SB 1 Could Have Lasting Implications for California Water

When the legislature returns from its summer recess in August, the Assembly will take up Senate Bill 1, the latest effort by California politicians to decry the Trump Administration. If SB 1 is signed into law with the current Endangered Species Act (ESA) provisions,  there will be long-term, negative consequences to how water is managed in the state.

In summary, SB 1 would freeze into state law federal environmental protection regulations as of January 1, 2017.  Specifically, the ESA provisions, if not amended, would lock in the 10-year old biological opinions that govern how much water is moved through the Delta regardless of the current information and future science.  The bill would directly impact the reinitiation of consultation on the long-term operating agreement of the two water projects by the State and Federal governments, which is a critical component of our efforts to secure additional water supply for agriculture and communities as part of the Water Blueprint Plan.

SB 1 also undermines the ongoing negotiations on the voluntary agreement between the State and SWP water agencies to update the Bay-Delta Plan to improve conditions for fish and wildlife while providing reliable water supplies for people and agriculture.

CCM is part of a broad, statewide coalition that includes urban water districts, irrigation districts, and agriculture associations that is actively working to secure amendments to the ESA provisions before the bill is up for a vote in the Assembly.

The author, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, is a reasonable, pragmatic lawmaker with whom the agriculture and business communities have enjoyed a positive relationship with for several years.  As such, we are optimistic that our concerns will be addressed before the bill is voted on and sent to the Governor for signing.  That’s not to say it will be easy.

Politically speaking, SB 1 is all but guaranteed to be passed and signed. However, the current language would force the Administration to upend the voluntary agreement negotiations that the Governor has publicly stated must “cross the finish line.” Members of the Administration have acknowledged they share these same concerns.

The coalition is meeting regularly with the Governor’s office, CalEPA and the Department of Water Resources as well as the author’s office and members of the legislature to amend the bill.

CCM will continue to keep members update as the process moves forward.

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