BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     SB 226  


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          Date of Hearing:  August 26, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                                 Jimmy Gomez, Chair


          SB 226  
          (Pavley) - As Amended August 17, 2015


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY:


          This bill modifies the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act  
          (SGMA) and streamlines groundwater adjudication procedures.    
          Specifically, this bill:









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             1)   Establishes a comprehensive, streamlined procedure to be  
               used in legal actions to obtain a basin-wide adjudication  
               of groundwater rights within SGMA.


             2)   Authorizes the state to intervene in any water rights  
               suit brought in any court. 


             3)   Adds legislative intent language in SGMA to provide a  
               more efficient, cost-effective groundwater adjudication  
               process as specified. 


             4)   Allows a court with jurisdiction over specified  
               adjudicated basins to order the proceeding to be conducted  
               according to the adjudicated process specified in the bill.


             5)    Defines expert witness and small state water system.


             6)   Makes conforming changes and technical clarifications.


          FISCAL EFFECT:


          Unknown costs, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of  
          dollars, for state agency intervention in water rights suits.


          COMMENTS:


          1)Purpose.  According to the author, groundwater rights  
            adjudications take an extraordinarily long time and are  
            extraordinarily expensive.  The author adds that as she was  








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            working last year to enact SGMA it became clear that there  
            will almost certainly be more adjudications and that it "will  
            be difficult, if not impossible, for some basins to comply  
            with the requirements of SGMA if we don't speed up the  
            adjudication process."  The author adds that this bill  
            "tackles head-on the various time sinks" that witnesses  
            identified at her informational hearing last November on  
            groundwater adjudication regarding basin boundaries, notice  
            and service, discovery, and expert witnesses.  The author  
            concludes that with these changes, this bill "will reduce  
            needless delays while still protecting due process rights."

          2)Background.  Groundwater is either a subterranean stream  
            flowing through a known and definite channel or percolating  
            groundwater. Groundwater that is a subterranean stream is  
            subject to the same State Water Resources Control Board  
            (SWRCB) water right permitting requirements as surface water.  
            There is no statewide permitting requirement for percolating  
            groundwater, which is the majority of groundwater in the  
            state.

            The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is required to  
            prioritize  groundwater basins based on multiple factors  
            including, but not limited to, the level of population and  
            irrigated acreage relying on the groundwater basin as a  
            primary source of water and the current impacts on the  
            groundwater basin from overdraft, subsidence, saline intrusion  
            and other water quality degradation.


            The groundwater basins identified in DWR's Groundwater Report,  
            Bulletin 118, are required to be regularly and systematically  
            monitored locally and the information is required to be  
            readily and widely available.  DWR is required to perform the  
            groundwater elevation monitoring function if no local entity  
            will do so, but then bars the county and other entities  
            eligible to monitor that basin from receiving state water  
            grants or loans.









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          3)The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  Last year,  
            AB 1739 (Dickinson, Chapter 347, Statutes of 2014) and SB 1168  
            (Pavley, Chapter 346, Statutes of 2014), established landmark  
            state policy and requirements for groundwater sustainability  
            and management. By January 31, 2020, SGMA requires groundwater  
            sustainability plans (GSPs) in all groundwater basins  
            experiencing critical conditions of overdraft that DWR  
            determines to be of medium or high priority.  SGMA requires  
            sustainable groundwater management plans for all other medium  
            or high priority basins by January 31, 2022, unless the basin  
            is legally adjudicated or the local agency establishes it is  
            otherwise sustainably managed.    

            SGMA requires local agencies to identify or form a groundwater  
            sustainability agency (GSA) by January 1, 2017.  Counties are  
            presumed to be the default agency if no other agency  
            identifies itself.  Water corporations regulated by the PUC  
            are able to participate in the GSA if other agencies approve.

            During last year's Committee hearings on groundwater  
            management, California Court of Appeal Judge Ronald Robie  
            suggested that even with comprehensive sustainable management  
            plans, the state would still need to streamline its  
            groundwater adjudication procedures.  Governor Brown made the  
            same point when he signed the SGMA legislation.   


          4)Related Legislation.  AB 1390 (Alejo) currently pending in  
            Senate Appropriations, establishes an alternative adjudication  
            process in the Civil Code of Procedures, rather than within  
            SGMA as proposed by SB 226.  The most recent amendments to SB  
            226, provided by the Administration, contain many provisions  
            similar to those in AB 1390.  The two authors may wish to work  
            together to develop a legislative response to the  
            Administration's amendments.


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








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          319-2081