BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                             Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair
                            2015 - 2016  Regular  Session

          SB 758 (Block) - Atmospheric Rivers Research and Mitigation  
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          |Version: April 30, 2015         |Policy Vote: N.R. & W. 8 - 0    |
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          |Urgency: No                     |Mandate: No                     |
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          |Hearing Date: May 28, 2015      |Consultant: Marie Liu           |
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          Summary:  SB 785 would require the Department of Water Resources  
          (DWR) to research the cause and effects of atmospheric rivers  
          and to take all actions to capture water generated by  
          atmospheric rivers.
          Fiscal Impact (as approved on May 28, 2015): 
           One-time costs of $2.5 million to unspecified special funds  
            and private funds to DWR to expand its extreme precipitation  
           Ongoing costs of $1.25 million to unspecified special funds  
            and private funds to operate and analyze the expanded extreme  
            precipitation network. 
           One-time costs of $500,000 to unspecified special funds and  
            private funds to DWR for a study to improve predictability of  
            the formation and strength of atmospheric rivers. 

          Background:  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  
          Administration (NOAA), atmospheric rivers are relatively narrow  


          SB 758 (Block)                                         Page 1 of  
          regions in the atmosphere that are responsible for most of the  
          horizontal transport of water vapor outside of the tropics. On  
          the west coast, 30-50% of the annual precipitation on average  
          comes from a few atmospheric river events.
          Under existing law, DWR is responsible for managing the state's  
          water resources. Within DWR is the Hydrology and Flood  
          Operations Office that is responsible for directing DWR's flood  
          and water supply forecasting operations, hydrology and  
          climatology studies, emergency flood operations, and flood  
          control project inspections and encroachment permitting.

          Proposed Law:  
            This bill would establish the Atmospheric Rivers and Research  
          and Mitigation Program. Under this program, DWR would be  
          required to study the causes and effects of atmospheric rivers.  
          DWR would also be required to take actions, including through  
          reservoir management, to increase water supply and reliability  
          of water resources by capturing water generated by atmospheric  
          This bill would also create the Atmospheric Rivers Research and  
          Mitigation Fund in the State Treasury to fund this program.

          Comments:  DWR currently has invested into research regarding  
          atmospheric rivers including an extreme precipitation monitoring  
          network and improving forecasting of extreme precipitation.  
          According to DWR, this bill would necessitate an expansion of  
          these efforts to include items such as monitoring for flood  
          producing conditions, monitoring and forecasting reservoir and  
          river levels, and providing extreme hydrologic condition  
          response conditions for the state. 
          To accomplish this additional work, DWR would be required to  
          continue its extreme precipitation monitoring network. Currently  
          the network is being funded by the NOAA Office of Atmospheric  
          Research through 2019. However, according to DWR, if this  
          network becomes an operational network rather than a research  
          network, federal funds may end before 2019. The network  
          currently costs $750,000 annually to operate. 


          SB 758 (Block)                                         Page 2 of  

          To accomplish this bill, DWR would need to expand the existing  
          network at a one-time cost of $2.5 million for additional  
          sensors. The expanded network would also require an additional  
          $500,000 in annual operation costs, for a total of $1.25 million  
          in ongoing costs.

          DWR would also anticipate needing an additional $500,000 in  
          one-time funding to study the formation zones of atmospheric  
          rivers to improve the predictability of this phenomenon.

          This bill would create a new special fund in the State Treasury  
          but does not specific a funding source. Staff notes that  
          establishing a new account increases administrative costs. While  
          these costs are likely minor, it is unclear why a special fund  
          would be necessary in order to fund this program. Staff  
          recommends the author delete the creation of the special fund.

          Committee amendments (as adopted on May 28, 2015): Amend to  
          specify that the program is contingent upon appropriation by the  
          Legislature from special and private funds and to delete the  
          creation of the Atmospheric Rivers Research and Mitigation Fund.

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