For the last several years, the CCM team has been working to secure a deal that provided operating and maintenance funding for small communities located in rural agricultural areas. This funding gap led to these communities being unable to treat their drinking water systems to current drinking water standards. This situation resulted in the State Water Resources Control Board Office of Enforcement threatening agriculture to fix nitrate contamination.
To combat these actions, the CCM team along with colleagues, put together a legislative package that minimized agriculture’s exposure to frivolous water board actions and brought in funding from multiple sources for a problem that had multiple contributors, both urban and rural. That package won the support of the prior Governor and was embraced by the current Governor Newsom.
“It was always envisioned that the deal would change based upon the politics of the moment” explained CCM President Casey Creamer. “Former Governor Brown was outright opposed to any solution that utilized general funds. The current legislature didn’t want to pass a fee on urban water customers, nor did some want to provide agriculture any sort of relief from continued enforcement. But, everyone in the legislature supported finding a solution for these communities.”
Three proposals were before the Budget Conference Committee. The Senate supported a continuous appropriation from the General Fund of $150 million per year. The Governor’s proposal included fees on water, fertilizer, and dairies along with language to protect agriculture from State Water Board enforcement actions. The Assembly proposal included a smaller fee on water, an increased fee on agriculture, with no protection from enforcement.
The final negotiated solution was $130 million this year, with $30-$35 million from the general fund and the remaining $70 million from the Cap and Trade revenues. Cuts were made to diesel replacement and dairy methane digester incentive programs. In subsequent years, 5 percent of the Cap and Trade funds up to a maximum of $130 million will be used.
“California Citrus Mutual applauds Governor Newsom, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, along with several other members in the Assembly and Senate that fought along with agriculture to address this long standing drinking water problem in our agricultural communities,” stated CCM President Casey Creamer. “After years of proposals that were never finalized, strong leadership prevailed in delivering a fair resolution to the complex groundwater and drinking water issues statewide.”