Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) expressed opposition to the State Assembly Bill 92, part of the recently passed $1 billion drought legislation, stating he believes it does not help the Central Valley enough.
“While there is some good news in these drought bills – some help for the drought stricken Central Valley – AB 92 has enough bad news to make it unsupportable by folks who represent those most affected by the drought,” said Berryhill.
Some controversy relating to the bill lies in increased regulatory authority given to the State Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding diversions of water that could potentially endanger salmon and steelhead, other unauthorized water diversions, and the imposition of civil fines for streams that block fish movement.
The bill was ultimately signed into law passed the State Senate in a 25-14 vote; the no votes were cast entirely by the chamber’s only Republican members.
“That is pretty telling when the bill purports to help agricultural in Northern and Central Valley communities,” said Berryhill.
Berryhill called the drought an opportunity for the Legislature to expand the authority of government stating that the Department of Fish and Wildlife was being given unsupervised authority in relation to water diversions.
“Turning Fish and Wildlife into water cops is a dangerous policy,” said Berryhill.
Relating to the drought, Berryhill, in conjunction with Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, spoke on AB 142 that advanced out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee in an 8 to 1 vote.
Currently, the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act classifies rivers, or segments thereof, and designates them as wild, scenic, or recreational in order to preserve their most beneficial uses.
AB 142 would require the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency to study, and give the Legislature and Governor a report analyzing the level of suitability associated with the addition to the system of rivers or segments of rivers that are designated by the Legislature as potential additions to the system, and requires that each report contain specified information and recommendations with respect to the proposed designation.
This bill would require the secretary to provide a report analyzing the suitability of a proposed designation of the Mokelumne River which has flows into the Central Valley and ultimately empties into the San Joaquin River, its tributaries, or portions as additions as it relates to potential effects of the proposed designation on future water requirements, as specified, and the effects of climate change.
“Any changes to river designations, especially when we are in the midst of an epic drought, have to be done with our eyes wide open,” said Berryhill.
He argued that the legislation will give stakeholders the facts, calling it a positive for those relying on that water.
“I am glad to see this legislation move forward…Passage of AB 142 will allow us to make educated water usage decisions for our foothill communities and all water users,” said Berryhill, thanking Natural Resources Committee members for their support and commitment to conserving water resources.