BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                              Senator Wieckowski, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 
          Bill No:           AB 300
          |Author:    |Alejo                                                |
          |Version:   |6/25/2015              |Hearing      |7/15/2015       |
          |           |                       |Date:        |                |
          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:      |Yes             |
          |Consultant:|Laurie Harris                                        |
          |           |                                                     |
          SUBJECT:  Safe Water and Wildlife Protection Act of 2016.

          Existing law:  
          1) Establishes the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB),  
             under the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act, in the California  
             Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to formulate and  
             adopt state policy for water quality control and coordinate  
             with regional water boards these responsibilities.  (Water  
             Code (WAT) 13000 et seq.)

          2) Establishes the State Coastal Conservancy (Conservancy) with  
             the responsibility for implementing a program of agricultural  
             protection, area restoration, and resource enhancement in the  
             coastal zone.  (Public Resources Code 31054 et seq.)

          3) Establishes the Protecting Rivers, Lakes, Streams, Coastal  
             Waters, and Watersheds Fund with $1.495 billion, upon  
             appropriation from the Legislature, for competitive grants  
             for multibenefit ecosystem and watershed protection and  
             restoration projects in accordance with statewide priorities.  
              (WAT 79730 et seq.)

          This bill:  

          1) States findings and declarations of the Legislature  
             concerning the impact of harmful algal blooms, particularly  
             from cyanobacteria, to wildlife and public health in  


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             California, and the need for a multiagency effort to address  

          2) Establishes the Safe Water and Wildlife Protection Act of  
             2016 as a new chapter in the Public Resources Code.

          3) Defines "waters of the state" as any surface waters,  
             including coastal lakes, lagoons, estuaries, rivers, streams,  
             inland lakes and reservoirs, wetlands, and marine waters.

          4) Requires the SWRCB to create the Algal Bloom Task Force,  
             comprised of a representative from each of the following:  
             Department of Public Health (DPH), Department of Fish and  
             Wildlife (DFW), California Department of Food and Agriculture  
             (CDFA), the State Coastal Conservancy (Conservancy), and  
             other relevant state agencies.  Allows the SWRCB to augment  
             an existing task force to accomplish the requirements of the  

          5) Sets forth the functions and duties of the task force to  
             include all of the following:

             a)    Assess and prioritize actions and research to develop  
                prevention or mitigation measures for toxic algal blooms.
             b)    Solicit and review proposals from specified groups for  
                research, projects, and programs to prevent, mitigate, and  
                monitor toxins from algal blooms.
             c)    Provide funding recommendations to specified groups for  
             d)    Review risks and negative impacts of toxic algal blooms  
                on specified groups and submit a summary of findings and  
                recommendations to the Legislature and agencies as  
                specified by January 1, 2017.
             e)    Organize meetings and workshops of experts and  
             f)    Establish a public notification system about task force  

          6) Repeals the sections pertaining to the establishment of the  
             task force and its functions and duties as of January 1,  

          7) Allows for the Conservancy, DFW, the Wildlife Conservation  
             Board, and/or the SWRCB to enter into contracts and provide  


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             grants from the Protecting Rivers, Lakes, Streams, Coastal  
             Waters, and Watersheds fund ($1.495 billion) or other  
             appropriate funds accessible for the specified applied  
             research, projects, and programs recommended by the task  

          1) Overview of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Their Impacts.

             In balanced ecosystems, algae are harmless and serve as a  
             food base for many organisms.  When there is an overabundance  
             of nutrients and ideal growth conditions, algae populations  
             can grow rapidly and form blooms, and certain species of  
             algae produce toxins that can harm water quality and animal  
             and human health.  These blooms can occur in both marine and  

             According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  
             Administration's (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean  
             Research (CSCOR), HABs have been reported as a recurring  
             event in virtually every coastal state.  In marine areas,  
             this has resulted in degradation of coastal habitats, loss of  
             economically and culturally vital shellfish resources,  
             illness and death in marine species, and serious threats to  
             human health from the algal toxics.  A conservative average  
             economic estimate for the impacts of HABs is $82 million per  

             Algal blooms produce neurotoxins that accumulate in fish and  
             shellfish which, when ingested by people, can cause paralytic  
             shellfish poisoning (PSP) and amnesic shellfish poisoning  
             (ASP).  These same toxins cause wildlife mortality events in  
             fish, birds, and marine mammals, including sea otters and sea  

             As of last month, the algal bloom spreading off the Pacific  
             coast is one of the largest that scientists have ever seen,  
             reaching from central California to British Columbia.   
             California normally impose a moratorium on shellfish  
             harvesting from May through October when there is the highest  
             chance of toxic poisoning and enforces strict testing of  
             commercial fisheries.


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             In freshwater systems, human actions that disturb ecosystems,  
             such as nutrient runoff from agricultural lands, pollution,  
             modifications to hydrological systems, and introduction of  
             nonindigenous species have all been linked to the occurrence  
             of some HABs.  Most freshwater HABs are caused by a  
             particular group of algae called cyanobacteria.  HABs from  
             these bacteria have increased in frequency and geographic  
             locations in the United States and globally in recent  

             In addition to neurotoxins, freshwater HABs can cause liver  
             damage (from hepatotoxins) and skin damage (from  
             dermatotoxins).  They can also cause low oxygen levels in the  
             water, leading to death of fish and other algae that are  
             essential to local food chains.  Ingestion of water  
             contaminated from HABs has led to the deaths of livestock and  
             pets, as well.
          2) Federal Research Efforts on HABs.

               For marine systems, the NOAA CSCOR administers multiple  
             interdisciplinary and interagency HAB research programs,  
             including an ecology and oceanography program, a monitoring  
             program, and a HAB event response program.  Projects include  
             a mix of investigators from academic, state, federal, and  
             nonprofit institutions and lead to management-based outcomes  
             to facilitate HAB prevention, control, and mitigation.  CSCOR  
             has previously funded over $6 million in research projects  
             focusing on the two most common algae responsible for HABs in  
             marine environments in California.

             For freshwater systems, in 2004, Congress reauthorized the  
             Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of  
             1998, which required a report to examine the causes,  
             consequences, and economic costs of freshwater HABs,  
             establish priorities and guidelines for research programs,  
             and make recommendations to improve coordination of research  
             by federal agencies.

          3) HABs in California.

             As reported by UC Davis and the City of Watsonville Water  
             Quality Program, watersheds in California are particularly  
             prone to HABs due to the warm climate, shrinking water  


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             supplies, run-off from agricultural and municipal sources,  
             and climate change, and California is lagging behind other  
             states in addressing the environmental problem of high  
             nutrient levels in lakes and rivers.  They further report  
             that recurrent cyanobacteria pollution is a problem in the  
             Klamath and Sacramento Rivers, the Sacramento/San Joaquin  
             Rivers, and Clear Lake.  Pinto Lake in Santa Cruz County,  
             Copco Lake Iron Gate Reservoir, and parts of the Klamath  
             River are federally listed as impaired waters due to  
             Furthermore, in 2005 and 2006, the Copco and Iron Gate  
             reservoirs along the Klamath River in California experienced  
             prolonged HABs of cyanobacteria, specifically Microcystis.   
             Toxins were present near tribal lands downstream where people  
             rely on subsistence fishing.  In response, the U.S.  
             Environmental Protection Agency created a task force of  
             county, state, federal, and tribal authorities tasked with  
             creating statewide guidance for cyanobacteria HABs and a  
             three-year research study.

          1) Purpose of Bill.  

             According to the author, "This bill came about because of the  
             water quality problems we have seen at Pinto Lake, a small  
             lake in my hometown of Watsonville.  When we began talking  
             about the problems at Pinto Lake, we learned that toxic algae  
             blooms are increasingly causing toxic and poisoning events in  
             coastal lakes, estuaries, and rivers across California.  The  
             toxic algae threaten water supplies, human health, and animal  
             health.  It is a special problem for people fishing in this  
             lake and taking the fish home to their families to eat.  AB  
             300 calls for developing a statewide strategy for reducing  
             the algae, and then ties that strategy to funding sources  
             that the various agencies like Fish and Wildlife, the Coastal  
             Conservancy, and the State Water Board already have."

          2) The Need for a Coordinated Effort.

             Given the inextricable links between environmental, human,  
             and wildlife health when considering the causes for, and  
             impacts from, HABs, a coordinated, multi-disciplinary and  


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             multiagency approach is warranted to address the ongoing  
             problem in California waterways.  

             There are currently a number of groups that monitor water  
             quality and toxins from algal blooms, such as the California  
             Coastal Ocean Observing Systems in the northern and central,  
             and southern regions, the DPH, and the Harmful Algal Bloom  
             Monitoring and Alert Program (CalHABMAP).

             In response to the HABs in the Klamath River, the California  
             CyanoHAB Network (CCHAB) was originally established as the  
             Statewide Blue-Green Algae Working Group in 2006.  The  
             mission of the CCHAB is to create a statewide framework to  
             address cyanobacteria HABs in freshwater and marine systems.  
             Goals of the network are to:
                     Coordinate monitoring and management of cyanoHABs  
                 and their effects.
                     Develop collaborative relationships among federal,  
                 tribal, state, and regional agencies responsible for  
                 addressing cyanobacteria concerns.
                     Make efficient use of resources to share  
                 information, avoid duplicative efforts, and promote  
                 research, monitoring and assessment.

             The CCHAB is composed of federal and state agencies, tribal  
             governments, local agencies, academics and researchers, as  
             well as other stakeholders.  State, local, and tribal  
             entities represented include the SWRCB, DPH, OEHHA, DFW,  
             Department of Water Resources, City of Watsonville, Karuk  
             Tribe, and more.  As of February 2015, the CCHAB became a  
             workgroup of the California Water Quality Monitoring Council.

             The provisions of the bill would allow for the SWRCB to  
             augment an existing task force or network, such as the CCHAB,  
             to accomplish the requirements of this chapter.


          This measure was heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Water  
          Committee on June 23, 2015, and passed out of committee with a  
          vote of 9-0.


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          SOURCE:                    City of Watsonville & the Karuk Tribe  

          City of Long Beach
          Defenders of Wildlife
          Save Our Shores
          None received  

           ARGUMENTS IN  
          SUPPORT:    According to the Defenders of Wildlife,  
          "California's leading sea otter researchers are now linking  
          microcystin poisoning to the deaths of several sea otters every  
          year.  These animals call California's central coast home and  
          depend on their surrounding ecosystem for food and shelter.   
          Unfortunately, humans often consume the same seafood and play in  
          the same coastal waters as sea otters.  This poses a direct  
          threat to human health.  AB 300 provides tangible actions to  
          investigate and address harmful algal blooms across the state  
          and reduce exposure to humans and wildlife."

                                       -- END --