In an annual ritual, the State Water Resources Control Board will consider more fee increases next month. Staff proposals—as outlined in a workshop last week—would raise fees at rates less than prior years, mainly to build a stronger reserve account.
But agriculture and other industries are ramping up engagement with policymakers in an effort to ease the escalating costs. A coalition of farm groups is asking the administration for an infusion of $150 million to cover a portion of the water rights and water quality program budgets and another $25 million for the reserve fund—though the window for such budget allocations is quickly closing. Bob Gore, a policy advocate for the Gualco Group, is pushing board members and staff to better inform legislators of the fees that result from their bills.
Don’t miss a beat! It’s easy to sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.
“Bills are simply passed with a pro forma shrug—that the fee payers will pay for this,” he said. “That can no longer continue to be the case.”
Stakeholders hope to work with staff this fall on solutions that could maintain or even reduce fees while improving the return on investment with those program services, according to Gore.
Another concern is the specter of a sudden increase for those ratepayers still in business after a potentially enormous swath of farmland falls out of production from drought and groundwater laws.