California: CCM urges Governor to veto ‘ambiguous’ groundwater legislation
(KBC NOTE: California Governor Jerry Brown signed this controversial groundwater legislation 9/16/14)
The California Citrus Mutual (CCM) is urging the state Governor to veto proposed groundwater management legislation, which it says could have unintended and detrimental effects on farmers due to the ambiguity of the language used.
California is mandating a new groundwater management program for each area of the state, which Governor Brown will either approve or decline later this week.
While the CCM agrees action needs to be taken – in part due to the drought – it says the legislation being proposed could result in growers of all agricultural crops facing restrictions for justifiable and necessary groundwater pumping.
“The problem is that the people that designed this – one agency up in Sacramento and some urban folks – are not necessarily impacted in the same way the rural folks are, and rural folks includes agriculture,” CCM president Joel Nelsen told www.freshfruitportal.com.
“So they put forth some legislation that, frankly, all of agriculture in California thought was going to create more problems than it would solve.”
Nelsen added the CCM, along with the rest of the agricultural community, tried to get a hearing to explain why it believed a different approach should be taken, but the request was denied.
“So what we’re going to get is three pieces of legislation signed by the Governor permitting the development of a groundwater management program that’s going to be a minefield and nothing more than a chaotic approach to addressing a serious problem,” he said.
“What they’ve done is they’ve included terms in the legislation that are going to be debated for months, if not years. And that’s going to take a significant amount of time to resolve, and all the meanwhile we still don’t have groundwater management plans.
“This is what we tried to tell the legislative authors, this is what we tried to tell the Governor’s office – that he’s not wrong in what he wants to do, but he is wrong in signing legislation that tries to dictate how to do it.”
Nelsen said one example of a situation where farmers could be restricted from pumping groundwater for legitimate purposes was if there was cold winter and additional water needed to be pumped as a means of frost protection, that use might not be allowed as it might not be considered the ‘best’ use of water.
“So they left too much ambiguity and vagueness in the legislation – that’s fertile ground for a fight,” he said.
“And it’s not just one fight – it’s a whole bunch of fights that are going to occur which is going to delay implementation of a groundwater plan, which we believe is necessary but should be done in a timely fashion rather than a chaotic manner.”
Nelsen also said the dates set by the legislation by which time certain tasks must be completed were also wholly unrealistic.
“You’ve got to have a local management agency organized and developed by 2017. A year before that our department of water resources is obligated to come up with regulations and criteria that every plant must evolve around – they’re not going to get that done in a year, trust me,” he said.
“And then by January 31 of 2020 there must be a local plan sent up to Sacramento, who is judge and jury as to whether or not it achieves the objective, and then assuming it does it gets implemented at that time.”
The CCM president went on to say he believed the legislation would be put before Governor Brown sometime this week, but he was pessimistic about the probable outcome.
“It’s my understanding that he’s going to sign it, but I would hope that he’s going to veto it,” he said.
“There have been several efforts to communicate the confusion that’s going to be created, but I don’t know if he believes it.
“As a result I think he’ll sign it and then it’s just going to become much more visible to him, and by then we’ll be in the middle of battles on several fronts.”