Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio outlining the state’s policy priorities on water projects is yet to be finalized. The task force was to deliver the final document to the governor in March, following feedback on the draft from dozens of stakeholder groups. The Water Commission was scheduled on Wednesday to discuss the state’s role in financing regional conveyance.
“But that would simply be premature,” said the Commission's executive officer, Joe Yun. “It's unclear what impacts today's budget realities will have on the implementation of that document.”
With the deepening economic recession caused by the pandemic, the state has not been focusing more resources on further investments in water projects. The agencies “will now look to integrate and build on programs, policies and investments already in place,” according to an assessment of the budget’s May Revision by the Rural County Representatives of California.
The first draft of the portfolio had been promised for early fall 2019 but delayed until January. Under the January budget proposal, the portfolio relied heavily on the administration’s proposal for a climate resilience bond on the November ballot. But the governor has now sidelined that bond proposal as well in his budget update. A legislative bill offering a similar climate resilience bond, AB 3256, would provide $150 million for CDFA climate-smart ag programs, filling in existing budget gaps. The bill passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee last week.
The Water Commission also heard from executives from seven of the eight storage projects in California, who asked the commission for regulatory relief. They wanted the commission staff to consider modifying funding allocations from the existing Proposition 1 water bond money to better assist projects now struggling under the economic downtown. The commission plans to consider the issue at a future meeting.