhere from 15-33 percent.  The bill passed the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee on April 29 and will move to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 
  • AB 2554 (Rendon) is a $8.5 billion bond measure that contains the same language as AB 1331, also by Rendon, prior to its April 8, 2014 amendments in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, except that AB 2554 increases the water storage chapter to $3 billion, continuously appropriated.  The bill is currently awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. 

  • SB 927 (Canella) reduces the 2009 Water Bond to $9.217 by eliminating the entire $1.785 billion chapter for conservation and watershed protection and deleting several other specific allocations in other chapters.  This bill failed passage in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on April 22.  Reconsideration was granted.

  • SB 1250 (Hueso) is a $9.45 billion proposal that, in addition to including funding for Delta sustainability and water storage at the levels found in the 2009 proposal includes $500 million for groundwater sustainability and $500 million for water recycling.  The bill is currently in the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

  • SB 1370 (Galgiani) is a $6.26 billion general obligation bond for the exclusive purpose of funding four surface storage projects: Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley; Temperance Flat Reservoir in the San Joaquin Valley; an expansion of San Luis Reservoir, jointly owned by the CVP and SWP; and, raising Shasta Dam which, as it would affect the free-flowing condition of the McCloud River, is an action that State law currently prohibits any State agency from funding.  The bill was heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on April 8, but no vote was taken. 

Passage of a new bond to be placed on the ballot would require two-thirds approval by the Legislature, which means Democrats need to find a consensus with the Republicans. 

CLFP continues to monitor the progress and discussions surrounding these proposals and is following the lead of production agriculture groups in supporting at least $3 billion in storage which is continuously appropriated, preserving area of origin water rights, and significant allocations to resolve drinking water problems in disadvantaged communities.  

Article written by Trudi Hughes, Government Affairs Director, California League of Food Processors

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