Sunday, November 22, 2009

If Ex-Legislators tell the truth, what do our current crop tell?

I am astounded the termed out State Senator Sheila Kuehl has found way to describe the problems of the much lauded water legislation so that even a dummy like me can understand it. This propensity for telling thing truly is probably why some of her legislation never passed… she didn't play the Sacrament game.

Click Read more! to find out just how far truth takes her from the party line.

Kuehl has started to release a series of four essays on that recent water legislation. The first one set the stage and specifically dealt with the manner in which a bill to authorize the monitoring of ground water is an empty bucket.
Think oil. Think sticking a straw into the ground and drawing water out of vast underground lakes. There is an amazing amount of fresh water underground in California and the state has mapped the various "basins" and "subbasins" where it lies. Some groundwater is polluted and can't be withdrawn. As to the rest, private landowners, corporations, cities and other public entities draw it out in wells.
Assembly member Jared Huffman referred to SBX7.6 as providing "California’s first comprehensive groundwater monitoring requirement". Kuehl, on the other hand is a bit more objective.
One of the bills just passed, SBX7 6 (Senate Bill 6 in the 7th extraordinary session of 2009), provides that entities may "volunteer" to do groundwater monitoring of the quantity, not the quality of the groundwater (a much watered down bill from its original introduction, no pun intended).

In addition, even if they do volunteer, monitoring entities are still prevented from entering onto private property or even asking private property owners in their entity district to submit to monitoring. So, although we finally have something in the law about groundwater monitoring, we can't compel it. This is particularly troubling in the many districts where private landowners control most of an entire basin. Under the bill, voluntary monitoring may start in 2012.

Finally, paying for the monitoring is a problem as, when there is no monitoring entity, the Department of Water Resources is allowed to monitor, but may not charge private well owners. If DWR determines that all of part of a basin is not being monitored they must identify existing monitoring wells, determine whether these wells provide sufficient information and, if not, and if the State Mining and Geology Board concurs with the determination, perform the groundwater monitoring. However, since there is no extra money in DWR's budget for increased monitoring, it is not clear how they would accomplish the goal.
Today, she released the second in her series, this one covering the restructuring of the governance of the largest source of water for both agricultural and urban use, the California Delta. Once again she neatly lays out the scope of the mess that we are in.
For years, a combined federal and state entity called Cal-Fed tried to work out possible agreements, but was hamstrung by lack of funds and lack of authority to enforce agreements. A Delta Protection Commission, made up of more than twenty members, has struggled to put together a protection plan. A Delta Blue Ribbon Commission and the Public Policy Institute of California have both created extensive recommendations.
I have long felt that there were two major problems with the new governance structure. One is the lack of public representation. The major change is the naming of a new Delta Stewardship Council to create a plan for the Delta and then to see that everyone follows the plan. By law, the plan must have a dual objective of meeting both the environmental needs of the Delta as well as the needs of California for water for other uses.

In reality this will be a lobbyist driven effort with only the nominal authority to enforce the plans that they develop. They are a planning agency with some authority to block project that do not meet the plan. Unfortunately, the planning will be controlled by the Governor, who appoints 4 of the 7 members of the board, public be damned.

Kuehl and I agree on the second major weakness. The State of California has no money and so it not going to adequately fund the Delta Stewardship Council. Kuehl's point is similar.
As with every other aspect of state funding this year, the lack of funding for the entities created by this bill are troubling. The Conservancy has to find its own money. The Stewardship Council is only funded for a year. The Council has no fee authority and no power to require water users to pay for any of the improvements in the Delta. Time will tell if this has the same weakening effect that such a lack of funding had on all previous Delta governance entities.
The lack of such honesty from California Legislators is shameful.


Anonymous said...

Once again, your level of analysis on these water issues is shamefully shallow. Did you read the bill, or just snatch snippets from both Huffman and Kuehl and start rendering opinions? I think I know the answer. Yes, the bill allows some agencies to "volunteer" to provide the data, as Kuehl points out. But it also MANDATES that the data be collected -- by the state if necessary. So Huffman is correct too. I know you are predetermined to rip Democrats and the water deal, but you should at least read the friggin bill that you're criticizing. If this is what passes for Green leadership, I'd say the 2 party system is here to stay.

Wes said...

Yes, I read it, several times in fact. I was looking for something more positive than what Governors complain about as an unfunded mandate.

The supposed mandate in this bill is very much like the legislature outlawing theft, but not permitting the police to go search a suspect's property. Then, if theft is proven, not specifying any fine or jail time.

Tell me how that is good legislation or good leadership. No wonder you were so proud of your comment as to not leave a real name.