State bill wording concerns water board

 

The semantics in Assembly bill 2483, or the Santa Clara Valley
Water District Act, have the district concerned about its likely
passage by the California state Senate and Assembly that could
happen as soon as this week.
The semantics in Assembly bill 2483, or the Santa Clara Valley Water District Act, have the district concerned about its likely passage by the California state Senate and Assembly that could happen as soon as this week.

After the bill reached the limit of eight amendments Aug. 3, the word “expressly” was added that would put the district in a litigious situation, according to SCVWD spokesman Rick Callendar.

The disconcerting section of the amended bill states the district is not authorized to “regulate, limit, or condition the diversion and use of surface water, or the extraction of water rights, except as expressly provided in this act.”

District CEO Beau Goldie wrote in a letter to the bill’s author Assemblyman Joe Coto that the bill does not provide flexibility to the district and the new language could lead to litigation “challenging actions we are currently undertaking that are reasonably implied, but may not be expressly granted in the act,” Goldie wrote.

If made into law, the old water district act of 1951 will be repealed and an updated version will add accountability, clarify confusing language, strengthen the district’s power in regulating private well use and update it with modern concerns such as climate change, according to the Legislative bill analysis.

At today’s meeting, the Santa Clara Valley Water board of directors will review AB 2483 and could recommend to request that Coto places the bill on hold until further review by the board and legal counsel. The district only has the power to make a request of Coto and cannot stymie the legislation.

The bill currently sits on the Senate floor where it will be read for a third time and then passed back through its house of origin, the Assembly, and onto Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who must sign the bill to make it a law. The process could happen this week because Aug. 31 is the last day for any bill to be passed. The governor’s deadline is Sept. 30.

Another water district concern is the added language in the bill that calls groundwater production fees a “property-related” charge subject to Proposition 218 – the state law that requires voters to approve an increase on utility taxes. The water district maintains that groundwater charges are not considered a utility because it sells water wholesale to companies who distribute it to property owners.

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