BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          Date of Hearing:  July 14, 2015


                  ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON WATER, PARKS, AND WILDLIFE


                                 Marc Levine, Chair


          SB  
          758 (Block) - As Amended June 2, 2015


          SENATE VOTE:  38-0


          SUBJECT:  Atmospheric Rivers Research and Mitigation Program.


          SUMMARY:  Establishes the Atmospheric Rivers program at the  
          Department of Water Resources (DWR) to research, contingent on  
          appropriation of special fund monies, the causes and effects of  
          atmospheric rivers in order to increase California's water  
          supply and water reliability and improve flood control.    


          EXISTING LAW:   


          1)Requires DWR to plan for the orderly and coordinated control,  
            protection, conservation, development, and utilization of the  
            resources of the State through the California Water Plan.


          2)Requires, as part of the California Water Plan, that DWR study  
            the amount of water needed to meet the state's future needs  
            and recommend programs, policies, and facilities to meet those  









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            needs.


          3)Establishes within DWR the Hydrology and Flood Operations  
            Office, which 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.  The Flood Operations  
            Office also includes the California State Climatologist.


          FISCAL EFFECT:  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee:


          1)One-time costs of $2.5 million to unspecified special funds  
            and private funds to DWR to expand its extreme precipitation  
            network. 


          2)Ongoing costs of $1.25 million to unspecified special funds  
            and private funds to operate and analyze the expanded extreme  
            precipitation network. 


          3)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.


          COMMENTS:  This bill would, if special funds can be identified,  
          establish an Atmospheric Rivers (AR) program at DWR in order to  
          study the newly-recognized phenomenon that storm-driven water  
          vapor can concentrate in the atmosphere in relative narrow bands  
          and that understanding and predicting the behavior of these  
          "rivers" and their subsequent rainfall can lead to better water  
          supply management, including reservoir operations.









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          1)Author's statement:  The author states that California has the  
            most variable annual precipitation of any state in the U.S.,  
            ranging from severe drought to major floods.  The author adds  
            that better forecasting of ARs has the potential to enable new  
            levels of both water supply and flood protection through the  
            use of "Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations" (FIRO).  The  
            author states that due to California's continued drought, now  
            is the time for this critical research to ensure California  
            accurately forecasts ARs and has the information needed to  
            impact water management decisions.


          2)Background:  As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency  
            (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory explains, better  
            satellite imagery has enabled us to document that  
            storm-associated winds can draw together water vapor into  
            distinct long narrow bands that travel through the atmosphere  
            like a river.  One such event, documented by researchers in  
            2006, concluded that an AR produced roughly 10 inches of rain  
            in 2 days and caused a flood on the Russian River in northern  
            California.  NOAA advises that it "is now recognized that the  
            well-known 'Pineapple express' storms (a term that was used on  
            the U.S. West Coast for many years) correspond to a subset of  
            ARs, i.e. those that have a connection to the tropics near  
            Hawaii.  In some of the most extreme ARs, the water vapor  
            transport is enhanced by the fact that they entrain (draw in)  
            water vapor directly from the tropics."  NOAA concludes that  
            the "community of flood control, water supply and reservoir  
            operators of the West Coast states see ARs as a key phenomenon  
            to understand, monitor and predict as they work to mitigate  
            the risk of major flood events, while maintaining adequate  
            water supply" and that "better coupling of climate forecasts  
            with seasonal weather forecasts of ARs can improve water  
            management decisions."










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          3)Prior legislation:  AB 140 (Nunez), the Disaster Preparedness  
            and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2006 passed the November 2006  
            general election as Proposition 1E and made $4.09 billion  
            dollars available for flood protection improvements.  The  
            ballot pamphlet argument in favor of Prop. 1E recognized the  
            "tragic lesson from Hurricane Katrina" and stated that a  
            "catastrophic flood would impact the entire state and disrupt  
            the supply of clean drinking water to major cities."


          4)Supporting arguments:  Supporters state that "only in recent  
            years have scientists come to recognize that between 30 and  
            50% of annual precipitation in California and more than 90% of  
            the major floods come from a very small number of storms each  
            year generated by a well-documented condition known as an  
            'Atmospheric River.'"  Supporters advise that this bill "lays  
            out the foundation for developing a program to analyze and  
            accurately predict precipitation from these atmospheric river  
            events."  Supporters add that "California experiences, on  
            average, $300 million per year in flood damages and billions  
            of dollars in economic and societal disruption during drought  
            events.  Implementation of [this bill] would lead to more  
            accurate and quantitative prediction of precipitation form  
            atmospheric rivers enabling reservoir operators to safely  
            store additional water for use in drought periods."


          5)Opposing arguments:  None on file.


          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support









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          Bay Area Flood Protection Agencies Association


          Orange County Water District


          San Diego County Water Authority


          Santa Clara Valley Water District


          Sonoma County Water Agency




          Opposition


          None on file




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

















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