An Assembly committee this week approved a bill to add more regulatory review for new groundwater wells. The bill would codify into law Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order a year ago requiring groundwater sustainability agencies to review well applications prior to county approval.
The author, Assemblymember Steve Bennett of Ventura, pointed out that the executive order was modeled after his bill, dispelling notions that the governor had the idea first. Bennett pulled the initial measure last year after a committee amended it to weaken the provisions. The new bill has left out those amendments.
While a number of farm groups remain opposed to the bill, Bennett pointed several times to the support of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)—or, as he called it, the California Family Farmers Association.
CAFF is a small but influential advocacy group representing 8,000 growers. It backs progressive environmental policies and often stands at opposing ends of much larger groups like the California Farm Bureau. CAFF has built close ties to CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom over climate and school lunch programs.
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Bennett noted that CAFF was the only ag group to support the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act when it passed.
The committee also advanced Bennett’s bill granting the State Water Resources Control Board more authority in adjudications concerning groundwater. A separate bill for elevating disadvantaged communities and small farmers in adjudication proceedings also passed.