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Senate Passes Groundwater Legislation

The California Senate has passed legislation that would give the state more oversight and authority when it comes to regulating groundwater.

It has created a new “water war” of sorts, between urban and rural lawmakers. It was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickenson, and passed 26-11. It now moves onto the Assembly.

District 14 Republican Senator Tom Berryhill says, “This bill was not a collaborative effort; it does not address the needs of competing interests.  Assemblyman Dickenson’s legislation, while well intentioned, is an approach to water that does not take into account the needs of agriculture; it does not take into account the needs of mountain communities. Just weeks ago we passed a bipartisan water bond which proves we can all work together to do what’s best for all of California. Now we have urban legislators reverting to the old play book of big cities ignoring the needs of rural California. This is a classic case of urban legislators telling everyone else what is best. It’s just bad policy.”

Assemblyman Dickenson earlier released a statement reading, ““Groundwater is the source for approximately 40 percent of the state’s water demands in an average year and up to 60 percent or more during droughts, such as the drought California is currently experiencing. Despite the critical role groundwater plays in water supply for Californians, our state is the only state without comprehensive statewide groundwater management programs.”

Assemblyman Dickenson’s Office has released the following bullet points about the legislation:

  • The bill establishes key definitions that will guide sustainable groundwater management plans and programs, including the definition of sustainable groundwater.
  • A.B. 1739 requires local land-use plans to take into consideration adopted groundwater sustainability plans and to assess the impact of land-use on groundwater resources.
  • The bill focuses sustainable groundwater management on those basins which are at high or medium risk of overdraft
  • The bill defines the components of a groundwater sustainability plan and it authorizes a variety of tools for local groundwater management entities to use in achieving sustainable groundwater levels.
  • The bill sets forth a 50 year planning horizon, a planning period of 20 years and requires plan updates every 5 years.
  • The bill requires the inclusion of diverse interests in the community when developing and adopting the plan.

Republican Senator Jim Nielsen talked about the proposal during Wednesday’s KVML “Newsmaker of the Day” interview. Click here to find the earlier story.

Lawmakers have until Sunday to pass the legislation, if it is to be approved this session.