January 7, 2020
PPIC: Raising Shasta Dam is ‘a remote prospect’
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation wants to raise the height of Shasta Dam to create more storage for the Central Valley Project and its farmers. Yet researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California pointed out in a blog post yesterday that the infrastructure project will likely not be a reality anytime soon.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra led an effort last year to block the Westlands Water District from performing an environmental review for the project. The state argued the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act prohibits “agencies of the state” from impacting the free flows of the McCloud River. This means other potential cost-sharing partners for the bureau would also be bound by the restrictions, according to PPIC’s Brian Gray and Jeffrey Mount.
Only the Legislature or Congress could change this, but “neither is likely in this time of divided government,” they write.
The Legislature kicked off its 2020 session yesterday with brief floor sessions. Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins recalled the momentous last day of the 2019 session, when a protestor spilled blood on the Senate floor, delaying votes until 3 a.m.
California Farm Bureau optimistic about Water Resilience Portfolio
On Friday afternoon, minutes after the U.S. stock market closed for the weekend, Gov. Newsom’s administration quietly released the first draft of the comprehensive Water Resilience Portfolio. (Newsom has been careful to avoid impacts to trading when he unveils major policy actions.)
Yet interest groups have said little about the portfolio’s recommendations so far. The California Farm Bureau, for one, is analyzing the document and plans to offer public comments soon, according to Senior Counsel Chris Scheuring.
“We appreciate the administration’s focus on the state’s current and future needs,” he told Agri-Pulse in a written statement. “We have long believed that California needs an all-of-the-above approach that avoids zero-sum regulatory thinking and moves forward on new surface storage, groundwater recharge, recycling, desalination, improved efficiency and more.”
Assemblymembers Eggman and Aguiar-Curry on the first day of session yesterday.
State board to discuss food safety today
The State Board of Food and Ag has invited Scott Horsfall of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) to present at the board’s monthly meeting today. He will share findings from a technical task force and updates to the LGMA standards. The hearing follows an E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce that sickened 102 people in 23 states and was traced back to a grower in Salinas last month.
Assembly Ag Chair Susan Eggman will present to the board as well. As the new legislative session kicks off, Eggman and other lawmakers are in closed-door negotiations with Newsom over his coming budget draft and new bills for 2020.
The board will also discuss school lunch programs through CDFA’s Farm to Fork office.
Remember: Asm. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry worked with CDFA Sec. Karen Ross to introduce a bill last year that would have subsidized organic meals for school lunches. It was held in the Appropriations Committee, but Aguiar-Curry told Agri-Pulse she plans to introduce a new bill this year that may expand the proposal to hospitals and the prison system.
California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson opposed the bill: “It’s not about whether you’re eating an organic carrot or a conventional carrot,” he said in December. “It's about eating the carrot and not the Cheeto.”
Keep in mind: The board has been eager to comment on the governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio. Given those comments are due Feb. 7, this will likely be the last opportunity for the board to debate the portfolio’s many proposed policy actions.
Rural counties eye Newsom’s budget surplus
California is projected to have a $7-billion budget surplus this year and the group Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) wanted more of that pot to go to rural issues.
RCRC’s Paul Smith outlined their priorities in a recent letter to the administration. He requested $100 million each for water infrastructure, for helping counties adapt to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and for extending broadband access to fairgrounds. He asked for nearly as much money to fund UC agricultural research and extension efforts.
Keep in mind: California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office has recommended that lawmakers limit new and ongoing spending to $1 billion or less in the next budget. Last year, the state had more than $21 billion in its surplus.
Statewide crop mapping data available
The Department of Water Resources has released new mapping data on the 2016 crop year. As an upgrade to prior data collection, DWR incorporated remote sensing technology like satellite imagery and aerial photography to allow more accurate and comprehensive crop identification.
The data will aid the agency in its regulatory decision making by helping to better project water use, model groundwater resources and broker water transfers.
Senate gears up for speedy approval of USMCA
The Senate Finance Committee will be convening this morning to consider implementing legislation for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. While all the lawmakers on the panel are expected to have their say on the pact, it’s also expected to easily pass and head to a relatively quick floor vote.
Attorney in Roundup suits delays hearing
The lawyer accused of attempting to extort $200 million from a chemical company will have more time to prepare for his preliminary hearing.
Timothy Litzenburg, who has been involved in lawsuits alleging that Roundup causes cancer, had been scheduled to appear in court in Virginia on Monday, but he and the federal government filed papers asking for an extension. A new hearing date has not been set.
He said it:
“It is a good read, clearly reflecting intense and diverse discussions over several months.” – Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, in a blog post comparing the Water Resilience Portfolio to the previous 60 years of water policy reports.
Bill Tomson, Steve Davies and Ed Maixner contributed to this report.
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