Scores Voice Concern at Hanford Water Bond Hearing
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
It was the 12th
regional hearing for the California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, and
by far the most passionate in Hanford California, at the Kings County Government
On the table is a Water Bond
proposal that is far less than what was passed by a bipartisan vote by the
California Legislature in 2009. The most glaring change is a $1.5 billion
dollar proposal for storage---half of the $3 billion that was in the original proposal.
|A packed crowd in Hanford at special hearing on proposed Water Bond.|
Several hundred concerned
citizens packed the hearing room as well as an overflow room. And more than 50
members of the public stood up to give personal testimonies regarding their
concern of the drought and the need for sensible solutions. The hearing started
at 5pm and went to 8 pm.
“We have heard you and
appreciated what was said,” said Assembly Member Anthony Redon, Chair of the
committee from Los Angeles. “This was by far the biggest, most passionate crowd
that we have encountered during our hearings.”
“2013 was the driest year in
history and Governor Brown declared a statewide drought. A failure to prepare
is unacceptable and we cannot keep kicking the can down the road in terms of
water security. California’s population will be almost 50 million by the year
2020,” said Rendon. “We are on the edge of disaster. Now is the time to do
something to help protect our citizens, farmers and economy,” noted Rendon.
In 2009 the Assembly passed an
$11.14 billion proposal, which has
twice since been delayed from being placed before voters. This past year, the Assembly
took an entirely new approach to developing a water bond than it did in 2009.
The 2013 process included convening 13 public hearings—including 3 in the
Assembly, 2 in the Senate and 8 regional hearings across the state.
Rendon said, “The water
working group in the process reflects the diversity of California, and has
produced, to date, a $6.5 billion
water bond tailored to state-wide needs for water infrastructure. That proposal
includes $1 billion for maintaining and improving drinking water quality, $1.5
for protecting rivers and wetlands, $1.5 billon to fund integrated water
management, $1 billion to protect the California Delta that is critical to the
state’s water supply, and $1.5 billion for the development of water storage
“This version of the
bond proposal is the first step in establishing state priorities for water
funding. The amounts can change but the principles will endure. Ultimately
these informational hearings and ongoing discussions with Governor Brown and
the Senate will eventually dictate what goes before voters for approval."
Following Rendon’s remarks, there was testimony from an expert witness panel of the community. They
· Dave Orth, General Manager of the Kings River
· Maria Herrera, Director of Community Advocacy,
Community Water Center;
· Bent Walthall, Assistant General Manger, Kern County
· Tony Azevedo, Manager, Stone Land Company;
· Mario Santoyo, Executive Director, California Latino
“In 2009 our priorities were
a bit interesting for an agricultural water agency,’ said Walthall. “Our first
priority was the Delta ecosystem, and that’s because the Kern County Water
Agency was one of the proponents of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP),
which involves the Twin Tunnel plan, a major focus of our agency.”
“Also, much of our emphasis on
the 2009 proposal was on the public financing for the state and our involvement with the BDCP, other water agencies and our federal partners at a equal level,” said Walthall. "And we were very much
involved in the development of the Delta Plan, an important step in
helping the Delta Work as a comprehensive unit rather than 300 different
“Today, things are very
different,” said Walthall. “As everyone has noted here, it’s all drought--all the
time. And that is where we now focus our attention. To be blunt, it makes it
very difficult to focus on the Water Bond. And the reason is simple: A wildly
successful Water Bond this year still doesn’t address the water problems this
year,” said Walthall “And for most of us, the house is on fire. And we are
working on putting out the fire, instead of buying fire insurance for next
year. Nonetheless, the Water Bond is still important because this will not be
the last drought in California.
testimony was David Orth, the general manager of the Kings River Conservation
District, with 1.2 million acres in total service area in the Kings River
watershed which overlies 28 water rights holders on the Kings River system. The District works very closely with 14 incorporated cities. “We have more than 100
disadvantaged communities in the top half of our district alone, many of which
are struggling with drinking water issues.”
“We believe that there should
be significant investments in both surface and groundwater storage. “We
also believe that the $3 billion in funds for storage in the 2009 proposal is necessary to make significant investments in expanded storage capability.”
Orth also spoke about
Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM), which was adopted by the
California Legislature in 2002 and added to the California Water Code.
“It was set up to encourage local agencies to work together to maximize our
local and regional capabilities,” said Orth.
“The voters of previous water
bonds have significantly invested in IRWMs, allowing significant
funding to come into local regions such as ours to invest in
infrastructure in terms of ground water storage, groundwater management
capabilities, drinking water supply improvements, and water use efficiency,” said
Orth. “And there has been a tremendous amount of success with that investment
“Our major goals are to
address the overdraft within the Kings River Basin, which has an annual
overdraft of 120,000 acre feet per year, which is more than it can sustain.
Interestingly, the amount of surface water that leaves our Basin during flood
release is greater than 120,000 acre feet on average; in fact, it’s closer to
200,000 acre feet. So investments in storage, both surface and groundwater, are
the ways that we can attain a balance in the Basin, combined with significant
investments in local water use efficiency.”
Please click more below to continue report from Hanford.
“Addressing water quality,
specifically for disadvantaged communities, is a high priority of our focus,” said
“Over the last 11 years, we
have received $54 million in state and private grant funding and have leveraged
it to nearly $90 million in local projects, enabling us to create
20,000 acre feet more in recharge capacity,” Orth noted. “And we have future
projects on our list that will either reduce demand or capture additional flows
that will provide another 100,000 acre feet of demand reduction.”
“If we can achieve proper
funding support in the Water Bond, then we can achieve balance in our basin in
a very short period of time,” Orth said.
Following Orth was Maria
Herrera, Director of Community Advocacy, and Community Water Center. The Center, based in Visalia, primarily works with disadvantaged communities in the
San Joaquin Valley to insure that the citizens in those communities have access
to safe, clean and affordable drinking water.
She stated that many
communities are still receiving their water from very old infrastructures, with
some above-ground piping more than 100 years old. In addition, much of the groundwater in many of these communities has high nitrates and
other contaminants, which affect their drinking water.
“It’s not just failing
infrastructure,” said Herrera. “A large number of low income, farm
working communities served by private wells are also struggling with
water quality problems, both on the drinking water side but also on failing
septic systems. We must keep funding in the Water Bond to help with improving
all these systems.”
Following Herrera, was Tony
Azevedo, a third-generation Kings County farmer and Manager of Stone Land
Company, based in Stratford Calif. He is
also a board member of the California Water Alliance.
“Water is not one
dimensional, this bond should not be one dimensional, and we as farmers do not
operate as one dimensional. Being a farmer in a federal water district, we must
have Delta sustainability and we must have water storage in the system, as weather
patterns are cyclical. Just four years
ago, we had more water than we knew what to do with, and we could not capture it
all. And here we are, four years later, and our system is empty.”
“We have communities that are
predicted to be out of water this summer, and that’s unthinkable. We definitely
have a wreck on our hands, and we need a bond that is done right. The bond has
to be big enough to do the job. We need a bond that will work for our population
growth and our agricultural industries. Had we passed the bond four years ago
in 2009, we would be well on our way into infrastructure improvements
Mario Santoyo, Executive
Director, California Latino Water Coalition was the last expert witness. He
focused squarely on the critical need for the Temperance Flat Reservoir and
insisted that $3 billion is the minimum needed to get such a project underway.
“No one wants to say it here,
but I will,” said Santoyo. “A real water bond builds you real infrastructure,
not little projects that kind of help you day-to-day. We need something to
help the state, long-term. This is what our leaders did in the 20s, 30s, 40s and
50s,” said Santoyo. “That’s why we have what we have in California. If they had
not built the Central Valley Project, (CVP), if they had not built the State
Water Project, had they not built the big reservoirs, we would not be the
California we are today,” he said.
“There were leaders early on
who made these big and hard decisions; what we are asking of the Assembly Committee
is to be the same level of leaders, and make those tough decisions,” noted
Santoyo said the Committee
should realize that they are holding the meeting in the Central Valley, which
has been hit the hardest in terms of water shortages. “There is no question
about it. The people you see in this room and in the overflow rooms have been
hit so hard that they have been put into the unemployment lines. Their
businesses have shut down, their farms have been fallow,” he said.
“Yes, we are in a drought, and
we need to worry about it; yet, if we do not fix this on a long-term basis, we
will continue to have this fire over and over again. So I would say, the
priority from the Committee’s perspective is the Water Bond,” noted Santoyo.
“Above-ground storage is the
foundation of all significant water projects. If you don’t have above-ground
storage then you really don’t have a water project,” explained Santoyo. “If you
look at Shasta, that’s what provides the water to the CVP; if you look at Oroville, that’s the basic supplier of State Project.”
“Right now, our water supplies
are way below what the driest year has ever been, and that was in the 1920s. We
are in a crisis. We are in a time where there is no water, so the real question
becomes what do you have in savings? There are no savings that will help us this
year, and that’s why we are in trouble. The point is above-ground storage is
the savings account for these kinds of years,” he said.
Santoyo then gave a detailed explanation
of what Temperance Flat Reservoir could to for the state. He said it would be
an expansion of the existing reservoir in Millerton Lake (Friant Dam). He
showed a chart that reflected both the frequency and the volume of flood
releases that occur in the Millerton Lake Reservoir. “It happens a lot and in a big magnitude, and nearly every time there is a flood release, it is
more than 1 million acre feet going to the ocean,” he said.
Santoyo explained that this happens because the existing reservoir is about .5 million acre
feet in total, but nearly every year, 1.8 million acre feet in runoff occurs, so you can see that the numbers do not balance. What this means is
about 450,000 acre feet are lost to the ocean on average each year, essentially one full reservoir.
“If you look at the past 30
years, 14 million acre feet has gone to the ocean, which represents 90 years' worth of water supply for the city of Fresno. If we could save the
inflow, we would not be in the crisis we are in today,” he said.
Santoyo noted that Temperance
Flat would be the only reservoir (if built) that could move
water north into the Delta and south of the Delta. No other reservoir can do
that, and it’s important because it would provide public benefits to people in the Delta and those living south of the Delta, including Los Angeles
and San Diego.
“We are talking about
integrated operations where the San Luis Reservoir and Temperance can work together
and move water back and forth so as to optimize the storage in both of them and
reduce losses,” he said.
This is especially important
should there be a Delta failure due to a seismic event or other situation, preventing Southern California from accessing water from the Delta. So there must be a secondary source as a backup, and Temperance Flat would be the solution.
“It is so critical that we do
not have less than $3 billon for above-ground storage. As much as I would like to say we needed $5-plus
billion for water storage, the reality is that we negotiated it to $3 billion, and it would be a good kick-start to get the projects built,” he said. “Most people note that $3 billion is where the
line is drawn.”
And of course we will also
need continuous appropriations to continue investing in these big projects. It
will take billions and billions to complete and maintain these projects, and to
be able to get funding from the state requires financial commitment from
the beneficiaries (water users.) Unless they are assured that this project is
moving forward, it’s difficult for them to sign that dotted line.
“In fact, Senator Diane
Feinstein has been very clear from day one that continuous appropriations
must be in the package,” said Santoyo.
Following Santoyo's comments were more
than fifty public comments from farmers, farm bureau representatives, local
city councilmen and women, local county supervisors, farm organizations, and
Labels: Scores Gather In Hanford for Water Hearing. Water bond is being reduced.