Regions Six and Seven of the Association of California Water Agencies held a Valley Water Forum in Visalia at the Convention Center on October 14th. According to its website ACWA is the largest coalition of statewide water agencies in the United States. It has 460 public agency members responsible for more than 90 percent of the water delivered to the cities, farms and businesses in California. As an organization it helps to promote water agencies as the “most efficient means of providing water”. ACWA is also involved in lobbying for legislative solutions and legislative restraint in matters of interest to its members. That can be a little bit of a balancing act sometimes as both urban and rural interests are members.
WaterWrights readers will recognize the name Deanna Jackson, Chair of Region Six and Executive Director of the Tri County Water Authority. Jackson welcomed the 70 or so participants at a little after 10:00am. The little after part was good as I don’t know why but I thought it was at the Wyndham Hotel over by the airport and I lost some time futilely searching the premises. So, the slightly late start worked well for me.
After welcoming everyone and reporting the previous day’s tour of water locations around the Valley was successful Jackson introduced ACWA President Pam Tobin. Tobin also welcomed everyone and in a model of brevity stated her poiesis remark for the gathering, “Tell us [ACWA leadership] what is working and what’s not. And, get involved.” The rest of the day involved panel discussions, presentations and a really good lunch.
The first panel discussion was Perspectives from the Capitol moderated by Johnny Amaral, who in addition to having a lot of political experience also works at the Friant Water Authority and is Vice Chair of Region Seven. Assemblymen Devin Mathis, Vince Fong and Jim Patterson were asked to save time by simply stated the counties their current includes and what counties they will represent after the election as district boundaries have changed. Two of them did as requested and gave to the point descriptions of the areas they now and will soon represent.
The first topic was what can be expected in the upcoming session. Fong sits on the budget committee and says we’re all going to have to wait until December 5th with the votes all counted and the election certified. We won’t know until then who will assume office and what the make up of the Assembly and State Senate will be. He expects the budget projections will drop by at least $2 billion after the election. I’ve been hearing this from others. On the state side the trough will slosh near the brim for about a year, after that largess of grants and programs will contract upon itself as reality sets in. Not so much a contraction on the federal side as it can print its own money.
Mathis said with the political tide constantly flowing leftwards in Sacramento some voter propositions might need to be qualified for the ballot during the next election cycle. You may recall the heavy lift Ed Ring did to gather signatures for the excellent More Water Now. Perhaps this time he’ll get more help, earlier. I don’t have any confirmation Ring intends to take another try but I hope he does. The concepts in More Water Now were a much needed dose of sanity for California’s water supplies.
Patterson said to expect Governor Gavin Newsom to veer further to the left side of issues. He expressed it was part of his duty to keep Newsom accountable. I believe it was Patterson who pointed out Prop One has been a fraud but Newsom now wants to fast track the Sites Reservoir Project. He also said the state needs four million more acre feet of storage to provide a safety buffer for drought.
Amaral asked what changes to expect in water management.
Mathis said there are many caucuses in Sacramento representing interests throughout the state. He wants to find the ones who agree on sound water policy and see those voices united.
Fong reiterated the importance of finding out who makes it through the election in November. He said to then identify the players as you’ll know more about the supporters who make them players. He said elected officials, the public and many informed people know a lot about policy, but relatively little about the budget. He who holds he pursed strings. Fong said lining up 45 votes can get something done.
Patterson said he wants to see the newly elected receive an education and to talk net new water. He also advocated for more purple pipe (water recycling to less than drinking standards for landscape) and more desalinization.
Amaral asked, assuming the legislature keeps its nose and nuts out of changing SGMA into its own image and SGMA is able to stay its course, what advice the panel had for White Areas.
Fong said he’s been speaking with State Water Resource Control Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel about the need for more infrastructure to help the white areas and that means bigger grant funds. The amounts doled out currently are not enough to get much if anything accomplished.
Patterson said the Democrats don’t think SGMA goes far enough and won’t until there is a change of water rights. Mathis concurred saying the goal is to take away water rights and give them all to the state.
Amaral asked if the Voluntary Agreements on the San Joaquin River tributaries make sense. If I’m correct Amaral believes the VAs are a major component to removing water and wealth from the Valley.
Fong asked how voluntary an agreement can be when one side is holding a gun to the other’s head. Mathis repeated his call to build coalitions so the Valley isn’t so isolated politically. Patterson said the VA will devolve into lawsuits and ballot measures.
In the next report on the ACWA Region Six & Seven Forum we’ll learn about Dr. Scott Hamilton’s presentation on the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley.
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