Saturday, February 4, 2023

Assembly Committee Rejects Bills to Expedite Water Supply Solutions

Legislation that aimed to speed construction of a project to expand the state’s ability to store water in wet times for use in dry ones failed to pass an Assembly policy committee this week.

Also rejected was a bill to expedite and reduce costs for drought mitigation projects.

AB 1586 (Mathis; R-Visalia) would have expedited and reduced the cost for the Temperance Flat Reservoir project on the San Joaquin River by exempting the project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

AB 1586 would have prohibited a court, in an action or proceeding alleging a CEQA violation related to the Temperance Flat project, from staying or enjoining the construction or operation of Temperance Flat unless the court makes certain findings.

The expedited relief that AB 1586 would have provided mirrors that which was provided for the Sacramento Kings arena in SB 743 (Steinberg; D-Sacramento; 2013).

AB 1589 (Mathis; R-Visalia) would have streamlined and reduced regulatory burdens for specified drought mitigation projects by exempting them under CEQA.

Temperance Flat

Temperance Flat would provide much-needed storage capacity that would result in a myriad of benefits to the drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley. Specifically, the reservoir would add a net of 1.26 million acre-feet of storage. Each acre-foot would supply an average San Joaquin Valley family for 12 to 18 months.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Temperance Flat’s storage capacity would provide the bureau with “operational flexibility and the ability to capture sufficient water in wet years to meet demands in other years.”

Drought Mitigation

AB 1589 sought to apply a limited but important CEQA exemption for projects carried out to mitigate the effects of conditions caused by drought, flood or fire. The exemption would have remained in effect for the duration of a state of emergency proclaimed by the Governor due to drought, flood or fire under the California Emergency Services Act.

As natural disasters like the drought and wildfires continue to pose economic challenges to the state, it is of utmost importance that projects seeking to mitigate the effects of such disasters are approved and implemented expeditiously and cost-effectively.

Key Votes

The Assembly Natural Resources Committee voted 1-6 on April 4 against AB 1586 and AB 1589:

Ayes: Jones (R-Santee).

Noes: Williams (D-Carpinteria), C. Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Gomez (D-Los Angeles), McCarty (D-Sacramento), M. Stone (D-Scotts Valley), Wood (D-Healdsburg).

Absent/abstaining/not voting: Hadley (R-Torrance), Harper (R-Huntington Beach.

Both bills were granted reconsideration.

Staff Contact: Anthony Samson

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