Water Legislation Package Ushers in New Era

The California Legislature passed a landmark five-bill water package last November to provide a way forward for improving the beleaguered Delta. The legislation also ushers in a new era for the CALFED Science Program-now the Delta Science Program.

On Feb. 3, 2010, under Senate Bill X7 1 (SBX7 1) the new Delta Stewardship Council was created as an independent state agency tasked with developing the Delta Plan for achieving the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply and protecting and restoring the Delta ecosystem. Under the same bill, the CALFED Science Program became the Delta Science Program, and the CALFED Independent Science Board became the Delta Independent Science Board, both reporting to the new Council. The bill also established the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy which is required to act as a primary state agency to implement ecosystem restoration in the Delta.

Below is a look at SBX7 1:

  • Creates the Delta Stewardship Council (Council) which consists of seven members who are to have diverse expertise providing a broad statewide perspective. The Chairperson of the Commission will be a permanent member of the Council. Among Council tasks are:

    • Developing a Delta Plan (goals of Delta restoration and water supply reliability);

    • Determining consistency of state and local agency actions with the Delta Plan;

    • Considering incorporation of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan into the Delta Plan;

    • Appointing the Delta Lead Scientist who oversees the Delta Science Program;

    • Appointing members of the Delta Independent Science Board which will provide oversight for all scientific efforts in the Delta; and

    • Developing performance measures for the assessment and tracking of progress in meeting the objectives of the Delta Plan including Delta ecosystem health and water supply reliability.

  • Creates the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (with a governing board of 11 voting members, two non-voting, and 10 liaison advisers) that is required to act as a primary state agency to implement ecosystem restoration in the Delta.

  • Ensures that the State Water Resources Control Board-to inform planning decisions for the Delta Plan and the BDCP-will develop new flow criteria for the Delta ecosystem necessary to protect public trust resources by reviewing existing water quality objectives and using the best available scientific information.

  • Ensures that the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) develops and recommends to the State Board Delta flow criteria and quantifiable biological objectives for aquatic and terrestrial species of concern dependent on the Delta.

  • Requires the Delta Protection Commission (Commission) to prepare and submit to the Legislature recommendations on the potential expansion or change of the primary zone of the Delta. The Commission shall also prepare and adopt an economic sustainability plan which shall include information and recommendations that inform the Council’s policies regarding the socioeconomic sustainability of the Delta region.

  • The Council assumes from the California Bay-Delta Authority all administrative rights, abilities, obligations and duties. All staff, resources, and funding within the Natural Resources Agency and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for the support of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program are transferred to the Council.

  • The Council shall be a responsible agency (California Environmental Quality Act-CEQA) in the development of the environmental impact report for the BDCP.

  • Establish the Delta Independent Science Board and Delta Science Program.

    • The Delta Independent Science Board shall have oversight of scientific research, monitoring, and assessment programs that support adaptive management of the Delta through periodic reviews of each of those programs – all Delta scientific research, monitoring and assessment programs should be reviewed at least once every four years.

      • The Delta Independent Science Board shall review the draft EIR for the BDCP and submit comments to the Council and DFG. The Delta Science Program shall function as a replacement for, and successor to, the CALFED Science Program.

      • The mission of the Delta Science Program is to provide the best possible unbiased scientific information to inform water and environmental decision making in the Delta.

      • The mission shall be carried out through funding research, synthesizing and communicating scientific information to policymakers and decision makers, promoting independent scientific peer review, and coordinating with Delta agencies to promote science-based adaptive management.

      • The Delta Science Program shall assist with development and periodic updates of the Delta Plan’s adaptive management program.

Below is a brief summary of the remaining four bills in the water package.

Summary: Senate Bill No. 2

Will enact the Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010, which, if approved by the voters, would authorize the issuance of bonds in the amount of $11.1 billion pursuant to the State General Obligation Bond Law to finance a safe drinking water and water supply reliability program which includes such areas as ecosystem restoration, surface storage, improvements to wastewater treatment facilities, flood control benefits, and more.

Summary: Senate Bill No. 6

Requires-for the first time in California’s history-that local agencies monitor the elevation of their groundwater basins to help better manage the resource during both normal water years and drought conditions.

Summary: Senate Bill No. 7

This bill focuses on reducing California’s water use-it requires the development of agricultural water management plans and requires urban water agencies to reduce statewide water consumption (per capita) 20 percent by 2020.

Summary: Senate Bill No. 8

Requires reporting the location, use, and amounts of water being diverted in the Delta-revising exemptions from reporting requirements under current law. The bill also appropriates existing bond funds for flood control and management, integrated regional water management, and natural community conservation planning.