California Lawmakers, Gavin Newsom Hammer Out $311 Billion Budget — Without Major Water Project

California lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom agreed on a $310.8 billion budget deal Monday, a compromise reached by dropping the governor’s proposal to move forward with a 45-mile Delta water tunnel that would pump water from the Sacramento River to other parts of the state.

Legislators released a series of bills Saturday and Sunday showing the broad outlines of a spending plan that includes more money for public transit, child care, prison reform and Medi-Cal. The measures also reflected the challenges of closing the state’s estimated $31.5 billion budget gap.

Western Lawmakers Form Caucus to Talk Colorado River in Congress

Members of Congress from six of the seven states that use Colorado River water are convening a new caucus. The group aims to help rally federal funding for water projects along a river that supplies 40 million people and is shrinking due to climate change.

State Can Seek Environmental Safeguards for Oroville Dam Beyond Federal Regulations, California Supreme Court Rules

The state Supreme Court allowed local governments and conservation groups Monday to ask the state for further safety measures and environmental safeguards at the Oroville Dam despite federal authority to license the facility, where a breach and spill forced 188,000 people to evacuate their homes in 2017.

The ruling will not interrupt operations at the nation’s tallest dam, a 770-foot structure on the Feather River in Butte County. But the 5-2 decision enables California water officials to conduct additional review, under state environmental laws, of the dam and other federally regulated water projects.

Opinion: California Must Move Forward With Water Projects

Prior to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s State of the State speech, there is one item to examine that serves as a building block for all the issues the governor will address – water.

Despite unexpected storms in late 2021, California is braced for another year of drought.

The water we do have must move throughout the state by way of a complicated system of reservoirs, dams, canals, pipes and treatment plants. That movement is managed by an equally complicated network of federal, state and local officials.

With Billions in State Surplus, Monterey County Looks to Sacramento for Water Funding Help

California is poised to have a record budget this year and tucked into Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $286.4 billion spending proposal for fiscal year 2022-23 is about $21 billion in extra cash that will be up for grabs. Monterey County is jumping into the scrum, hoping the state can set hundreds of millions of dollars aside to help finance three critical water projects for the Salinas Valley and South County. Brent Buche, general manager of the county’s Water Resources Agency, calls the surplus situation a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to get major funds from the state. The county is not holding back.

California Ballot Measure to Build More Reservoirs, Water Projects Dies Due to Lack of Signatures

Supporters of a proposed November ballot measure to provide billions of dollars to build new dams, desalination plants and other large water projects in California announced Tuesday they are ending their campaign due to lack of signatures and funding.

“Despite crafting an initiative that would solve California’s challenge of chronic and worsening water scarcity, and despite recent polling that indicates over 70% of California’s voters support increased state spending on water infrastructure, the campaign has been unable to attract the financial support necessary to gather the required 1 million signatures,” the campaign said in a statement.

Federal, Local Officials Kick Off Millions in Repairs to Friant-Kern Canal

Local and Federal water officials and lawmakers celebrated the groundbreaking of a massive project on the Friant-Kern Canal on Tuesday, marking the start of the canal’s restoration.

Coming in at $187 million, the first portion of the massive effort will restore capacity within the canal in a 10-mile portion that has been affected by subsidence: the sinking of the canal’s bottom from groundwater removal.

With 33 miles of the Friant-Kern Canal in total that have sunk due to subsidence, Tuesday’s groundbreaking kicks off the first phase of the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction restoration project.

Opinion: Initiative to Fund and Fast Track Water Projects is Badly Needed

California is in the grip of its fourth drought since 2000. To cope with worsening droughts, over the past few decades Californians have made impressive gains in water efficiency. Total water diversions in California for agriculture and cities – roughly 30 million acre feet per year for agriculture and 8 million acre feet per year for cities – have not increased even while California’s population has grown and irrigated farm acreage has increased. But conservation alone cannot guarantee Californians have an adequate supply of water.

Biden Pursues Reversal of Rules for Water Projects

The struggle over management of water supplied through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta continues as the Biden administration seeks a reversal of rules put in place by agencies under the Trump administration.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sent a letter to federal fisheries agencies and announced it is reinitiating consultation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service 2019 biological opinions related to the coordinated, long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.

The two water projects are California’s primary water-delivery systems that guide pumping of water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, sending water south to tens of millions of people and to millions of acres of farmland.

California Moves Slowly on Water Projects Amid Drought

In 2014, in the middle of a severe drought that would test California’s complex water storage system like never before, voters told the state to borrow $7.5 billion and use part of it to build projects to stockpile more water.

Seven years later, that drought has come and gone, replaced by an even hotter and drier one that is draining the state’s reservoirs at an alarming rate. But none of the more than half-dozen water storage projects scheduled to receive that money have been built.