Message to Water Board: Water is Everyone’s Business

Volunteer from El Agua es Asunto de Todos (Water is Everyone’s Business) Gives Compelling Testimony at Water Board Workshop

by Laurie Greene, CalAgToday

TODAYMaría L. Gutiérrez, a volunteer with El Agua es Asunto de Todos, “Water is Everyone’s Business,”  gave the following testimony at California’s State Water Resources Control Board‘s (Water Board) Sacramento information-only Public Workshop regarding the Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) submitted by the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on January 23, 2015. Given the drought crisis, the DWR and USBR filed the TUCP with the SWRCB Division of Water Rights  to revise Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta restrictions devised to meet flow and water quality objectives established in the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta) Estuary. The TUCP requests the Water Board allow more water to be allocated to the Central Valley, for a period of 180 days, via DWR’s State Water Project (SWP) and USBR’s Central Valley Project (CVP) that includes flows from recent storms in the northern part of the state.

Gutiérrez provided the following testimony:

“El Agua es Asunto de Todos” is a campaign with two main goals – to raise awareness about the water shortage in California and the devastating economic impact it is having upon the Latino community, and second, to provide a platform for the Latino community to actively weigh in on the water issues.

California is entering its fourth straight dry year marking this state’s worst drought in 500 years. A drought like this is wrecking havoc on the lives of Latino families and the communities they live in. And when you impact the Latino community, you are looking at a domino effect with epic proportions. Because this affects restaurants, gas stations, truck drivers, gardeners, mom and pop shops, small business, schools, and food projects.

Our situation is even grimmer. We have seen 40% unemployment in Mendota, Huron and Firebaugh.

We are living in America. And, so I have to ask you, how is this happening? In my mind, I expect it to get even worse. We can conserve as much water as we can now, but if we don’t get a reliable water supply, whole communities will be torn apart.

El Agua Es Asunto De Todos
“Water is Everyone’s Business”

The unconscionable decision by Executive Director Tom Howard to deny additional pumping and water supply to our Central Valley communities is outrageous and immoral. His decision is a slap in the face to Latinos who live south of the Delta.

Let me tell you something about the Latino community. Latinos want to work; they don’t want a handout; and they don’t want to be standing in food lines. People tell us at every place we stop to dialogue, how they are losing their jobs, cars, and homes. Families are seeing their college dreams for their kids disappear. They tell us, all I want to do is work.

We are seeing more women and men standing in lines for food baskets. People are being forced to make tough choices – to put food on the table or buy medication. We are also seeing too many families lacking life’s basic necessities like water for drinking, cooking and showering because their wells have run dry.  Another year with zero percent water will bring even more hardship to these families.

I’ve met farmers who have told me that if they didn’t get water, they would have to lay off entire families of workers that have worked for them for generations. Farmers are of all races and nationalities. Most have started as farm workers, they bought the acreage and now they are farmers. They are part of what makes this nation great.

People are very angry. You need to understand the total impact a bad decision will have on many of our communities.

We need water now!

It is a civil right. 

It is a human right.

All of our communities request that the State Water Resources Control Board approve in full and allow State and Federal agencies to collectively manage the Central Valley Project and State Water Project on a real-time basis to provide water to our communities that are in dire need.

Our communities cannot afford any lesser operational flexibility during this unprecedented crisis.

As the Water Board meeting was for informational purposes only, no Board action was taken.

California Congressmembers Urge Water Board to Reverse Decision

California legislators in Washington, D.C., issued a bicameral, bipartisan letter TODAY requesting the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) reverse last week’s decision of its Executive Director, Thomas Howard, to deny the joint Central Valley and State Water Projects’ request to more equitably share limited fresh water outflow into the Pacific Ocean.

Separately, Congressional House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued the following explanation TODAY via Kyle Lombardi, his Legislative Director:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources submitted a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) to the California State Water Resources Control Board (the State Board) on January 23rd to revise certain standards in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to allow increased pumping to send more water, including from recent storms in the northern part of the state, to the Valley given the drought  crisis.

Unfortunately, the initial decision by the State Board’s executive director last week rejected the important part of the TUCP that would have allowed increased pumping because of concerns about impacts to smelt and salmon.  Congressman McCarthy strongly feels this was the wrong decision, particularly given Federal and state fish agencies (i.e. the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife) all supported the TUCP, including the provisions to allow increased pumping.

Accordingly, Representatives Kevin McCarthy, David G. Valadao, Devin Nunes, Ken Calvert, Jeff Denham, Jim Costa, and Senator Dianne Feinstein sent the letter below to State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus demanding that the Water Board reverse their executive director’s decision and approve the TUCP in full to allow increased pumping. Here are a few passages:

Our constituents have told us that some do not even have water for basic necessities like cooking, drinking, and showering, and that some are abandoning their homes and moving out of State.

Many Central Valley towns have unemployment rates that are triple or quadruple that of the state average of 7 percent due to significantly reduced employment in the agricultural sector.

When five agencies – including three tasked with protecting fish – have already assessed and concurred that the export adjustment would not cause harms beyond those allowed under the most stringent statutes and biological opinions, we believe the Executive Director should not have rejected the agencies’ shared assessment and denied the export adjustment in the TUCP without a compelling rationale for taking such an extraordinary action.

We find the Executive Director’s reasons for denial unpersuasive and unsupported by the facts that have been carefully evaluated by five State and Federal agencies.

McCarthy encourages constituents to express similar support for the TUCP and increased pumping levels by contacting the Water Board via:

-Phone: 916-341-5616

-Email:  info@waterboards.ca.gov

-In person: Public Water Board Workshop at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, February 18, 2015, in the Byron Sher Auditorium Joe Serna, Jr.-Cal/EPA Building, 1001 I Street, Second Floor, in Sacramento, CA.

For more information, email contact Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at http://www.kevinmccarthy.house.gov/.Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_1 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_2 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_3 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_4 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_5 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_6

Many Legislative Bills Introduced

Legislative Update From Calif. Farm Bureau

Many Legislative Bills Introduced in California Last Week!

 

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) held a Workshop this week to take public comment on the Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) for the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order B-21-13 issued last May the TUCP for these two projects would temporarily modify (reduce) Delta outflow and export requirements to preserve water in storage and maintain in-Delta water quality.

Additionally, the TUCP would temporarily modify (open) the Delta Cross Channel gates to improve in-Delta salinity conditions. State Board staff also presented information on water diversion curtailment notices for junior water right holders. Due to rain events a couple of weeks ago the notices have not yet been issued.

A measure that would repeal provisions of the $11.14 billion Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act, currently scheduled to go before California voters November 4th this year, was heard in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee this week. If approved by the voters, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality, and Water Supply Act of 2014 (SB 848), authored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), would authorize the issuance of bonds in the amount of $6.825 billion in five separate categories. Those five categories include:

  • $900 million for Safe Drinking Water,
  • $2 billion for Integrated Regional Water Management Planning and stormwater capture and reuse projects,
  • $1.2 billion for projects that protect the Delta ecosystem and integrity of Delta levees,
  • $1.7 billion for Watershed and Ecosystem Improvements,
  • $1.025 billion for Water Storage Projects.

All five categories would require legislative authority to appropriate the funds. Farm Bureau remains actively engaged in this and every effort to impact the size and structure of the water bond, emphasize the need for increased water storage, area of origin water rights protections and continuous appropriation for water storage dollars. Farm Bureau has an Oppose Unless Amended position on SB 848.

A measure that would allow multiple use registrations for small livestock stockponds was introduced this week. AB 1905 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas) would allow small (10 acre feet or less) livestock stockponds to also be registered with the State Water Resources Control Board for use as small irrigation ponds. Currently law allows small irrigation ponds to also be registered for small domestic use, but not for livestock. Farm Bureau is the sponsor of this measure and therefore is also in support.

 

AB 1634 (Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley) would require employers to immediately abate conditions that Cal/OSHA alleges are a violation of occupational safety and health regulations if the agency classifies the citation as a serious, repeat serious, or willful serious violation. Under current law, if an employer appeals the citation, the employer is not required to abate the violation unless and until the appeal is denied. AB 1634 allows Cal/OSHA to grant a stay of abatement at its own discretion. This is similar to legislation Assemblymember Skinner carried in 2013 (AB 1165) which Governor Brown vetoed in October. The Governor’s veto message cited an appeal process in AB 1165 for abatements parallel to that which already exists through the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board. AB 1634 does not include that duplicative appeal process. Farm Bureau will oppose AB 1634 because it undermines due process protections allowing employers to appeal Cal/OSHA citations.

 

SB 1034 (William Monning, D-Carmel) would eliminate waiting periods before employers offering health insurance would be required to institute coverage. Current state law allows for a 60-day waiting period; federal law allows a 90-day waiting period. Farm Bureau is analyzing SB 1034 before taking a position.

 

SB 1087, also by Senator Monning, would impose a laundry list of changes to the California Labor Code for Farm Labor Contractors (FLCs). Several of these changes include:

  • higher licensing fees;
  • increase the size of surety bonds FLCs must obtain and provide documentation of the size of the bond to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE);
  • requires that surety bonds be conditioned on compliance with state laws prohibiting sexual harassment;
  • requires FLCs to receive training on prohibitions on sexual harassment;
  • doubles the number of continuing education hours required of FLCs from 8 hours annually to 16 hours annually;
  • adds violations of laws prohibiting sexual harassment by an FLC or an FLC’s supervisory personnel to the list of violations of law which prohibit DLSE from issuing an license to an FLC and requiring DLSE to revoke an FLC’s license;
  • requires FLCs to provide, upon request to a current or former employee or grower, a written statement showing compensation paid to employees, and requires growers to retain payroll records furnished by FLCs for three years.

Numerous other changes in the Labor Code pertaining to FLCs are further outlined in the bill. Farm Bureau position pending.

 

AB 1723 (Adrin Nazarin, D-Sherman Oaks) would authorize the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) to recover for employees payment of applicable penalties for willful failure to timely pay wages. Existing law provides for criminal and civil penalties for violations of statutes and orders of the commission regarding payment of wages. This bill would expand that penalty, restitution, and liquidated damages provision for a citation to also subject the employer to payment of any applicable penalties for the willful failure to timely pay the wages of a resigned or discharged employee. Farm Bureau is opposed.

 

AB 1660 (Luis Alejo, D-Salinas) clarifies that an action taken by an employer to comply with federal immigration law is not a violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. AB 60, which became law in 2013, requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driving privilege cards to persons who cannot furnish the requisite documentation to obtain a regular driver’s license. AB 60 also prohibited discrimination under the Unruh Act against people using a driving privilege card. Farm Bureau supports AB 1660.

AB 2033 (Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield), just introduced yesterday, would create an Agricultural Career Technical Education (ACTE) unit in the Department of Education to provide schools with assistance in establishing and maintaining ACTE classes. This bill is in response to the 2014 state budget proposal to eliminate $4.1 million from the Agricultural Career Technical Education Incentive Grant Program from the state budget. Ag Incentive Grant funds are used to update and modernize equipment and technology, as well provide vital resource for developing leadership skills and personal growth opportunities for students through ACTE programs and coursework. Farm Bureau is in support.