Water Authority Commends Legislature’s Approval of Historic Water Legislation

 
Short Title
Water Authority Commends Legislature’s Approval of Historic Water Legislation
November 04, 2009

The San Diego County Water Authority praised the California Legislature’s approval early today of a landmark package of legislation that aims to make long-term improvements in statewide water management and water supply reliability from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta.

“This is a major accomplishment for our state and for the long-term water supply reliability of the San Diego region,” said Claude A. “Bud” Lewis, San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair. “Our San Diego County Legislative delegation, our region’s leading business groups and civic leaders from throughout the county deserve recognition and our thanks for coming together and being persistent in their efforts to make sure this legislation passed.

“This landmark legislation will make a tremendous impact in improving water supply reliability statewide and for our region’s 3 million residents and $171 billion economy.”

Lewis said the San Diego region’s representatives in the state Senate and Assembly played a vital leadership role in the legislation’s passage and delivered the “yes” votes necessary to pass the bills.

“Our local legislators put themselves at the very forefront of the tough debate over water in our state’s Capitol,” Lewis said. “The votes of our four state senators and seven assemblymembers were crucial to the success of this legislation. When you look at the vote counts on each bill, you will quickly see that without the votes from these 11 San Diego County legislators, not a single one of the bills would have passed.

“On behalf of the Water Authority and our region, I would like to thank Senators Dennis Hollingsworth, Denise Ducheny, Chris Kehoe and Mark Wyland and Assemblymembers Nathan Fletcher, Martin Garrick, Mary Salas, Lori Saldaña, Kevin Jeffries, Marty Block and Diane Harkey for their leadership and votes.”

Lewis also singled out Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders for their leadership on the water package.

“From the very beginning of his administration, Governor Schwarzenegger made resolving the crisis in the Bay-Delta a linchpin of his policy agenda,” Lewis said. “In the Legislature, there are a lot of leaders who deserve recognition, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg deserves special recognition for his dogged pursuit of this legislation in the face of great obstacles and skepticism.”

Lewis also praised leaders in San Diego County’s business and civic community for their active support in achieving the region’s water supply reliability goals in the legislation, including the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and its Governor’s Council, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, BIOCOM, CONNECT, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and leaders of the region’s other cities and the Water Authority’s 24 member retail agencies.

“This represents the very best in what a unified civic leadership on an important public policy issue can accomplish,” he said.

The Legislature approved policy bills on governance of the Bay-Delta ( the 1,300-square-mile estuary that serves as the hub of California’s water delivery system and is the source for about 30 percent of the San Diego region’s water supply) , conservation, groundwater monitoring and water rights enforcement. It also approved an $11.14 billion water bond that would pay for a range of Bay-Delta improvements and other water supply, water quality and conservation projects statewide. The bond would likely go before voters in November 2010. The legislation now goes to Governor Schwarzenegger for approval.

Among the package’s most significant achievements is the establishment of a governance and planning process that would lead to the end of regulatory restrictions on pumping water from the Bay-Delta to Central and Southern California, restrictions that have led to water shortages in much of the state including San Diego County. The legislation also sets a clear path and planning process that will lead to the eventual construction of a new water conveyance facility to restore water supply reliability in Bay-Delta water supplies.

The legislation creates a Delta Stewardship Council that will be responsible for crafting a plan for fixing the Bay-Delta that, by statute, must have ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability as co-equal goals. This council will be in place by the time the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan’s (BDCP) environmental review process is completed next year, and the council’s plan to fix the Bay-Delta must incorporate the BDCP as long as the BDCP meets certain conditions. The BDCP, being prepared through a collaboration of state, federal and local water agencies, state and federal fish agencies, environmental organizations, and other interested parties, is identifying a set of actions for species/habitat protection and improved reliability of water supplies. The BDCP will provide the basis for issuing new, long-term environmental permits for the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project that would lift their current pumping restrictions.

The package also includes other measures for improving conditions and management of the Bay-Delta, such as provisions to stop illegal diverters of water within the Bay-Delta.

In addition to making progress toward resolving water supply reliability problems in the Bay-Delta, the legislation benefits the San Diego region in other ways. Examples include:

    •    The establishment of conservation goals for 2020 that are flexible and can be achieved while protecting the economy and businesses. Under the conservation bill, the San Diego region will be credited for past investments in water-saving programs and “process water” needs for business and industry are incorporated.
    •    The San Diego region would receive funding for regional water supply projects and programs.
    •    San Diego-area projects, such as the San Vicente Dam Raise, would also receive additional money set aside in the bond measure to support local and regional water supply reliability and drought relief projects in San Diego County.

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