Senate Water Bill Hopeful

Senate Water Bill Introduction is a Glimmer of Hope for Water Agencies

FRESNO, CA – Last week’s introduction of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s legislation, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015, is welcome news for the people of the State of California and the Central Valley enduring another devastatingly dry year. Once again, multiple Central Valley water agencies joined together to express their unified voice in support of an expeditious passage of this Senate water bill. This bill comes on the heels of the introduction and passage by the House of Representatives of H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015.

 “We are encouraged by Senator Feinstein’s actions with the introduction of this legislation. There is no time to lose as the damaging effects of the drought continue to wreak havoc on local communities, businesses, farms and farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley and other regions of the State. Immediate solutions are needed, and the District looks forward to working with Members of both the House and Senate to find a reasonable solution that will benefit our great State.”

–Don Peracchi, Chairman of the Board, Westlands Water District


“The South Valley Water Association thanks Senator Feinstein for introducing the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 and encourages the balance of the Senate to make quick work in passing the bill immediately upon return from the August recess. This is a further important step to get legislation that will help those many farms and communities in California who are going without water. We look forward to the members of Congress resolving key differences between the California Emergency Drought Relief Act and H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, and finding real water supply solutions. The members of the South Valley Water Association stand ready to assist in any way we can.”

–Dan Vink, Executive Director, South Valley Water Association


“The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority thanks Senator Feinstein for the introduction of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015. We realize this is another important step to passing a bill out of the Senate later this year that provides a meaningful legislative solution to the long-standing water supply shortages that is crippling the state. We are optimistic that members of Congress and the Senate can resolve the key differences in this bill, and the previously passed House Bill H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015. The Authority looks forward to working with our legislative leaders to pass legislation that benefits all of California.”

–Steve Chedester, Executive Director, San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority


“There is no more important issue facing the Valley than the drought. It is a statewide crisis with the most direct and severe impacts in the Valley. The Kern County Water Agency appreciates Senator Feinstein’s and Senator Boxer’s efforts to help reduce the drought’s terrible impacts by introducing a bill in the Senate that can improve water supplies for farms and cities. We are anxious for the House and Senate to start working on a compromise between Congressman Valadao’s bill and the bill in the Senate, and we encourage the Senate to take swift action on the Feinstein/Boxer bill so that process can begin.”

–Ted R. Page, Board President, Kern County Water Agency


“No area of the State, and perhaps the nation, has suffered more disproportionately the harmful stress of chronic water supply shortages. The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority is appreciative of the effort of Senators Feinstein and Boxer on the recently introduced California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 bill in the Senate. This bill is not only important to the San Joaquin Valley, but it is also vital for the entire state of California. We encourage the Senate to act swiftly, and encourage both the House and Senate legislators to begin work immediately on a meaningful compromise bill to ensure that long-awaited and much-needed relief is realized.”

–Dan Nelson, Executive Director, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority


 “Friant Water Authority welcomes the introduction of Senate Bill 1894, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015, and we thank Senator Feinstein and her staff for all their efforts in bringing this bill forward. The immediate task is to pass Senate legislation so that work can begin to craft a compromise with the House-passed legislation. Our farms and communities have suffered more under these water cutbacks than any other area in the nation. Our people are desperate for solutions that will provide real water for our area. This bill is a critically important step in the process of developing compromise legislation that can be signed into law by the President this year. As the bill advances, Friant looks forward to working with our representatives on both sides of the aisle to achieve drought legislation that will provide real relief for the 2016 water year and beyond.”

–Eric Borba, Chair, Friant Water Authority

Voters to decide fate of water bond this November

Source: Kate Campbell; Ag Alert 

Finding agreement on the $7.5 billion water bond measure headed to the November ballot wasn’t easy—it involved years of hard work by many stakeholders, including the California Farm Bureau Federation—but participants in the discussion said it’s a key step in addressing the critical need to upgrade the state’s broken water system.

“The severe water shortages we’re currently experiencing result from 30 years of neglecting our water-storage system,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said. “That neglect is magnified by the drought, and it’s time to reverse that pattern of neglect. Placing this water bond on the November ballot gives Californians a chance to provide more water for our cities, for food production and for the environment.”

CFBF Administrator Rich Matteis said passage of the water bond bill last week marked the end of more than five years of sustained effort.

“Farm Bureau has been involved in this issue since the beginning, working for a bond that would maximize the investment in new water storage for California,” Matteis said. “But as much as the passage of the bond bill marked the end of that process, it also signaled the beginning of a campaign to show Californians the essential need to invest in our state’s water system.”

Matteis noted that the water bond will come before voters in less than 11 weeks, meaning that supporters of new water investment will need to move quickly to solidify support for the measure.

“Farm Bureau members are uniquely positioned to work at the grassroots level to educate and build public awareness for much-needed water improvements,” Matteis said. “Every Californian has a stake in the voter outcome in November, but none more than farmers and ranchers who depend on adequate, reliable water supplies.”

The revised bond measure includes $2.7 billion for water storage projects and that money will be continuously appropriated, Matteis noted, meaning that future Legislatures will not be able to redirect it to other uses.

“This bond represents the state’s largest investment in water storage in more than 30 years,” Wenger said, “and it couldn’t come at a more critical time.”

The current drought has shown that California has lived too long with an outdated water-storage system, he said.

“We need to update that system to match changing weather patterns, in which more precipitation will fall as rain rather than as snow,” Wenger said. “Additional surface storage can capture those strong storm surges when they come, reduce flooding and bank that water for later dry times.”

In addition to new surface and groundwater storage projects, proceeds from the sale of bonds—if approved by voters—would be used for regional water reliability, sustainable groundwater management and cleanup, water recycling, water conservation, watershed protection and safe drinking water, particularly for disadvantaged communities.

Association of California Water Agencies Executive Director Tim Quinn called the revised water bond the “right size at the right time for California.”

Noting the bond includes $100 million that can be used by local agencies for groundwater plans and projects, the Kern County Water Agency commended those who negotiated the final version of the measure. The water bond also includes new funding for a variety of local water programs through integrated regional water management plans, or IRWMPs. Specifically, the bond measure would allocate $34 million to IRWMPs in the Tulare/Kern watershed.

The California Water Alliance, whose members include Central Valley farmers and agricultural businesses, applauded the bond’s placement on the November ballot.

“Most importantly, it recognizes that Californians statewide, from all walks of life, cannot afford to carry the burden of a dysfunctional water system that has been exacerbated by the worst drought in California history,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, executive director of the alliance.

The drought, she said, has resulted in dramatic levels of unemployment, higher food prices, increased utility costs, water rationing and severe losses for California farms, many of which have had to fallow thousands of acres.

“This bond provides the means to begin upgrading California’s water system for the 21st century, including new storage facilities and clean water projects for underprivileged communities,” Bettencourt said.