Today, Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) released the following statement after Governor Newsom declared a statewide drought:
“California is experiencing a devastating drought, that will continue unless we make changes to the status quo,” said Senator Hurtado. “We must follow the science, and take action to mitigate some of the drought related impacts that are on the horizon. Only by finding ways to adapt to the reality of climate change, and putting human life at the forefront, will we move forward.”
Senate Bill 559—The State Water Resiliency Act of 2021—as introduced would have established a funding plan to repair vital water delivery systems that provide drinking water to communities throughout California and sustain the state’s leading agricultural economy. The funds would have gone to fixing the Friant-Kern Canal, the Delta-Mendota Canal and major portions of the California Aqueduct, all of which have degraded and are losing water as a result of subsidence – the actual shrinking of land. Congressman Jim Costa and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein have companion legislation in Congress.
In his May Revise, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed $200 million to help repair the canals. In the budget ultimately adopted by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, $100 million was allocated to fixing the canals.
Senate Bill 559 passed out of the Appropriations Committee on August 26, with amendments that would place fund administration under the Department of Water Resources in consultation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Under these amendments, the departments would have to follow various guidelines and conduct studies for funding to be released and allocated. These requirements will further complicate the process and the fund disbursement, slowing construction on the State’s water conveyance canals. Assembly Appropriations amendments also removed the intent language detailing where funding should be allocated, and deleted the specific funding allotments planned for in SB 559, as introduced.
In 2019, Senator Hurtado’s Senate Bill 513 was passed, which allows the State Water Resources Control Board to provide grants to eligible applicants to provide relief to households in which a private water well has gone dry, or been destroyed by drought, wildfire, or other natural disaster. The Senator’s Senate Bill 974 (2019) allows various water infrastructure projects to be exempted from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA.) These exemptions will help disadvantaged community water systems that improve water quality, water supply or water reliability to seek necessary infrastructure to address their water supply needs and avoid the timely and costly burden of CEQA.