Hurtado Introduces the “State Water Resiliency Act of 2021” to Improve California’s Water Resilience and Restore Critical Infrastructure from the Impacts of Drought and Climate Change

February 19, 2021

 

For Immediate Release: February 19, 2021

Media Contact: Jim.Evans@sen.ca.gov

 

Hurtado Introduces the “State Water Resiliency Act of 2021” to Improve California’s Water Resilience and Restore Critical Infrastructure from the Impacts of Drought and Climate Change

 

Senate Bill 559 Would Establish a 10-year Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Fund to Repair State Water Project and Central Valley Project Infrastructure

 

SACRAMENTO, CA – Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) today introduced the State Water Resiliency Act of 2021 – legislation that will provide up to $785 million to restore the capacity of California’s critical water delivery infrastructure and repair aging roads and bridges. The new legislation, Senate Bill 559, will fund repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal, Delta-Mendota Canal, San Luis Canal and California Aqueduct – California’s main state and regional water conveyance infrastructure. 

 

“An investment made in the Central Valley and California’s water infrastructure is an investment made for the Nation and all Californians,” said Senator Hurtado. “This investment is critical for our country’s food supply chain, public health and ultimately the livelihoods of our farmworkers and families in rural communities. Restoring this infrastructure is essential to withstanding the long-lasting impacts of climate change while delivering clean, reliable, affordable water for hundreds of disadvantaged communities across California.”

 

During the last legislative session, Senator Hurtado authored legislation (also numbered Senate Bill 559) that would have — in its original form — invested $400 million to restore the Friant-Kern Canal to its designed capacity. The bill was amended in the State Assembly to require the California Department of Water Resources to report on a proposal for the state to pay a share of the cost to fix the canal. The proposal was approved by the Legislature on a bipartisan basis, but ultimately vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom. In his veto message, the Governor recognized the need for added infrastructure repair to California’s major canal systems and called for “funding that provides water supply and conveyance for the entirety of the state, not one project at a time.”

 

This year’s SB 559 responds to the Governor’s veto, and would bring clean water to urban and rural communities throughout California. For example, residents and communities in Kings County rely heavily on the State Water Project (SWP) for clean, affordable drinking water.

“Thank you Senator Hurtado for your unwavering support of critical water infrastructure that transports the lifeblood of our region,” said Craig Pedersen, Chair of the Kings County Board of Supervisors. “This critical issue has been bypassed for far too long, SB 559 will provide vital funding to ensure our communities, businesses and more importantly our children will have the opportunity to live, work and raise their families in the place we call home!”

Parts of the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP) infrastructure have lost anywhere between 15-60 percent of their carrying capacity over time due to subsidence – resulting in an additional $15-30 million per year in higher operational and power costs, damaging infrastructure and threatening water supply for millions of people, farms and businesses at a time when we need it most. 

 

“Let’s face it, our climate is changing,” said Jennifer Pierre, General Manager of the State Water Contractors. “As we seek to increase our resiliency to climate change, restoring the capacity of California’s water conveyance systems will help to secure our state’s limited water resources, both now and into the future.”

 

Conveyance improvement work has already begun and can be completed through additional funding partnerships between the federal government, local public water agencies and the state of California – all of whom stand to benefit from the increased resiliency of the state’s water conveyance system.

 

“We applaud Senator Hurtado for introducing SB 559,” said Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. “This bill will directly benefit nearly 3 million Californians who receive water from the Delta Mendota Canal, 1.2 million acres of irrigated agriculture in the San Joaquin, Santa Clara and San Benito Valleys, and nearly 200,000 acres of wetlands important to at-risk species, migratory waterfowl and the Pacific Flyway.”

 

“Governor Newsom emphasized in his veto message for SB 559 last year that he wanted California’s major water conveyance facilities to be looked at holistically as the state considers upgrading its water infrastructure to address the future challenges we face. Senator Hurtado's bill answers this request by focusing on investments in not only the Friant-Kern Canal, but three other major water conveyance facilities that are critically important for achieving state policy objectives for groundwater sustainability and clean drinking water,” said Jason Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of Friant Water Authority.

 

By repairing subsidence damage to these four key segments of California’s water delivery system, SB 559 would help to: 

 

  • Provide affordable, clean water to at least 31,000,000 people in the state, including approximately 1,250,000 people living in disadvantaged communities served by the CVP and 3/4 of all disadvantaged communities that receive some or all of their water from the SWP. 
  • Irrigate nearly 2,500,000 acres of farmland that receive water from the CVP and over 750,000 acres of farmland that receive water from the SWP.
  • Maintain the state’s $3-trillion-dollar (2019) economy, protect thousands of jobs annually and create hundreds of new state jobs each year.
  • Bolster California’s resilience to the impacts of climate change by helping local public water agencies to develop additional sources of water supplies, recharge groundwater basins, generate renewable energy and reduce reliance on water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in dry years.
  • Support critical habitat and ecosystem restoration efforts already underway to protect California’s threatened and endangered species. 

 

The SWP and CVP are the backbone of our state’s water delivery infrastructure that must be maintained for future generations. But, despite the system’s significance, it has become easy to not fully appreciate the momentous work being done behind the scenes every day to keep water flowing to California’s agricultural economy, business community and residents. SB 559 will provide the funds needed to support that work, so that Californians can continue to rely on our state’s water delivery infrastructure to run their homes, farms and businesses, now and for years to come.

 

About Senator Melissa Hurtado

Senator Melissa Hurtado represents a new generation of Latina leaders as the youngest woman ever elected to the California State Senate and a product of immigrant parents. Senator Hurtado represents the 14th Senate District and focuses on rural community issues that often go unheard — access to clean air and water, food insecurity and poverty, inequities in environmental policies, agriculture and access to health care. In July 2020, she was appointed to the national Biden Latino Leadership Committee alongside former Labor Secretary and current Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis – the only two California Latinas on the Committee.

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