Another week in the Great California Drought of 2014

 Day in the life of a “California drought”
With heavy rain falling, local irrigation districts raising the amount they can promise farmers (in the recent case of Modesto Irrigation District to two acre-feet), the drought panic may be lessening.
Meanwhile, water-bond bills work their way through the state Legislature like salmon smolts being shipped by tanker from Red Bluff to Rio Vista. We’re not sure that either process is healthy but at least, for now, there are more salmon than there are water-bond bills. We are pretty sure that the trucking is more of a PR experiment than a science-backed "solutioon." Separating a creature from its natural habitat, particularly a baby creature, just isn't a good idea. The measure of its necessity is a measure of desperation on the part of regulatory agencies that cannot regulate effectively enough to save the natural habitat under their jurisdictions, due to the sort of belligerent political interference that produces eight or ten water-bond bills where one bill reflecting the true Public Trust is what is needed. Instead we get multiples bills reflecting competing special interests and "trust" in this context means corporations. 
Probably the most important news of the week so far is on  the groundwater front, Tulare County moved to prohibit a Los Altos Hills-based corporate jerk from ripping off groundwater in that county and piping it to Kings County to replace water that was sold from Kings County to the Mojave Desert – a manifestation of the “free market in water” by outsiders the judge found at bit too exuberant for Tulare County.
When groundwater is pumped out faster than it can be replenished -- a condition called overdrafting -- by law it can't be pumped out and used elsewhere, said Alex Peltzer, the Visalia water lawyer representing Lower Tule River Irrigation District.
"Lower Tule River is tired of having water taken out the back door," Peltzer said. "This is an important case for this area ... you can't export groundwater like this." – Lewis Griswold, Fresno Bee, March 25, 2014.
Meanwhile, the Stanislaus County supervisors continue to dither on some means – any means – for controlling hedge-fund raider almond orchardists from disappearing the aquifer beneath the former seasonal pastures of the eastern part of the county. They could not stand on environmental legal grounds concerning the destruction of wetlands to the habitat for numerous endangered species  and state and federal resource agencies seem politically pacified at the moment for the rapacious regulated community.
On the Delta, regulatory agencies are allowing more pumping for agriculture to the south. They claim they can relax the fresh water pressure on the San Francisco Bay salt intrusion sufficiently for the health of fish species. But what about Delta farmers and people who drink water from the the Delta? No mention of those in the coverage. In general the people of the Delta have been getting the shaft since the debate on what to do about the Delta entered its latest round, when the Hun, our former governor, decreed there would be a water bond to end all water bonds. Legislators like Mike Machado, Lois Wolk, John Garamendi and others, have had to fight every step of the way to get the bureaucracies and unelected boards making policy to even admit the existence of the rich Delta agriculture, fishery and tourism. The Delta is an extremely important Public Trust, but its users have no concept of public or trust and perhaps, despite the doctrine of Public Trust, lack the institutions to enforce it. There has been way too much “public-private partnership for growth” in this state, in our opinion. -- blj
Maybe enough rain will come

Modesto Bee
Stanislaus County looks at fees for irrigation wells, Fink Road landfill and parks…Ken Carlson
Stanislaus County leaders look to increase fees for irrigation well permits to cover the costs of groundwater studies and propose a fee cut to encourage garbage deliveries to the Fink Road landfill. An April 29 public hearing has been set for considering the fee changes.
In a separate action Tuesday, supervisors approved fees for mobile food vendors at the county’s five regional parks, including Woodward and Modesto reservoirs, Laird Park and the La Grange and Frank Raines off-road vehicle areas. One vendor sold ice cream and packaged food at Woodward last year, but the county is relaxing the rules for any licensed vendors to sell marina-type items at the reservoirs, such as firewood, Jet Ski rentals, food and alcoholic beverages.
Beer and wine sales at parks will cease at 9 p.m.; vendors will need to obtain the proper license before selling those beverages.
The rules will allow concessionaires to play music and may give them access to different locations at the recreation areas – at the discretion of park management. The county will charge a $100 annual registration fee and $25 per day to vendors.
Supervisors also approved free day use for veterans on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. A $1 discount on entrance fees was approved for veterans, seniors and the disabled at the La Grange and Frank Raines off-road vehicle parks.
There were no changes in the general entrance fees at county parks, but officials are exploring a proposal to charge separate gate fees to visitors coming from other counties.
Supervisor Bill O’Brien said the county is talking with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District about a partial season of water recreation this year at Woodward Reservoir, which is north of Oakdale.
With the possibility of a fourth drought year in 2014-15, the SSJID does not want to fill the reservoir to the level at which swimming and water skiing is permitted. The district’s agricultural and drinking water customers would lose about 9,000 acre-feet of water to seepage and evaporation. The SSJID board is slated to review the situation April 8.
The drought could spoil fun for residents and deal a financial blow to county parks and recreation. Stanislaus County’s annual parks revenue is about $2.4 million, including $2 million that had been projected this year from Woodward Reservoir. The county Department of Environmental Resources hopes to boost revenue by luring special events to county parks.
According to a report, special events could generate $175,000 in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The department will bring individual events to the Board of Supervisors for approval. Besides the Woodward regional park, the county manages the Modesto Reservoir recreation area, Laird Park near Grayson, and the La Grange and Frank Raines off-road vehicle areas.
Irrigation wells
County officials are proposing tiered fees for well permits, which would set a $700 fee for irrigation wells. The charge for domestic well permits would remain at $578. Fees would be doubled for any nonpermitted well installations that are discovered.
Of the 382 well permits issued last year, 217 were for agricultural irrigation wells. Public concerns about the drought, groundwater depletion and an explosion of irrigation wells for orchards and vineyards spurred the county to form the Water Advisory Committee to study the problems.
The fees are proposed to cover the costs of data collection, staff time, training, office support, equipment, travel and meeting expenses. Other proposed fees would include $700 for appealing an agricultural well permit decision and would require applicants to reimburse the county for processing variances or exceptions.
The county will cut the Fink Road landfill tipping fee by $3 per ton for a 90-day trial if supervisors give approval April 29. Garbage deliveries to the West Side landfill declined after the fee paid by haulers was raised from $30 to $33 per ton in July 2009. Staff attributed the decline to the troubled economy, but another factor was haulers taking advantage of pricing cuts by landfills in San Joaquin and Merced counties.
The county could extend the $3 reduction beyond the three months if it results in more garbage received at the Fink landfill. Otherwise, the rate would return to $33 per ton Sept. 30.

Fresno Bee 
Tulare County judge orders landowner to stop pumping, exporting groundwater…Lewis Griswold
A Tulare County judge has ordered a landowner to stop pumping groundwater in the southern San Joaquin Valley and moving it off the property, to the relief of an irrigation district that wants to keep water available for landowners fighting the drought.
The preliminary injunction will stay in effect until a trial determines whether the pumping and movement of water violates state water law, visiting Judge Harry N. Papadakis ruled last week.
Last year, Lower Tule River Irrigation District based in Tipton sued Sandridge Partners, LP, alleging that the partnership pumped thousands of acre-feet of water from wells on an unfarmed parcel it owns and moved it 25 miles through pipes and canals to an almond farm on the west side of Kings County.
When groundwater is pumped out faster than it can be replenished -- a condition called overdrafting -- by law it can't be pumped out and used elsewhere, said Alex Peltzer, the Visalia water lawyer representing Lower Tule River Irrigation District.
"Lower Tule River is tired of having water taken out the back door," Peltzer said. "This is an important case for this area ... you can't export groundwater like this."
Water consulting engineer Dennis Keller of Visalia said it's unusual for an individual landowner to pump and export: "I can't think of an instance where that's an every year type of thing."
But Sandridge Partners said in court papers that the water was not moved across the Valley floor but rather was used by an adjoining landowner.
The pumping did not exceed historical use for the property and Lower Tule lacks data showing that the area is in overdraft, court papers said.
But Dan Vink, general manager for Lower Tule, said there's no question "the basin is in overdraft," and removing groundwater from the area could permanently worsen the problem.
"If you stick straws in the ground and you are not farming the overlying lands, that only further contributes to the overdraft," because a portion of the water used on farmland in the district seeps back underground, Vink said.
Furthermore, the district's purpose is to benefit farmers in the district, not outside it, he said.
Sandridge pumped water and exported it to an almond farm in Dudley Water District south of Kettleman City, Vink said. He said Sandridge is controlled by developer John Vidovich of Los Altos Hills and others.
Four years ago, Dudley sold several thousand acre-feet of its annual State Water Project contract to Mojave, leaving the district especially short of water in drought years, he said.
In late 2012, Sandridge bought 920 acres inside and outside of Lower Tule River Irrigation District on the east side of the Valley, improved wells, laid pipes and started pumping the groundwater, according to court papers.
"Their intent is to mine it for the trees in Dudley Ridge," Peltzer said.
Attempts to reach Vidovich for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Lawyer Matthew J. Durket of Folsom, representing Sandridge Partners, also did not return a call seeking comment.
Lower Tule has fought the groundwater export issue before.
Last year, a similar dispute erupted about groundwater pumping involving nearby Angiola Water District, which owns a well field inside Lower Tule that pre-dates the district. But the issue was settled before going to court under an agreement that Angiola would limit pumping and provide money so Lower Tule River could buy Friant-Kern Canal water for groundwater recharge in years when water supplies are more abundant, Peltzer said.
Modesto Bee
Modesto Irrigation District farmers promised more water…Garth Stapley
Modesto-area farmers were buoyed Tuesday to learn that they should receive 24 inches of irrigation water per acre this summer, a welcome jump from the dismal prediction a few weeks ago of only 18 inches.
That’s getting close to the amount needed by many to produce crops or keep trees alive, reckoned by some at 27 to 30 inches.
“That’s going to help a lot of people,” said Modesto farmer Bruce Oosterkamp, reflecting the thanks of many to the Modesto Irrigation District board during a lengthy debate over ways to increase water deliveries even more.
The discussion exposed a division between board members over the novel ideas of allowing growers to sell each other water on the open market or to take a fixed payment from the district in exchange for not receiving water this year. The board approved both last month, but the former continues to chap the hides of board members on the losing end of that 3-2 vote.
Jake Wenger and Larry Byrd said such transfers favor wealthy growers at the expense of those struggling to survive, and might not be necessary if rains come and the district continues coming up with creative ways to provide more water for everyone.
“I’m excited and eager to see what the next six weeks brings,” said Wenger, noting a very different mood from dire drought predictions six weeks ago.
“Everyone counts. I don’t care if you’re a 10-acre farmer or a 500-acre farmer; we’re all the same,” Byrd said.
But board members John Mensinger, Paul Campbell and Nick Blom said they see no compelling reason to reverse the landmark decision favoring the open-market approach.
“We set a direction and we need to be consistent,” Mensinger said. “A lot of folks are making plans based on the decisions we’ve made,” he added, predicting legal challenges if the board were to cancel internal sales now counted on by many to feed thirsty crops.
Mensinger finally agreed to reconsider in a few weeks, to placate Wenger and Byrd, but the board could not agree on an acceptable date to revisit the issue and it was left in limbo.
Base allocations could increase from the previous 18 inches per acre, general manager Roger VanHoy recommended, because:
• The MID dropped a plan to retain in mountain reservoirs enough for everyone to get 3 inches next year in case the three-year drought hangs on. Widespread agricultural catastrophe would not be avoided with that small amount, while an extra 3 inches could make a big difference to growers this year, officials say.
• The district tends to waste less when it has less. Since 1972, the district has “spilled” an average of 34,000 acre-feet each year of unclaimed water in canals that flows to the San Joaquin River, but has managed to cut that to 30,000 acre-feet in dry years and spilled only 10,000 acre-feet in the critically dry summer of 1976.
• Forecasts show rain in coming days and perhaps weeks.
Farmers hoping to participate in transfers must provide notice to the district by April 1, and submit specific information on crop type and acreage by May 1.
Modesto farmer Ron Fisher spoke of a letter signed by 130 MID customers requesting that the May 1 deadline be changed to provide growers with much needed flexibility throughout the summer.
“A lot of decisions in farming need to be made on a daily and weekly basis,” Fisher said.
The letter also asked that the district change transfer restrictions on land that did not receive irrigation water last year, noting that owners paid “facilities and maintenance” or standby fees precisely to preserve access to water in the future.
“The decision is arbitrary. You’re denying growers the ability to exercise water rights,” said Craig Julsgard.
Ward Mefford of Waterford asked that the district not exclude parcels of less than 10 acres from transfers, saying it would be unfair to deny small growers. Byrd said most produce merchants at Modesto’s farmers markets survive on such small plots, and some other leaders agreed, but the board took no formal action on that request or changing deadlines.
Wenger showed little patience for VanHoy’s reluctance to predict how much water might be realized from the relatively new suggestion of paying farmers to pump groundwater from private wells into district canals.
VanHoy appeared flustered at shifting demands, saying his staff is overwhelmed at trying to implement unprecedented policy changes. Accepting water from private wells is fairly easy, he said, but the district has no reliable method of measuring such water if farmers wish to retrieve it for use on downstream fields or to sell or otherwise transfer to other growers.
Fresno Bee
Dan Walters: Crafting a 2014 water bond will be tough slog…Dan Walters
Anthony Rendon, a first-term Democrat from Southern California who chairs the Assembly’s water committee, is proud of a water bond issue that he wrote after eight public hearings around the state, calling it “an open and transparent process” in contrast to the backroom deals that had marked previous water bonds.
On Monday, his office touted it as “the only current bond proposal that has made it out of its house of origin …” and declared that Tuesday’s hearing in the Senate’s water committee was the “perhaps final” airing before it reached the Senate floor.
Fat chance.
As soon as Rendon took his seat in the hearing room, he found his handiwork on the receiving end of sharp criticism from the Senate water committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Fran Pavley, other senators and representatives of stakeholders in the notoriously fractious issue.
Among other things, senators were acidly critical of Rendon’s role in introducing still another bond, in the form of “gut-and-amend” provisions in an unrelated bill – meaning there are now eight water bond versions floating around the Capitol.
There’s already an $11.1 billion water bond scheduled for the November ballot, one originally written in the dead of night five years ago, postponed twice and widely seen as untenable because it contains too many specifically earmarked allocations generally known as “pork.”
This year’s effort is aimed at a smaller replacement free of that epithet and, presumably, able to gain voter approval – spurred on by a severe, prolonged drought.
But despite the apparent urgency about improving water supply reliability, the stakeholders are in vast disarray on building more storage, requiring more conservation, reclaiming more wastewater, or improving more watersheds. And many seek specific allocations for their pet projects.
There is also wide disagreement on the bond’s ties to boring twin water tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Gov. Jerry Brown’s huge, and hugely controversial, project. And there’s discord over who should control bond funds, even if there’s agreement on the amount.
Where is Brown?
While he has called for more storage, none of his drought pronouncements has even hinted that he wants another water bond. There have been some signs that Brown doesn’t want any bond issues on the ballot as he campaigns for re-election as a governor who’s reduced state debt.
Pointedly, no one from his administration showed up at Tuesday’s hearing to give guidance on his intent.
Rendon’s Assembly Bill 1331 was given pro forma approval Tuesday, albeit with a bunch of amendments. But everyone involved acknowledges that writing a final version of a 2014 bond issue that can achieve a two-thirds legislative vote and gain Brown’s approval will be a very tough slog at best.
Sun Herald
Garamendi: Sites could be funded in the next year…Brian
If Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, has his way, the proposed Sites Reservoir project will be fully funded in a year.
During his town hall meeting in Granzella's Banquet Hall on March 18, Garamendi offered Williams residents a possible timeline for the project — at least, in terms the feasibility studies and securing the funding of the project.
"I think we have a reasonable shot for something this year — the feasibility study and the legislation. Next year, we will work on securing the funding at the federal level," Garamendi said.
"Unless (the Twin Tunnels project proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown) suck up it up, by next session, we could have the funding," he said. Garamendi was critical of the Twin Tunnels. When asked where the funding for Sites Reservoir would come from, he did not give an exact answer — but he used the cost of the Twin Tunnels as justification for funding Sites Reservoir.
"Keep in mind that the state and federal government is willing to spend $25 billion on a project that won't work. I say, lets spend that money on something that will. And for half the money (of the Twin Tunnels project) we can have that," Garamendi said.
He added the Sites feasibility study could be completed within 6 months, and that would determine who would benefit from the project and who would pay.
"The California Water Bond clearly has the money for surface water reservoirs. Sites isn't mentioned by name, (but it is a possibility)," he said.
Garamendi said he did not foresee any potential holdups from environmentalists with the Sites project moving forward.
"It offers operational flexibility on the Shasta, Yuba, and American systems — it's not damning up the river, and it is not going to suck up and kill salmon," Garamendi said.
Sacramento Bee 
First load of Sacramento River salmon begin migration – by truck…Matt Weiser
Wildlife officials on Tuesday formally launched a massive trucking operation to move 30 million Sacramento River salmon toward the sea to help the fish avoid harmful river conditions caused by drought.
Tuesday’s operation transported about 400,000 juvenile salmon, each about 3 inches long, in three climate-controlled tanker trucks from Coleman National hatchery near Red Bluff to floating pens in the Sacramento River near Rio Vista.
About 240 such truck trips are expected over the next 10 weeks from five state and federal salmon hatcheries in the Central Valley. Officials said the operation is unprecedented: They could not recall another time when so many juvenile salmon were transported by truck in such a short period of time.
“This is a real unusual situation, and it requires us to take immediate and unusual action,” said Howard Brown, Sacramento River branch chief of the National Marine Fisheries Service. “If we don’t take immediate action, we run the risk of perhaps losing an entire year-class of salmon.”
The goal is to save the salmon from low river flows, warm water and greater exposure to predators – all induced by the worst drought to strike California in 40 years. Although rain is forecast for this week, officials said it would not be nearly enough to avoid harm to salmon if they were released at the hatcheries, which is the usual practice.
These hatchery salmon are the foundation of a $1.4 billion commercial and recreational fishing industry in California that supports about 23,000 jobs.
“If we didn’t truck these salmon, under these drought conditions we believe we would likely lose them all,” said John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, which represents commercial and recreational fishermen and has been urging officials since December to prepare a trucking plan.
Every fall-run Chinook salmon produced at the five hatcheries in the Central Valley will be moved. In addition to Coleman hatchery on Battle Creek, which is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the trucking operation involves four hatcheries operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: Feather River Hatchery, Nimbus Hatchery on the American River, Mokelumne River Hatchery and Merced River Hatchery.
The fish travel by tanker truck more than four hours, avoiding about 200 miles of challenging river habitat, before reaching the Rio Vista waterfront. The trucks stop several times along the way to ensure the enclosed tanks – which resemble a small milk transport truck – are operating properly and to check on the welfare of the fish. On Monday, one of the first tankers had to turn back to Coleman Hatchery because its onboard aerator was operating intermittently.
“This is a herculean effort between state and federal agencies to try to stave off a fisheries disaster,” said Stafford Lehr, fisheries branch chief at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Our fish right now are undergoing extreme duress due to the drought.”
Fishery experts normally release salmon into rivers at the hatcheries so the fish can imprint on that location and find their way back from the ocean as adults, in three to four years, to spawn another generation of salmon. They acknowledged many of the salmon might not find their way back due to the trucking operation, but that trucking gives the population better odds this year.
The fish normally take about three weeks to travel 270 miles downriver on their own from Coleman hatchery. In comparison, the truck trip exposes them to dramatic changes in water temperature and chemistry in just a few hours – a disorienting experience that can make them vulnerable to predators. That’s where the net pens come in.
At the Rio Vista site, a former Army installation along the Sacramento River, the tanker trucks back down a slope to a pier. The truck connects to a 10-inch diameter aluminum tube, which shoots the salmon across the pier into one of three white net pens suspended in an aluminum pontoon barge. The nets hang down into the river itself, so the fish can adjust to the new water environment while safely protected from predators.
Boats tow the barge slowly downriver for two to four hours. Then the pens are opened on an outgoing tide, allowing the salmon to continue their downstream migration to the sea on their own. The net pens and barging operation is handled by the Fishery Foundation of California, a nonprofit organization.
Officials chose the Rio Vista location because the young salmon, called smolts, aren’t big enough yet to maneuver in the strong currents of San Francisco Bay. It is also hoped that this location in the Delta will help them imprint on the Sacramento River.
The rest of this year’s salmon crop is still at the hatcheries waiting for a truck ride. As some of these fish wait, they will continue growing larger. When they reach a minimum of 4 inches long, they will be trucked a little farther, to Mare Island in Vallejo, and then released into net pens in San Pablo Bay.
Plans are also in the works to assist winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon, which are protected by the Endangered Species Act. The National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plan to expand holding capacity at Livingston-Stone Hatchery, located at Shasta Dam, and bring in water chillers. Winter-run salmon will be trapped from the Sacramento River and transported to the hatchery to help them survive as temperatures warm up in the weeks ahead, Brown said.
The fisheries service is also looking for places to transport the fish where in-stream temperatures will remain cool. And it is working with the State Water Resources Control Board, which regulates water rights, to prioritize streams where water diversion curtailments might be ordered to ensure enough water flow for fish.
“We are looking at the potential for a full year-class failure of winter-run salmon,” Brown said. “We’re trying to plan for a worst-case scenario.”
Capital Press 
State, federal agencies seek to boost water for ag…Tim Hearden…3-25-14
SACRAMENTO — State and federal water agencies say they’re working together to make as much water as possible available for agriculture south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
As part of this, state Water Resources Control Board executive director Tom Howard issued an order last week that less water be pushed out into the San Francisco Bay for fish so that more can be used for other purposes.
Howard allowed outflows reduced from 11,000 cubic feet per second to at least 7,100 cfs, which fisheries agencies believe wouldn’t necessarily affect fish and wildlife such as the federally protected Delta smelt and Chinook salmon.
The March 18 modification also expands the latitude for which the State Water Project and Central Valley Project may use exported water, the state water board explained in a written update on drought responses.
“Basically the state and federal water projects came to us and asked us to do this,” water board spokesman George Kostyrko said. “They asked us to take some action and within our regulatory powers we did so.”
The move won praise from Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber, Calif., who declared that Californians “can breathe a sigh of relief that food supplies, food prices and jobs may be more secure.”
Nielsen sent a letter earlier this month appealing to Gov. Jerry Brown to reconsider the state’s zero-water allocation to many California farms, noting that the state’s farms and ranches earned a record $44.7 billion for their output in 2001 and that their productivity would be affected by a denial of water.
Specifically, Howard authorized two amendments to a January emergency drought order to eliminate water from the State Water Project to agriculture. In addition to temporarily relaxing environmental regulations for Delta outflows, the official permitted Delta exports for purposes beyond immediate human health and safety needs, Nielsen explained in a news release.
The modification follows a wet February in which 130 percent of normal precipitation fell in the Sacramento River Basin, enabling the state and federal water projects to boost pumping from the Delta to as much as 6,000 cfs for about a week, the water board’s drought update reported.
At other times in February and in early March, the two projects had additional flexibility in the amount of water they could pump from the Delta, and federal and state fish and wildlife agencies made similar changes to export limitations under their jurisdiction, according to the update.
The latest move comes as the state Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have been gathering data to determine how much water will be needed through the dry months and into next year to maintain salinity control in the Delta, meet health and safety needs and maintain enough water for imperiled fish, the update stated.
If salinity control in the Delta were lost, the water in the Delta would be too salty for any uses, water board chairwoman Felicia Marcus has said.
The agencies’ assessment was expected to be done by the end of this month, and the water projects will update allocation projections to their water contracts on or about April 1, the water board’s update explained.
California drought update:
Sen. Jim Nielsen:

Capitol Weekly 
Water bond bill emerges from Senate panel…SAMANTHA GALLEGOS
Amid political maneuvering, an effort to rewrite and downsize the $11.14 billion water bond scheduled for the November ballot has been approved by a key Senate committee.
The bill, AB 1331 by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, passed its first policy hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday, making it the only one of the latest batch of water bond rewrites  to clear committees in both houses of the Legislature.
Rendon’s $8 billion proposal is one of  half-dozen measures in the Capitol seeking to modify the November water bond, ranging from about $5.1 billion to $9.25 billion.
The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee approved the amended bill and sent it to the Environmental Quality committee for another hearing. The measure, with several others, is likely to serve as the basis of negotiations for a compromise bill.
Unsure whether his AB 1331 would be approved in committee, Rendon earlier crafted an alternative bill with similar provisions that he hoped would serve as sort of an insurance policy and backup in future negotiations.
Committee chair Sen. Fran Pavley (D- Agoura Hills) called Tuesday’s nearly three-hour hearing just “sort of an exercise, if you will,” because Rendon’s back up bill could make new Senate amendments  obsolete.
Rendon told his colleagues in the upper house that the backup bill, AB 2554, was “simply a vehicle for a conversation” and he has no intentions of moving it forward.
“When there is disagreement on substance the process is important,” committee member Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, said during the hearing. She is pushing another rewrite bill, her SB 848, pegged at $6.825 billion, which was earlier approved in committee but has not yet left the house of origin.
Polling conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in November found the bond in its current form would not pass voters.  The measure has been delayed twice before.
The Legislature has until June 26 to agree on a replacement bond for the ballo