Assemblyman Pérez Advocates for Salton Sea in New Water Bond

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California Assemblyman V.Manuel Perez visiting the Salton Sea
California Assemblyman V.Manuel Perez visiting the Salton Sea

(SACRAMENTO) – Today during a hearing held at the State Capitol, State Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez argued that the new water bond framework must ensure the State of California can meet its existing obligations related to the Salton Sea and other water settlements of statewide relevance.

 

“In planning the new water bond, it is important that the focus remain on meeting California’s long term water needs and effectively managing our resources for the future,” noted Pérez.  “Therefore, we cannot overlook existing commitments made by the State related to Salton Sea mitigation, and we must build these obligations into the bond so that they can be fulfilled.”

 

Since last year, the State Legislature has convened a series of working groups and hearings to inform the development of the 2014 water bond.  As part of the process, the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife held today’s informational hearing, “Framework for a Water Bond.”

 

Pérez has been monitoring the process closely and issued a letter to the Committee, which then requested him to provide testimony at the hearing.  Specifically, he urged the Committee to ensure that the bond framework provides for the obligations made by the State in three settlement cases from the last decade:  the Salton Sea Quantification Settlement Agreement (2003), the San Joaquin River Restoration (2006), and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (2010).

 

“The State intervened in these cases because they involve statewide public water assets and there are compelling statewide economic, environmental and public health interests at stake,” explained Pérez. “As we develop a new water bond, it is imperative that the State has the resources to meet its commitments under these agreements.  The State must keep its word to the communities impacted by these agreements.”

 

For a copy of the Assemblyman’s letter to the Committee or his testimony, please contact amy.wilson@asm.ca.gov.

 

The three settlement cases are explained briefly below:

 

The Quantification Settlement Agreement

In 2003, the State intervened to settle a dispute among several water agencies using Colorado River water in southern California.  At stake was a water transfer agreement between the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the San Diego Water Authority (San Diego), whereby IID would agree to conserve and transfer to San Diego water that would have otherwise gone into the Salton Sea.  To bring the parties to settlement, the Legislature passed the Quantification Settlement Agreement (Statutes 2003, Chapters 611, 612, 613), declaring the intent of the State to undertake the restoration of the Salton Sea ecosystem and the permanent protection of the wildlife dependent on the ecosystem.  In addition, the State executed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the litigating parties, making itself “unconditionally liable” for mitigating the environmental impacts related to the transfer above the first $133 million in costs (Quantification Settlement Agreement MOU, Section 4).

 

The San Joaquin River Restoration

In 1988, the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the Friant Water Users Association (FUWA), alleging that the operation of Friant Dam (Dam) violated the state’s Fish and Game Code with respect to historic fish populations in the San Joaquin River. The Dam, which was used to store water for agriculture, was operated by the BOR.  In 2006, the State acted through the Department of Fish and Game and other state agencies by entering into a MOU with the litigating parties, committing up to $100 million to implement a settlement among the parties whereby the San Joaquin River would be restored. (San Joaquin MOU, Section 4, Subparagraph d).

 

The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement

In 2010, PacifiCorp, along with representatives of more than 40 organizations (including Federal agencies, the States of California and Oregon, Native American tribes, counties, irrigators and conservation and fishing groups) signed the historic Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). The KHSA laid out the process for additional studies, environmental review, and a decision by the Secretary of the Interior regarding whether the removal of four Klamath River dams owned by PacifiCorp should proceed.  Under the KHSA, the State of California, through the Natural Resources Agency, committed up to $250 million to fund dam removal costs in excess of the $200 million that would be contributed by California PacifiCorp customers (KSHA Settlement Agreement, Sections 2.3 & 4.1.2).

 

Background on 2014 Water Bond

In 2009, the Legislature approved a water bond package of $11.14 billion in general obligation bond funding for water infrastructure to be put before the voters in 2010.  That proposed measure included funding for drought relief, integrated regional water management, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, watershed protection, ground water cleanup, and water recycling.  In 2010, the Legislature postponed the bond measure vote to November 2012, and then did so once again, moving the measure to November 2014. At the same time, Legislative leaders initiated a process to reformulate the bond, reducing its size and scope. They have convened working groups with water bond stakeholders to identify key funding priorities.  Earlier this year, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez appointed Assemblymember Anthony Rendon to chair the Water Bond Working Group, which has organized water policy briefings and hearings organized around regional priorities, gathering input from water stakeholders and community organizations. This process has informed the development of a framework for a new water bond that identifies key priorities for building California’s future and for the management of California’s water resources.