Sacramento, CA – Governor Brown is proposing legislation to help local officials after meeting with mayors from across the state. The new legislation aims to help better enforce conservation requirements and direct state agencies to streamline environmental review of water supply projects.
Gov. Brown says, “As this drought stretches on, we’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to help communities save more water.” Specifically he hopes to establish a new penalty of up to $10,000 per violation, expanding on $500 per day maximum infraction established in last year’s drought legislation. The Governor also wants to speed up the infraction process and allow penalties to be issued administratively by wholesale and retail water agencies, as well as city and county governments. Further conservation restrictions established by the State Water Resources Control Board will be enforceable by all local public agencies, with the authority to deputize staff to issue water conservation-related warnings and citations.
Tuolumne Utilities District Spokesperson, Lisa Westbrook, notes that TUD, like most utility water districts with an elected Board of Directors, already has the authority to issue warnings and citations. As reported at the TUD meeting tonight, various requirements will be discussed including new reporting requirements to the state about how excessive water users are identified and what steps are currently taken to enforce water conservation measures.
The Governor directed his Office of Planning and Research and other state agencies to help local water agencies reduce the time required to comply with state-required environmental reviews. Similar legislation was approved by a U.S. House panel but does not have by-partisan support. The Governor’s Office says it will explore legislative changes that could speed-up delivery of critical water supply projects and increase local water supplies with limited environmental impact.
One critical water project mentioned by the Governor is the one underway in the San Joaquin Delta. Despite outcry from local representatives pulses of water have been released by the Bureau of Reclamation from New Melones. The Department of Water Resources (CDWR) is following the permit application process, as announced April 18th, to install a temporary emergency rock barrier across a Sacramento San Joaquin Delta channel to help prevent saltwater contamination. The Delta provides water to a reported 25 million Californians. Water releases were also to help fish in the Delta. The project is not scheduled to begin before May 8.
Governor Brown proclaimed a drought state of emergency in January 2014 which has severely curtailed water supplies to agricultural producers. Earlier this month, Governor Brown announced the first ever 25 percent statewide mandatory water reductions.