Funding for Friant-Kern Canal Repairs May Come

Senator Melissa Hurtado Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Fix Friant-Kern Canal

News Release

State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), representing the 14th Senate District in California, along with principal co-authors Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), Assemblymember Devon Mathis (R-Visalia), Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), and Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), announced last week the introduction of Senate Bill 559.  The bipartisan-supported legislation will secure California’s water supply by investing $400 million in general funds towards the Friant-Kern Canal, one of the Central Valley’s most critical water delivery facilities.

Currently, the Friant-Kern Canal’s conveyance capacity has degraded due to several factors, including severe land subsidence caused by regional groundwater overdraft. A portion of the canal, roughly 20 miles long, has subsided twelve feet below its original design elevation, including three feet of subsidence from 2014 to 2017. As a result, the canal has suffered the loss of 60 percent of its carrying capacity—constricting the delivery of water to some of California’s most vulnerable communities.

“From 2012 to 2016, California experienced one of the most severe drought conditions. As a result, many of our farmers, families and entire communities within the Central Valley continue to experience limited access to one of their most fundamental rights—clean water,” Hurtado said.

“The Valley’s socioeconomic health depends on the conveyance of clean and safe water. Not only does this canal support nearly 1.2 million acres of family farms in California, but it provides one in every five jobs directly related to agriculture,” Hurtado continued. “For this reason, I am proud to stand with my colleagues to introduce SB 559. This legislation prioritizes our most disadvantage communities by restoring water supply in the Central Valley.”

“The Friant-Kern Canal has lost 60 percent of its carrying capacity in some locations. This problem threatens about 350,000 acres of highly productive farmland below the damaged portion of the canal, and also limit opportunities to maximize groundwater recharge projects that will be very important to helping the Valley comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” said Jason Phillips, CEO of the Friant Water Authority. “On behalf of the farmers, businesses, and communities who rely on the Friant-Kern Canal, we very much appreciate Senator Hurtado’s leadership on this legislation.”

“Today, we are fighting for the future of the Central Valley, and I am pleased to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort and support funding for the Friant-Kern Canal,” Borgeas said. “Valley farmers and our communities depend on this infrastructure to ensure a reliable supply of water. By restoring the canal to its fully operational state, we ensure the delivery of clean and reliable water supply to our communities and farmers. This investment in our water infrastructure is long overdue and critical for our valley.”

“California faces a stark reality when it comes to water,” Arambula said.  “Scarce water supplies, aging infrastructure and a growing population are some of the stressors on our state’s water system.  That is why we need real-time solutions to our long-term water challenges. Restoring the Friant-Kern Water Canal will help us protect our existing water supply while we work on reaching sustainable solutions that will get water out to our communities.”

“SB 559 is crucial to keep the Friant-Kern Canal, the largest artery for water on the east side of the Valley, afloat. This measure is extremely important to keep this economic engine which powers our economy and provides tremendous benefit locally, statewide and even nationally. Failing to fix the Friant-Kern Canal is not an option, simply because having water is never an option. I am proud to coauthor this measure with Senator Hurtado and look forward to bringing this funding to the Valley,” Mathis said.

“Water is the lifeblood of the Valley and the backbone of California’s economy.  Senate Bill 559 is a step towards bringing the Friant-Kern Canal to its full capacity and addressing the State’s critical water needs.  This measure will invest in our future by building water infrastructure projects and helping our local water districts fulfill their sustainable groundwater management plans,” Salas said.

“On behalf of the City of Porterville, I am very appreciative of our leaders’ efforts and support by introducing SB 559,” said Porterville Mayor Martha Flores.

“The Friant-Kern Canal is the lifeblood to the southeastern San Joaquin Valley, and the canal being fully-efficient with the ability to carry surface water to its designed capacity is essential, especially in consideration of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” Flores continued. “The Friant-Kern Canal plays a valuable strategic role in the sustainability of Porterville as the city seeks to enhance its surface water recharge program and reduce its groundwater footprint.”

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Biomass Bill Passes Assembly

Biomass Bill (AB 590, Salas / Dahle) Protects Renewable Energy and Air Quality

SACRAMENTO – AB 590 will incentivize biomass utilization of agriculture waste and forest waste. The legislation will save jobs, divert biomass from landfills, and create renewable energy.

“Biomass power generation is a clean and efficient way to produce renewable energy and help improve our air. In fact, the Delano biomass facility has helped reduce 96 percent of the pollutants released from open-field burning. This facility alone converts 300,000 tons of agricultural waste per year into clean, renewable energy.” said Assemblymember Salas. “AB 590 provides the necessary structure and resources to protect and incentivize biomass power in California.”

Farms in Kern and Tulare Counties generate over 580,000 tons of woody waste annually, mostly from almond, peach, and nectarine orchards. In the past, most of this material has been burned openly in the fields. Open burning of wood residues produces up to 100 times more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than biomass power plants, which convert wood into renewable energy. The Delano biomass facility reduces 96 percent of the pollutants released in open-field burning; leading local air quality management officials to call Covanta Delano “a stationary air pollution control device.”

In addition to air quality benefits, the biomass plants produce a steady flow of reliable, renewable, baseload electric power regardless of natural external conditions, like wind, sun and water flow. The plants also help ensure that the state meets its current renewable energy portfolio standard of 33 percent by the 2020 statutory deadline.

“In the past few years we have seen the catastrophic results of forests that are too loaded with forest fuels. The people of my district have lived in a cloud of smoke, as thousands of acres have burned destroying lives, property, critical animal habitat, ruining our watersheds and wasting valuable resources,” said Assemblyman Dahle. “I introduced AB 590 to address this crisis. The bill is now on to the Senate with bipartisan support from the Assembly, where I hope to see it receive the same support.”

Currently, California biomass plants use more than eight million tons of wood waste as fuel. About 3.7 million tons represent urban wood waste kept out of landfills, helping local governments meet disposal mandates.

Biomass plants across the state employ approximately 700 people directly, as well as 1,000 to 1,500 other workers in dedicated indirect jobs. Many are in economically hard-pressed rural communities where the plants are one of the largest private employers.

Unfortunately, the 25 plants that convert biomass waste into energy are at serious risk of closure without decisive action by the State Legislature and the Governor. In the past year, five plants closed. AB 590 would allocate part of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) revenue to defer the costs of operating these plants.

###

Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Avenal, Corcoran, Delano, Hanford, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch

Assemblymember Dahle represents Alturas, Anderson, Butte County (Portions), Colfax, Dunsmuir, Grass Valley, Lassen County, Modoc County, Montague, Mount Shasta, Nevada City, Nevada County, Placer County (Portions), Plumas County, Portola, Redding, Shasta County, Shasta Lake, Sierra County, Siskiyou County, Truckee, Weed, Yreka

(Photo: Covanta Biomass Plant, Delano, CA)

Contact: Jillian Rice. (661) 335-0302

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Opponents ask Governor to Veto Groundwater bills

Source: Dave Kranz; Ag Alert

Farmers, ranchers, other water users and nearly three-dozen members of the state Legislature have urged Gov. Brown to veto a package of groundwater-regulation bills that reached his desk in the waning hours of the legislative session.

The bills-Assembly Bill 1739 by Assembly member Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and Senate Bills 1168 and 1319, both by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills-would establish a broad, new regulatory framework for managing groundwater.

Gov. Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the legislation.

Opponents, including the California Farm Bureau Federation, say the bills go well beyond addressing issues of basins in overdraft, casting a cloud on water rights and establishing requirements that will lead to confusion and litigation.

CFBF President Paul Wenger said Farm Bureau has always encouraged the proper management of groundwater, but that doing the job efficiently and effectively should have been the priority.

“Instead,” Wenger said, “the Legislature took the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach, rushing these bills through and creating a massive new regulatory program in the final days of the legislative session.”

Farmers, ranchers and other California landowners will be left to pick up the pieces, he said, dealing with the consequences of the legislation for years to come.

Under the bills, basins in critical overdraft would be required to develop groundwater-management plans within five years. Other basins would have seven years, but low- and very low-priority basins would not be mandated to develop plans.

A bipartisan group of 35 Assembly members and senators urged Gov. Brown to veto the legislation and to call a special session of the Legislature in December to reconsider groundwater management.

“Like you, we are concerned about the increasing conditions of overdraft in many groundwater basins,” the legislators wrote to the governor. “However, the legislation before you punishes groundwater users in basins that have little or no overdraft or already have effective management efforts in place. It will also infringe upon the right to groundwater, at a time when available water supplies are getting tighter.”

The legislators warned that the authorities granted in the groundwater legislation “will radically alter the landscape of groundwater law” in coming years and will have “a destabilizing impact on those who depend on groundwater supplies.”

In their letter, the legislators said they are willing to help the Brown administration craft a “narrower, more effective measure focused on basins where real problems exist, encouraging them to implement management measures modeled by other regions, and providing new state authority to intervene where local management fails.”

The letter was signed by Assembly members Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo; Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach; Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals; Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside; Connie Conway, R-Tulare; Brian Dahle, R-Bieber; Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks; Steve Fox, D-Palmdale; Beth Gaines, R-Roseville; Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo; Adam Gray, D-Merced; Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield; Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills; Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point; Brian Jones, R-Santee; Eric Linder, R-Corona; Dan Logue, R-Marysville; Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa; Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore; Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto; Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield; Donald Wagner, R-Irvine; Marie Waldron, R-Escondido; Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita; and Sens. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte; Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield; Ted Gaines, R-Roseville; Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton; Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar; Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley; Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga; Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber; Andy Vidak, R-Hanford; and Mimi Walters, R-Irvine.

Other legislative opponents of the groundwater bills from Central California included Assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova; Susan Eggman, D-Stockton; and Henry Perea, D-Fresno. Perea noted that the bills would have a disproportionate impact on the Central Valley, and said the costs of implementing the legislation would be “enormous.”

CFBF President Wenger said Farm Bureau and other opponents had been able to “take some of the edge off” the bills during negotiations that preceded the final votes on the legislation.

“It now includes protections for water rights and other provisions that could lessen its detrimental impact,” Wenger said. “For that, we must thank those in the Capitol who helped rein in some of the proposals’ worst overreaches and the legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, who voted against the bills.”

Even so, he said, Farm Bureau considers the legislation to be fatally flawed and has urged the governor to veto all three bills.

“True resolution to California groundwater problems will come through measures that this legislation does not address, such as a streamlined adjudication process and the recognition of groundwater recharge as a beneficial use of water,” Wenger said.

Most importantly, he said, California must improve its surface water supplies.

“All the fees and fines in the world won’t heal our aquifers unless California builds additional storage and improves management of surface water in order to reduce demand on groundwater,” Wenger said.

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