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Groundwater Management Legislation

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The Assembly and Senate reconvene after their July summer recesses on August 4, 2014.  During the summer break, groundwater management has been a hot button topic, and more than 70 stakeholders gathered in Sacramento for a series of meetings to hash out plans for groundwater management in California. 

The purpose of the stakeholders meetings was to find workable solutions to address sustainable groundwater practices, the need for local control, the role of the State Water Board and Department of Water Resources, and protection of individual property rights for land owners. 

There are currently two bills working their way through the legislative process that seek to create a new state groundwater management regime: AB 1739 by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson and SB 1168 by Senator Fran Pavley.  The Governor also has a proposal that is being considered.

CLFP has been actively engaged in monitoring and analyzing these legislative proposals and participating in the stakeholder meetings.  

CLFP joined an agricultural coalition and helped draft a set of principles to help guide the development of any new state groundwater legislation (the entire set of principles can be accessed here).  The coalition believes that the challenges associated with managing groundwater basins are connected to the loss of surface water and any state groundwater management legislation must be accompanied by substantive action to increase the state’s surface storage capacity and improve conveyance and delivery systems as well as the policies that govern them.  

CLFP and the other coalition members voiced concerns in the legislative policy committee hearings in late June that these legislative proposals do not adequately align with the principles and will need to be significantly amended.  CLFP and the coalition also argued that these bills should not be rushed through the legislative process to meet arbitrary legislative deadlines.  The complex issues surrounding groundwater management needs to be fully vetted and considered by all stakeholders as enactment of these bills could have the potential to fundamentally alter the livelihoods of the millions of Californians whose employment is directly or indirectly tied to agriculture. 

Both bills will be substantially amended and considered when the Legislature returns in early August.  

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

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