April 2018 – This Month in Sacramento

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Legislative Update
by Richard Markuson
Region 9 Legislative Advocate



Governor Brown signed AB 1270 (Gallagher R-Yuba City) that requires the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to inspect dams, reservoirs, and appurtenant structures annually, with certain exemptions, and requires reporting and updates to dam safety regulations.

A related trailer bill passed in June 2017.  SB 92 (Committee on Budget), was the Resources and Environmental Protection Trailer Bill. This bill, after extensive hearings on dam safety, including a May 11, 2017, joint hearing on the Oroville Dam disaster with Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3, Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, and the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, was passed and signed by the Governor, in part in response to the issues raised in that hearing.

SB 92, among other things:

  • Required DWR to complete a reconnaissance of the geologic, hydraulic, hydrological, and structural adequacy of the identified 108 largest spillways in the state by October 1, 2017. By January 1, 2018, DWR shall complete a thorough site investigation and evaluation of those spillways that are found to be potentially at risk.
  • Proposed DWR re-classify jurisdictional dams as extremely high, high, significant or low risk. DWR will require inundation maps and Emergency Action Plans for all jurisdictional dams allowing a waiver for low hazard dams.
  • Required DWR to identify which scenarios beyond a complete dam failure require a separate inundation map. The dam owner will create the inundation map and submit the map to DWR, which then will be reviewed and approved by DWR’s Division of Flood Management.
  • Dam owners will be responsible for creating Emergency Action Plans in accordance with federal guidelines and based on their updated inundation maps. Cal OES will provide guidelines regarding the coordination between dam owners and local emergency management agencies to create local emergency response plans.  The dam owner will send the final Emergency Action Plans and inundation map to DWR, Cal OES and local emergency management agencies.  Cal OES will coordinate emergency response drills with dam owners and local emergency management agencies.  The dam owner will be required to update the Emergency Action Plans regularly in accordance with federal guidelines and update the inundation maps every 10 years or sooner if there is a change in dam status or change in downstream risk.
  • Provides DWR additional enforcement power over dam owners who are not complying with the new emergency plan/inundation maps requirements. The trailer bill also revises the Water Code to incorporate penalties such as fines and reservoir operation restrictions when dam owners violate DWR’s directives and orders.


New Bills

AB 1874 (Voepel R- ) would, on June 30, 2019, eliminate the requirement that the Controller withhold $833,000 from the monthly transfer to the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund and transfer that amount to the General Fund. The bill would thereby transfer this amount monthly to the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund.

AB 1901 (Obernolte R-) Would exemption indefinitely the CEQA exemption for a project or an activity to repair, maintain, or make minor alterations to an existing roadway, as defined, if the project or activity is carried out by a city or county with a population of less than 100,000 persons to improve public safety and meets other specified requirements.

AB 1905 (Grayson D- ) Would, in an action or proceeding seeking judicial review under CEQA, prohibit a court from staying or enjoining a transportation project that is included in a sustainable communities strategy and for which an environmental impact report has been certified, unless the court makes specified findings.

AB 1944 (Eduardo Garcia D-) Would divide the San Luis Rey Valley Groundwater Basin into an upper and lower subbasin and would designate the subbasins as medium priority until the department reassesses basin prioritization. The bill would require water beneath the surface of the ground within the Upper San Luis Rey Valley Groundwater Subbasin to be included within the definition of groundwater for the purposes of the act by any groundwater sustainability agency developing or implementing a groundwater sustainability plan.

AB 2038 (Gallagher R- ) Would require DWR, no later than January 1, 2020, in consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board and other relevant state and local agencies and stakeholders, to use available data to identify small water suppliers and rural communities that may be at risk of drought and water shortage vulnerability and would require the department to notify counties and groundwater sustainability agencies of those suppliers or communities.

AB 2042 (Steinorth R- ) Would express the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to extend financial incentives to single-family and multi-family homeowners to incentivize the purchase of residential graywater reuse systems.

AB 2050 (Caballero D-) Would create the Small System Water Authority Act of 2018 and state legislative findings and declarations relating to authorizing the creation of small system water authorities that will have powers to absorb, improve, and competently operate noncompliant public water systems. The bill would define various terms and require a change in organization to be carried out as set forth in the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000.

AB 2060 (Eduardo Garcia D-) Current law requires a regional water management group, within 90 days of notice that a grant has been awarded, to provide DWR with a list of projects to be funded by the grant funds where the project proponent is a nonprofit organization or a disadvantaged community, or the project benefits a disadvantaged community. Current law requires the department, within 60 days of receiving the project information, to provide advanced payment of 50% of the grant award for those projects that satisfy specified criteria, including that the grant award for the project is less than $1,000,000. This bill would instead require the department to provide advanced payment for those projects of $500,000 or 50% of the grant award, whichever is less.

AB 2064 (Gloria D-San Diego) Current law, until January 1, 2025, requires a regional water management group, within 90 days of notice that a grant has been awarded, to provide DWR with a list of projects to be funded by the grant funds if the project proponent is a nonprofit organization or a disadvantaged community or the project benefits a disadvantaged community. Current law requires the department, within 60 days of receiving this project information, to provide advanced payment of 50% of the grant award for those projects that satisfy specified criteria. The bill, until January 1, 2025, would require a project proponent, upon completion of the first one-half of a project receiving an above-described grant award, to provide a first one-half project accountability report to the department that reports the completion of objectives and documents the expenditure and use of advanced grant funds.

AB 2072 (Quirk D-) Would require the State Water Resources Control Board, to the extent that the state board determines funds are available, to establish and maintain a dedicated program to research contaminants of emerging concern to understand the contaminants entering drinking water supplies. The bill would require the program to research the impacts of contaminants of emerging concern on human health and the environment, as prescribed.

AB 2371 (Carrillo D) Current law, the Water Conservation in Landscaping Act, requires the Department of Water Resources to update its model water-efficient landscape ordinance by regulation and prescribes various requirements for the updated model ordinance. This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would improve water use sustainability in California’s outdoor irrigation practices.

AB 2543 (Eggman D-) Would require each state agency or department authorized to undertake large and complex infrastructure projects to develop and implement a policy for publicly reporting any significant change in the cost or schedule of a large and complex infrastructure project that would result in the project exceeding its projected budget by 10 percent or more or being delayed by 12 months or longer. The bill would require that the report include documentation and an explanation justifying a decision to proceed with the large and complex infrastructure project.

AB 2654 (Quirk-Silva D-) would authorize the County of Orange and the Orange County Flood Control District, indefinitely and without exclusion, to use design-build for public works infrastructure projects in excess of $1,000,000. The bill would require specified information to be verified under penalty of perjury.

AB 2681 (Nazarian D-) Current law establishes a program within all cities and all counties and portions thereof located within seismic zone 4, as defined, to identify all potentially hazardous buildings and to establish a mitigation program for these buildings. This bill would require each building department of a city or county to create an inventory of potentially vulnerable buildings, as defined, within its jurisdiction, based on age and other publicly available information, and submit that inventory to the Office of Emergency Services, as specified.

AB 2900 (Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials) The California Safe Drinking Water Act requires a proposed new public water system to first submit a preliminary technical report to the state board at least 6 months before initiating construction of any water-related improvement that includes, among other things, the name of each public water system for which any service area boundary is within 3 miles of the proposed new public water system’s service area and discussions of the feasibility of each of the adjacent public water systems supplying domestic water to the proposed new public water system’s service area. This bill would authorize the state board to approve the preliminary technical report and allow construction to proceed before the end of the 6-month period.

AB 3206 (Friedman D-) Would require the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, on or before January 1, 2020, to adopt regulations setting standards for the accuracy of water meters purchased, repaired, or reconditioned on and after the effective date of those regulations, including water meters installed pursuant to the Water Measurement Law, as specified. The bill would allow a water purveyor to install a water meter possessed by that water purveyor before the effective date of the regulations for a time period deemed appropriate by the commission.


Next month – we’ll examine the Senate Bills.


Recent Reports

Geophysical Research Letters released Permafrost Stores a Globally Significant Amount of Mercury “We already knew that thawing Arctic permafrost would release powerful greenhouse gases…. [I]t could also release massive amounts of mercury—a potent neurotoxin and serious threat to human health…. There are 32 million gallons of mercury, or the equivalent of 50 Olympic swimming pools, trapped in the permafrost…. ‘The results of this study are concerning because what we’re learning is that not only is permafrost a massive storage for carbon that will feedback on global climate, but permafrost also stores a globally significant pool of mercury, which is at risk of being released into the environment when permafrost thaws. This is especially concerning, given the predominance of wetland ecosystems in the Arctic.’ Mercury binds with living matter across the planet — but the Arctic is special. Normally, as plants die and decay, they decompose and mercury is released back to the atmosphere. But in the Arctic, plants often do not fully decompose. Instead, their roots are frozen and then become buried by layers of soil. This suspends mercury within the plants, where it can be remobilized again if permafrost thaws.” (Washington PostFeb. 5, 2018.).

The UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies released Falling Transit Ridership: California and Southern California.  “In the last ten years transit use in Southern California has fallen significantly…. [This report] examine[s] patterns of transit service and patronage over time and across the region, and consider[s] an array of explanations for falling transit use: declining transit service levels, eroding transit service quality, rising fares, falling fuel prices, the growth of Lyft and Uber, the migration of frequent transit users to outlying neighborhoods with less transit service, and rising vehicle ownership. While all of these factors probably play some role … the most significant factor is increased motor vehicle access, particularly among low-income households that have traditionally supplied the region with its most frequent and reliable transit users.”

California WaterFix released a study that concludes “this Delta tunnels plan would pay off for farmers, cities. The Department of Water Resources commissioned David Sunding, a professor of natural resource economics at UC Berkeley, to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of Brown’s Delta tunnels project. His report concludes that benefits outweigh the costs to ratepayers in every scenario he analyzed under a one-tunnel approach.” (Sacramento Bee, Feb. 13, 2018)


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