Water bill count down

Sacramento Delta. Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service9/11/2009: 10.16pm From the Contra Costa Times: The most ambitious attempt to reform California’s water management in decades was moving forward late Friday with the support of some key environmental groups and some of the state’s biggest water agencies. Faced with a midnight deadline — and the possibility of a time extension — an Assembly committee passed the water policy reforms bill, but the fate of the package was still up in the air late Friday. The package includes a sweeping reform of state water policy in one bill and a $12 billion bond package to help pay for it in another. It was dependent on the bond bill receiving two-thirds approval from the Legislature. The bills would help move forward plans to build a controversial peripheral canal to carry water around the Delta, but would also set standards meant to ensure it was built without environmental harm.First, the bills would guarantee an adequate flow of water remains in the Delta; second, they would require the plan for the canal lead to actual recovery of the Delta ecosystem rather than merely avoiding extinctions.The bills also call for 20 percent improvement in urban water use efficiency, better enforcement of water rights and groundwater management, and revamping of the way the Delta and state water use is managed and enforced. To keep reading, click here. Via Aquafornia.

9/11/2009 7.21pm From Aquafornia, whose webmaster noticed this white flag hoisted by Assembly woman Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), author of one of the key bond measures necessary to fund a sweeping water bill, who yesterday posted on her website: we understand that more work is needed …  discussions will continue.”

9/11/2009 6.46pm From the Los Angeles Times: With the close of the legislative session hours away, the fate of an ambitious set of water proposals remains up in the air. Negotiations continued on a big bond and policy package put together by Democrats. As it now stands, one bill calls for nearly $12 billion in water-related financing, spread over two general obligation bonds that would be put before voters in 2010 and 2014. It would require two-thirds legislative approval. A second bill, requiring majority legislative approval, would wrap together five policy proposals addressing a broad range of issues. They include urban water conservation, water rights and creation of a council dealing with the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, the hub of California’s waterworks. Click here to keep reading.

9/11/2009 6.33pm From Aquafornia: Today, the Delta Vision Foundation (formerly the Governor’s Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force) noted the California Legislature is taking action on hotly debated water policy aimed at fixing the myriad problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Unfortunately, changes in bills today failed to address the need for financing of the Delta Council and removed ability of the Council to ensure state and local agencies act consistently with the Delta Plan. To keep reading, click here.

9/11/2009: 6.18pm From an Assn of California Water Agencies release: The five policy bills in the Delta legislative package have been combined into a single bill, SB 722. A general obligation bond also has been included as a separate bill, AB 893. Significant progress was made late yesterday when agreement was reached on key provisions regarding Delta governance and the recognition of water supply reliability as a co-equal goal (SB 12 and AB 39). ACWA has reviewed these amended provisions and believes they are consistent with ACWA Board policy. ACWA would likely be able to support these provisions, but only as part of an acceptable package. To keep reading, click here for Aquafornia.

9/11/2009 5pm From the Tweetosphere via Aquablogmaven: Assemblymember Mendoza tweets that there’s a water deal and the Latino Caucus is to be thanked for their leadership

9/11/2009 4.30pm From live broadcast of the State Senate on the California Channel: “To suggest that one member’s time is more important than another is hardly fair.” Sen. Roy Ashburn, (R-Sacramento) complaining that the floor was given to President pro-tem Darrell Steinberg, who took a short break from water negotiations to speak on AB88.

9/11/2009 From the Associated Press: “Don’t send me Mickey Mouse bills. Send me the big stuff.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Legislature.

9/11/2009 From the Associated Press: The bonds would be divided over two elections — one next year and one in 2014. About $3 billion would be dedicated to increasing water storage, but the money would be awarded by a commission based on a competition between potential projects.

9/11/2009 From the Fresno Bee and Aquafornia: Big players on opposite sides of California’s water wars said today in letters that they support what had been a key sticking point: a new council to oversee the environmentally damaged Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. But there is less consensus on proposals calling for new conservation rules and monitoring of groundwater use. There also are potential differences on how to pay for projects such as dams and canals and for environmental fixes in the delta.

9/11/2009 From the LA Times columnist Patt Morrison on KPCC: Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) thinks they can get a water bill passed. It only looks last minute, she says. They’ve been working on it for a year and a half. A reporter from the Sacramento Bee is not so sure that the legislature can get “from here to there” by the end of business. To listen to an archived show of the program after the broadcast ends at 3pm, click here.

9/11/2009 From Aquafornia: Fact sheets on proposed legislation, plus links for watching the legislative session live (minus former assemblyman Michael Duvall). Click here.

9/11/2009 From the San Francisco Chronicle / AP: Legislative leaders were continuing to negotiate Friday for measures that would rebuild the state’s water system, reduce prison spending and mandate the most ambitious alternative energy standards in the nation. Whether Democrats and Republicans can resolve their differences and then get the votes for their top bills is unclear. They remain at odds, for example, over how to revamp California’s water system and how to pay for it. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will not support water legislation without guaranteed bond money to build dams. Democrats favor imposing user fees on farmers and large water districts. To keep reading, click here.

9/11/2009 From Aquafornia’s webmaster: “My money’s on a special session.”

9/11/2009 From the Contra Costa Times: Lawmakers who have had few successes this year are expected to decide before midnight Friday whether to go forward with a far-reaching and potentially very expensive plan to revamp the state’s water laws and the future of the Delta. Two of the biggest pieces of the legislative puzzle were released early Thursday morning, and perhaps the biggest piece — how to pay for it — had not yet been made public late Thursday. If negotiations on financing fall through, it is possible that the bills might not reach the full Legislature. …. Via Aquafornia.

9/11/2009 From the Fresno Bee: Negotiations on major water legislation continued Thursday night as lawmakers sought to overcome big differences before the session ends today at midnight…Democrats want to form a new council to oversee the delta. Republicans fear the council might add environmental hurdles to planning efforts now under way for a canal to move water around the delta southward. In a last-minute flurry of closed-door negotiations, leading lawmakers Thursday sought a compromise that would appease groups that take water from the delta — such as Westlands Water District — and environmentalists, who want to safeguard the estuary. “There’s always hope. Hope springs eternal,” said Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, a leading water negotiator, as he headed into meetings. Via Aquafornia.

9/11/2009: From the Sacramento Bee: State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg’s ambitious efforts to enact a sweeping new water policy may be drowning in a flood of criticism from water stakeholders. Steinberg released a new set of bills, touching off a torrent of criticism from farmers, water districts large and small and even some environmental groups. “We’re still trying,” Steinberg said Thursday, just 30 hours before the 2009 legislative session is to close. To keep reading, click here.

*9/11/2009: From Aquafornias webmaster:

With the deadline rapidly closing in … just hours away …. the editorial and opinion pages are awash with talk of water legislation. Here’s what’s being said from around the state.

The package of five bills that has emerged from weeks of mostly back-room negotiations looks promising to us. But the measures also look too complex and raise too many questions to pass them into law with only a day or two of serious review. — editorial, Sacramento Bee

This last-minute jam session is no way to handle such critical policy. — editorial,  San Francisco Chronicle

The Legislature’s failure to develop a comprehensive solution to our water crisis is shameful and unacceptable. – op ed in the OC Register

For a full round-up with links, click here.

*9/10/2009 From the Los Angeles Times: State lawmakers failed Thursday to act on a clutch of their top-priority bills, including those involving water, prisons and energy, leaving a logjam of controversial measures to be resolved by midnight tonight, the end of this year’s session. To keep reading, click here.

*9/10/2009 From the Green LA Coalition. To down-load objections to the pending water bills being circulated by the group, click here and here.

*9/10/2009 From the Delta Vision Foundation, a group formed out of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon task force assembled to study the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, comments on bills SB 12, AB 39, SB458, AB2 and AB 49. Digested update and complete links from Aquafornia.

9/10/2009 From the Sacramento Bee Capitol Alert blog : The water conference committee signed off last night on a five-bill package to address Delta conservation and water supply issues. The conference report got the eight signatures needed to pass out of the committee in time for a floor vote, but none of the Republicans on the panel were on board with the plan. To keep reading, click here.

*9/10/2009 From Sen Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley): “This highly flawed bill is asking Californians, including my Northern California district, to conserve water so that people in Los Angeles and San Francisco can fill their swimming pools or water their golf courses,” said Senator Aanestad. “This isn’t a solution to our water crisis. The authors of AB 49, who conveniently represent Los Angeles and the Bay Area, not only want more of Northern California’s water, they want to impose draconian conservation measures that they would be exempted from. What part of this sounds fishy?” To read the entire statement, go to Aquafornia.

Editor’s note: For the latest draft of AB 49, click here.

*9/10/2009 From a Sacramento Bee op-ed in which California Senate Speaker pro-tem Darrell Steinberg asks for a compromise set of bills: The package I hope the Legislature will forward this week will accomplish the following wins for the Delta that cannot occur if we do nothing:

  • A new conservancy for the Delta made up of 11 members, including five Delta representatives. The chair must be a Delta county supervisor. This new conservancy will be the driving force for both restoring the Delta ecosystem and to enhance the economic vitality of the Delta.
  • $1.2 billion beyond what is already expected, for levee repair and economic development
  • A real voice for the Delta. A right to challenge any conveyance proposals to a new Deltastewardship council on which the chair of the Delta conservancy will sit as a permanent member.
  • A higher level of environmental review for any conveyance proposal than currently exists.
  • Advancements in water conservation and in how we take inventory of the water we have – how it’s used and diverted, and an accounting of how much groundwater exists beneath our farms and our communities. Current drought conditions show the need to bring California’s water management techniques into the 21st century.
  • A statewide target to reduce urban per capita water use by 20 percent by 2020

To keep reading, click here. You need to register with the paper to read SacBee editorials online. It’s a pain but the Bee’s the paper of record in the state capital. So do it. Via Aquafornia

*9/9/2009: Assembly Speaker Karen Bass: The progress we have made and the tenor of the talks still underway make me very hopeful a comprehensive solution will be achieved before the end of this legislative session.” Via Aquafornia.

*9/9/2009: From the website of Senator David Cogdill, (R-Modesto), vice-chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee: The conference report is an unbalanced package of bills that ignores the need for a reliable water supply and only caters to the interests of extreme environmentalists. Via Aquafornia.

*9/9/2009 Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee  link via Aquafornia.

*9/9/2009 Capitol Weekly on Twitter: Senate posts language for three water bills.

*9/9/2009: Ventura Star commentary by Ted Gransen of Calleguas Municipal Water District: The Legislature, meanwhile, must play a key role before the legislative session concludes Friday. Through a series of five bills, legislative leaders are seeking to coordinate the actions of literally dozens of government agencies in the Delta through a new “stewardship council” and a new conservancy that would advance restoration and economic development activities. They also need to identify the public funds to match the billions of dollars that water agencies throughout the state are expected to invest in water-system and ecosystem improvements. To keep reading, click here. Via MWD.

9/9/2009 From www.IndyBay.org: In a strongly worded statement, Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) today withdrew her authorship of Senate Bill 458, legislation that would establish a Delta Conservancy, because of her concern than the bill’s amended version would serve as a “tool to assist water exporters who are primarily responsible for the Delta’s decline.” To keep reading the Fish Sniffer’s Dan Bacher, click here.

*9/9/2009 Interior Secretary Ken Salazar responds to the Wall Street Journal:“Your editorial asks the Obama administration to ignore science and convene a so-called “God Squad” that would override protections on watersheds and turn California’s water crisis over to the courts. Trying to force more water out of a dying system will only cause more human tragedy, while diverting attention from the governor and the legislature, who face a Sept. 11 legislative deadline to decide whether to fix the broken water system in California after decades of neglect.” To continue reading, click here. Via Aquafornia and Pasadena SubRosa

9/9/2009 From the Pacific Legal Foundation: “...there’s no denying that the Endangered Species Act restrictions are one of the few things that the federal government can control when it comes to this water crisis.”  Based in Sacramento, the Pacific Legal Foundation is “a public interest organization whose mission is to fight for limited government, property rights, individual rights and a balanced approach to environmental protection.” To read its entire response to the Interior Secretary, click here.

*9/9/2009 From On the Public Record blog: The news in water these days is mostly about big bills in the legislature, trying to come up with a big fix for California water.  I can’t get too worked up over it.  I’ll be super pleased if they get the mandatory urban conservation measures passed, and they can start here in Sacramento, which is an utterly shameful water waster.  I’ll be a trifle sad if they pass Sites Reservoir, because I’ve been to that valley and it is beautiful.  I’ll be intrigued if they get the Delta governance structure put in place, because I think that’s a step towards a Peripheral Canal, but doesn’t guarantee anything. To keep reading, click here.

*9/9/2009 From the Fresno Bee: With three days left in the session, Democrats and Republicans still are struggling to reach a deal on legislation to overhaul the state’s water system. The latest ominous sign came Tuesday, when leading Democrats postponed a vote by a special bipartisan committee formed to consider bills to that would increase conservation and groundwater monitoring while creating a new council to oversee the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. In a statement, Senate Democrats said the panel would convene today, which would “allow for a floor vote on Friday.” To keep reading, click here. Via Aquafornia.

*9/9/2009 From the San Francisco Chronicle: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has threatened to veto all bills unless state lawmakers address his top priorities before the legislative session ends this week. “The governor believes that we must address major issues facing this state such as water, prison and renewable portfolio standard before we consider anything else,” Matt David, Schwarzenegger’s communications director, said Tuesday. Some state lawmakers blasted Schwarzenegger calling the tactic “his latest ransom note.” To keep reading, click here. Via Aquafornia.

9/9/2009 From the Sacramento Bee: In the latest round of Capitol brinksmanship, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill honoring Vietnam veterans. To keep reading, click here.

*9/9/2009 From The Stockton Record: State lawmakers missed a self-imposed deadline Tuesday to move forward with a series of comprehensive water bills centered on the Delta, while San Joaquin County officials joined a growing chorus condemning the hasty process. A special legislative water committee had been expected to vote on a plan to change how California stores, manages and uses water. But legislative leaders canceled the vote late Tuesday, suggesting trouble for the ongoing negotiations. “The time frame, what’s left here makes it awful difficult to get it done, in my perspective,” said Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, the lead Republican on the committee. “We’d love to get it done by the end of this session, but it has to be right at the end of the day.” To keep reading, clickhere. Via Aquafornia.

*9/9/2009: From the Sacramento Bee and Silicon Valley Mercury News: After months of institutional sluggishness, brief meetings and extra-long weekends, legislators, their staffers and hundreds of lobbyists are acting as if they’re snorting meth, frantically trying to write and enact hundreds of bills in the 2009 session’s final hours. In time-dishonored fashion, Capitol denizens are simultaneously attempting to close out a handful of truly meaningful issues – massive changes in water and electric power policies chiefly – and deal with hundreds of lesser measures, including “mushroom bills” that sprout in the dark and benefit only narrow interests. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, saying, “I don’t want to be part of a culture of failure,” wants to end decades of bitter political squabbling over water with a fix for the environmentally damaged Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, perhaps including a canal to carry water around the huge estuary and more water storage to enhance supply. A two-house conference committee has been discussing the issue publicly while major interests negotiate behind closed doors, but age-old conflicts remain unresolved. To keep reading the story, click here to be linked through Aquafornia.

*8/26/2009: From the Los Angeles Times: A generation ago, Southern California water managers thought they had the solution for dealing with the hub of the state’s water system — the magnificent Northern California estuary known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They wanted to build a canal from the delta to the existing aqueduct system that sustains San Joaquin Valley agriculture and Southern California. They were wrong. And now we finally have the chance to do it right. For more from an op-ed by Timothy Brick, chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, click here.

*8/18/2009 Letter from Governor Schwarzenegger to state legislature leaders: I cannot sign a comprehensive water package if it fails to include a water infrastructure bond that expands our water storage capacity – both surface storage and groundwater – funds habitat restoration, water quality and conservation.  After years of intense negotiations, we narrowly missed the placement of a water bond on the ballot last year.  The five water bond bills introduced in the Legislature early this year demonstrate a remarkable level of consensus achieved on this topic.  I believe we could resolve any remaining differences in an hour, and I will not sign a water bill without the infrastructure necessary to improve supply reliability. To continue reading the governor’s letter to Senator Darrell Steinberg and Assemblywoman Karen Bass, click here.

*9/5/2009: From the San Francisco Chronicle: A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation “Plan Formulation Report.Despite its long name, and the very odd fact that it is dated October 2008 but was released just recently, this massive report is simply a feasibility study for the proposed Temperance Flat dam on the San Joaquin River — one of the two surface storage dams being intensively pushed by a few special interests as a critical solution to our water woes. This report, which I just managed to read, is remarkable. Its purpose is to show that Temperance Flat is feasible and makes sense. But in fact, this report actually shows that Temperance Flat is a bad idea, will create far fewer benefits than costs, and will be an ecological, recreational, and economic failure. And the “new” water it will create will be minimal and hugely expensive. To continue reading Dr. Peter Gleick’s column “City Brights,” click here.

*9/2/2009: Letter from Governor Schwarzenegger to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: We have entered an endless cycle of consultation that is guaranteed to reduce water supplies and water supply reliability, but is not guaranteed to recover or even reduce damage to endangered species.  This cyclic regulatory process is not working for people, and it has not worked for fish. To keep reading the governor’s letter, click here.

* 9/8/2009: From Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s response to Governor Schwarzenegger’s letter blaming California’s water shortages on federal protections of endangered species: We have embraced your Delta Vision Task Force’s recommendation that California pursue a reliable water supply and environmental restoration of the Bay Delta as co-equal goals. We are hopeful that the current efforts that you and the State legislature are making to pass legislation to chart a sustainable water future for California will be successful.For more from the Interior Secretary to the Governor as posted at Aquafornia, click here.

*9/8/2009: From Dan Bacher at The Fish Sniffer: One of the largest and most diverse coalitions of water agencies, environmentalists, Indian Tribes, fishermen and environmental justice groups in California history has assembled to oppose Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s mad rush to enact a dangerous package of water bills before the end of the legislative session, September 11.To continue reading Dan Bacher in Aquafornia, click here.

* 9/6/2009: From the Chico Enterprise-Record: The state Legislature has assembled a 14-person committee charged with an impossible task — fix the state’s water problem, and do it in a week and a half. To continue reading the editorial “It’s now or never for water storage,” click here.

*9/8/2009: From the Sacramento Bee: The stalemate over water reform in California these days swirls around a single word that for decades has ignited conflict among ideological opposites: dams. To continue reading a report that seems to plug the Sites Reservoir Dam proposal (forgive the pun), and stunning graphic, click here.

* 9/8/2009: From Water World: “Let’s break out the whiskey and get to work.” To continue reading about the reaction of Kevin Jeffries, R-Riverside to the task of solving the state’s water problems in four days, click here.

*9/2/2009:. From California Senate Speaker pro-tem Darrell Steinberg onYouTube: “Twenty three million Californians rely on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for water. Science shows that the Delta is dying from pollution and neglect. Water is being rationed, jobs are being lost and fish are becoming extinct.” To hear and see Sen Steinberg’s full opening statements of the Joint Water Conference Committee, click here.

*9/1/2009: Letter to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee from the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa via MWD.

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