BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 2373


                                                                    Page  1





          Date of Hearing:  March 29, 2016


                  ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON WATER, PARKS, AND WILDLIFE


                                 Marc Levine, Chair


          AB 2373  
          (Gray) - As Introduced February 18, 2016


          SUBJECT:  Merced Irrigation District


          SUMMARY:  Appropriates $45,000 from the General Fund to the  
          Merced Irrigation District for specified irrigation and water  
          use efficiency.  Specifically, this bill:  directs the Merced  
          Irrigation District to implement irrigation and water use  
          efficiency strategies for small communal farms in Merced County   
           


          EXISTING LAW:  


          1)Appropriates $35 million to the Department of Water Resources  
            for agricultural water efficiency programs.


          2)Requires agricultural water suppliers to develop water  
            management plans and implement efficient water management  
            practices. 


          FISCAL EFFECT: Unknown, but appropriates $45,000 from the  
          General Fund.









                                                                    AB 2373


                                                                    Page  2






          COMMENTS:  Appropriates $45,000 from the General Fund to the  
          Merced Irrigation District for communal farm irrigation and  
          water use efficiency.


          1)Author's Statement: In Merced county dozens of Hmong refugee  
            families have come together to share the cost and labor of  
            farming.  Unfortunately these families lack capital to invest  
            in their farms.  Water pumps are in disrepair, which hinders  
            the efficiency and energy use of irrigation.  The modest sum  
            appropriated in this bill will provide significant reductions  
            in energy, fuel, and water use.


          2)Background: The 2015-16 proposed budget for Merced Irrigation  
            District was $78 million with $86 million in revenue.  Merced  
            Irrigation District encompasses 164,000 gross acres. Total  
            irrigable lands in the Merced Irrigation District are 138,000  
            acres. In 2007 88,000 acres of land were supplied with water  
            from Merced Irrigation District.


            Typically appropriations are made through the budget process.   
            This bill declares that a special law is necessary to  
            implement irrigation and water use efficiency strategies for  
            small communal farms in Merced County, and that irrigation and  
            water use efficiency will benefit the public as a whole.


            The 2015-16 budget appropriated $35 million to the Department  
            of Water Resources to implement agricultural water efficiency  
            programs.  The Department of Water Resources has made $30  
            million available through competitive grants.  The guidelines  
            for these grants were completed January 27, 2016 and  
            applications are due by March 30, 2016. Irrigation districts  
            are among the eligible applicants for these grants.










                                                                    AB 2373


                                                                    Page  3





            Project types to be funded are those that will produce  
            potential benefits to the State including: technical  
            assistance, training, education and public outreach.


            The Office of Sustainable Water Solutions within the State  
            Water Resources Control Board provides technical assistance to  
            parties that are in need of aid with funding applications,  
            among other things.  Groundwater sustainability is an area in  
            which the Office of Sustainable Water Solutions will be  
            playing a technical assistance role.  While the Office of  
            Sustainable Water Solutions' primary objective is to promote  
            sustainable safe, affordable, and reliable drink water they  
            can provide technical assistance for additional projects.  
            Non-profits and public agencies are eligible for assistance  
            from the Office of Sustainable Water Solutions. 


            While the Department of Water Resources does not have an arm  
            analogous to the Office of Sustainable Water Solutions to aid  
            disadvantaged communities, grant program managers will assist  
            potential applicants with technical questions.


            It is not clear if the communal farms that this bill would  
            provide funding for would win an agricultural water use  
            efficiency grant.  However, Merced Irrigation District is in a  
            position to apply for a grant, appears to have the resources  
            to apply, and if not could request assistance if needed to aid  
            with the grant.  


            Additionally if there is concern that a grant application  
            focused solely on communal farms would not receive funding the  
            potential exists for Merced Irrigation District to build a  
            larger application.   A larger application could include  
            communal farms and additional efficiencies such as addressing  
            the 75% of the 825 miles of water distribution facilities that  
            Merced Irrigation District operates that are earthen lined  








                                                                    AB 2373


                                                                    Page  4





            channels.


          3)Prior and Related Legislation:


               a)     AB 1471 (Rendon), Chapter 188, Statutes of 2014  
                 placed Proposition 1, a $7.545 billion general obligation  
                 bond for water-related projects and programs on the  
                 November 4, 2014 ballot where it passed with 67% of the  
                 vote.  


          4)Supporting Arguments: 


            Merced Irrigation District states that the dedication of  
            funding to assist in water-use efficiency strategies for small  
            communal farms could be a valuable tool in pursuing  
            groundwater sustainability objectives in the region.


          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          Merced Irrigation District




          Opposition


          None on file








                                                                    AB 2373


                                                                    Page  5









          Analysis Prepared by:Ryan Ojakian / W., P., & W. / (916)  
          319-2096