BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 2373


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          Date of Hearing:  May 25, 2016


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                               Lorena Gonzalez, Chair


          AB  
          2373 (Gray) - As Amended May 9, 2016


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          |Policy       |Water, Parks and Wildlife      |Vote:|12 - 0       |
          |Committee:   |                               |     |             |
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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY:


          This bill appropriates $45,000 GF to the Merced Irrigation  
          District (MID) to implement on farm irrigation system and water  
          use efficiency improvements for small communal farms in Merced  
          County including, but not limited to:


             1)   Water pump maintenance, repair, or replacement including  
               installation and drilling.
             2)   Water well casing maintenance, repair or replacement.


             3)   Annual maintenance checks that may include: a) well  








                                                                    AB 2373


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               cover or well cap maintenance , repair, or replacement; and  
               b) slope and drainage construction or maintenance to  
               counter the effects of subsidence.


          Additionally, this bill requires the MID to report to the  
          Legislature by April 30, 2018, for the purpose of determining  
          the effectiveness of the appropriation and the cumulative impact  
          on the County of Merced.   Specifically, the report must include  
          how the funds were spent, resulted in irrigation efficiency, and  
          reduced energy, fuel and water usage.  This bill also requires  
          the report to evaluate the effectiveness of expanding the  
          program to small farms statewide.


          FISCAL EFFECT:


          This bill appropriates $45,000 GF to MID.


          COMMENTS:


          1)Purpose.  According to the author, dozens of Hmong refugee  
            families in Merced County have come together to share the cost  
            and labor of farming.  These families lack capital to invest  
            in their farms.  Water pumps are in disrepair, which hinders  
            the efficiency and energy use of irrigation.  The author  
            contends the sum appropriated in this bill will provide  
            significant reductions in energy, fuel, and water use.


          2)Background.  MID encompasses 164,000 gross acres. Total  
            irrigable lands are 138,000 acre and in 2007, MID supplied  
            88,000 acres of land with water.  MID's 2015-16  budget was  
            $78 million with $86 million in revenue.  










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          3)Existing state programs.  The 2015-16 state budget  
            appropriated $35 million to the Department of Water Resources  
            (DWR) to implement agricultural water efficiency programs.   
            DWR provided $30 million for 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.


            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 (SWRCB) provides technical and  
            other assistance to entities otherwise unable to access funds.  
             While DWR 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, MID 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 be funded, the  
            potential exists for MID 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 MID operates.


          4)Implementation concerns.  This bill includes significant  








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            reporting requirements added by the Water, Parks and Wildlife  
            Committee. It also casts MID, rather than a state agency, in  
            the role of determining if funds should be provided for farms  
            statewide based on the use of this modest appropriation.  The  
            bill refers to an evaluation of the program, however, the bill  
            does not create a program but instead appropriates funding for  
            limited, targeted purposes.


            The author may wish to work with the policy committee and  
            others to modify the reporting requirements. 


          


          Analysis Prepared by:Jennifer Galehouse / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081