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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
September 22, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

Water district vote deals major blow to California's delta tunnel project

Los Angeles Times - Sep 19 By a 7-1 vote, the Westlands Water District board on Tuesday decided not to join the state’s $17-billion plan – dubbed California WaterFix – to build two tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Delta tunnel plan would re-engineer the way Northern California water supplies are moved to the rest of the state. As envisioned by proponents, the largely urban agencies supplied by the State Water Project would pick up 55 percent of the tunnels’ cost and the largely agricultural districts of the federal Central Valley Project — including Westlands —would pay 45 percent. Central Valley Project irrigation districts that join the project, however, would have to cover the tab for two groups that are first in line for Delta deliveries but by law would not have to share in the tunnel costs: wildlife refuges and growers with senior water rights. In a statement, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird called the Westlands vote disappointing, but said it “in no way signals the end of WaterFix.”

California legislature approves bill establishing new water rights hearing body

Sierra Sun Times - Sep 17 Last week, the California legislature approved Assembly Bill 313 (AB 313), which requires that unbiased administrative law judges, and not the State Water Board, conduct water rights enforcement hearings. The bill establishes a new water rights management structure, creating a new Water Rights Division in the Office of Administrative Hearings to handle all water rights matters. It is intended to provide a neutral body for hearings regarding complicated, and often controversial, water rights issues. The bill now heads to Governor Brown for his signature.

California lawmakers approve $4 billion ballot measure for parks and water projects

San Jose Mercury News - Sep 18 California lawmakers last week approved Senate Bill 5 (SB 5), a sweeping measure to provide $4.1 billion in new funding for parks and water projects. If Governor Brown signs the bill as expected, it would be placed on the June 5 statewide ballot, representing the first statewide parks and water bond to appear on a state ballot in 12 years. SB 5 is heavily focused on urban parks and Southern California, along with water improvements in low-income communities. Overall, $2.83 billion would go to parks, and $1.27 billion to water projects, including flood protection, levee upgrades on rivers and in the Delta, water recycling, and groundwater pollution cleanups. 

Coastal Commission steps up fight for public access to Martins Beach

SFGate - Sep 19 The California Coastal Commission plans to issue a cease-and-desist order to Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who has refused to provide public access to Martins Beach, south of Half Moon Bay, despite a state appellate court ruling in August that the owner had no right to block coastal access through his property. In a letter dated last Thursday and released Tuesday, the Coastal Commission ordered Khosla to remove a gate, signage, and guards blocking a route to the beach. The commission has expressed its intent to seek a court order and imposition of fines in the event access is not allowed. Khosla could face fines of $11,250 a day, or more than $4 million a year, for every violation of the state’s Coastal Act, commission officials said. 

California’s national monuments spared in DOI review

Monterey County Herald - Sep 18 California’s protected forests, deserts, and mountain ranges would be spared from President Trump’s plan to reduce the size of America’s national monuments under new recommendations from Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. But six of America’s national monuments, from Utah’s red rock canyons to remote islands in the South Pacific, would be reduced in size, according to a memo leaked to several large news organizations and published Sunday night by the Washington Post. The original list of 27 monuments Zinke was reviewing for possible changes included six national monuments in California, but no change in their use or boundaries is now proposed. Trump could accept Zinke’s recommendations, reject them, or modify them. 

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