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Water Bills, AB91 and AB92 Become Law: Synopsis

Colleagues,

These are the two “drought”  bills which recently became law. You can read the Legislative Council’s summary and the text of the bills at this link for 91 and this link for 92. You can also find descriptions of provisions related to stream flow below.

Both the Mercury News and the LA Times have criticized the Governor’s drought actions to date.  The LA Times piece focuses on failure of the Governor, legislature and SWRCB to put any restrictions on what farmers can plant. That is right on the money. Ag consumes 80% of water stored and diverted in California. We should all demand that the Governor and Legislature ban planting of new permanent crops like vineyards and orchards unless the landowners can show a secure water supply.

Here are descriptions of provisions related to flow in AB 91:

“Of the funds appropriated in this item, $15,560,000 is available for maximizing water delivery and efficiency to key endangered species habitats; monitoring of endangered species, native fish, and the delta species; water delivery system projects; and enhancing in-stream flows. These funds shall be available for encumbrance until June 30, 2016.”

Of the amount appropriated in this item, $6,727,000 shall be available to the State Water Resources Control Board for drought-related water right and water conservation actions, including establishing and enforcing requirements to prevent the waste or unreasonable use of water and to promote water recycling, establishing and enforcing curtailments in diversion based on unavailability of water under the diverters priority of right, and enforcing terms and conditions of water right permits and licenses.

2.    Of the amount appropriated in this item, $2,394,000 shall be available to the State Water Resources Control Board to complete instream flow studies for tributaries identified in the report titled “Instream Flow Studies for the Protection of Public Trust Resources: A Prioritized Schedule and Estimate of Costs, December 2010” and to provide support for establishing and implementing flow requirements based on the flow studies.

AB 92 provisions of interest:

(1) Existing law requires any new diversion of water from any stream having populations of salmon and steelhead that is determined by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to be deleterious to salmon and steelhead to be screened by the owner of the diversion. Existing law requires the department to submit to the owner its proposals as to measures necessary to protect the salmon and steelhead within 30 days of receipt of a notice of a diversion of water from a stream having populations of salmon and steelhead.
This bill would instead require the department, within 30 days of providing written notice to the owner that the department has determined that the diversion is deleterious to salmon and steelhead, to submit to the owner its proposals as to measures necessary to protect the salmon and steelhead.

(2) Existing law prohibits the construction or maintenance, in certain fish and game districts, of any device or contrivance that prevents, impedes, or tends to prevent or impede, the passing of fish up and down stream. A violation of this provision is a misdemeanor.

This bill would impose an additional civil penalty of not more than $8,000 for a violation of this provision.

(3) Existing law declares that the diversion or use of water other than as authorized by specified provisions of law is a trespass. Existing law authorizes the executive director of the State Water Resources Control Board to issue a complaint to a person who violates certain laws regarding the use and diversion of water, and subjects the violator to administrative civil liability. Existing law requires that the complaint be served by personal notice or certified mail and inform the party served that the party may request a hearing not later than 20 days from the date the party was served.

This bill would authorize the Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, or his or her designee, to issue a complaint in accordance with the above-specified provisions alleging that an unauthorized diversion or use of water harms fish and wildlife resources.

Felice

“There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”