KEEP TABS ON THE LATEST CALIFORNIA POLICY AND POLITICS NEWS
Good morning, California.
Happy 4/20, for those who care, including the Sacramento lobbyists who are making bank on their many cannabis clients.
California to Trump: Take ‘yes’ for an answer
Working out policy is hard, especially when it involves President Trump and the Mexican border, and when it’s done by Twitter.
Let’s review: Trump demanded that Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California deploy National Guard troops. Three states quickly agreed. After thinking about it, Gov. Jerry Brown decided to send up to 400 troops, specifying they were to fight transnational gangs, drug smuggling and human trafficking, not round up mothers and children.
It seemed resolved on Wednesday when Trump’s Homeland Security director, Kirstjen Nielsen, tweeted:
“Just spoke w @JerryBrownGov about deploying the @USNationalGuard in California. Final details are being worked out but we are looking forward to the support. Thank you, Gov Brown!”
However, Trump was up early Thursday tweeting:
“Governor Jerry Brown announced he will deploy ‘up to 400 National Guard Troops’ to do nothing. The crime rate in California is high enough, and the Federal Government will not be paying for Governor Brown’s charade. We need border security and action, not words!”
Later in the day, the California National Guard tweeted that the Pentagon gave written confirmation that it will fund the California guard’s mission.
“In short,” the California guard tweeted, “nothing has changed today.”
What’s happening: Trump is itching for a fight, hoping to mobilize the Republican base in California and save Republican seats in the House. These are abnormal political times.
Chad Mayes’ California Dream
Assemblyman Chad Mayes, a Republican from Yucca Valley, wants to broaden the Republican Party by taking stands that run counter to Donald Trump. California GOP leaders are aligned with Trump’s brand of politics.
In a collaboration with CALmatters, Ben Bradford of Capital Public Radio assesses Mayes’ effort and the fight for the soul of the GOP in the latest installment of The California Dream.
Death of a housing bill
The most far-reaching affordable housing bill of the year died this week. CALmatters’ Matt Levin and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon talk about the reasons for the failure of a bill to significantly increase housing density near traffic hubs. It was a huge bite, and it crashed hard, as they detail in their latest housing podcast.
Take a big gulp
In 2014, at Gov. Jerry Brown’s urging and in the middle of California’s historic drought, voters approved a $7.5 billion bond to pay for water projects, including $2.7 billion for storage.
The question: Central Valley legislators, many of them Republicans, are urging construction of dams and reservoirs, which voters could see. However, others say storing water underground would suffice. Wording of the bond measure, negotiated in 2009, placed strict conditions on above-ground reservoirs.
Now, almost four years after voters spoke, an obscure entity known as the California Water Commission is preparing to allocate the $2.7 billion. Backers of 11 storage projects from San Diego to Colusa County are seeking much more, a combined $5.8 billion.
Something has to give.
The Water Commission cast doubts on all 11 proposals earlier this year, predictably eliciting howls from advocates. Since then, commission staffers have been seeking more details and will be rating the projects as early as today.
Our guess: San Joaquin Valley farmers, and legislators who represent them, are seeking $1.3 billion to help fund the Temperance Flat reservoir east of Fresno. It’s not likely to get funded.
Sites Reservoir to the west of the Sacramento River in Colusa County could help restore Delta fisheries. The request for almost $1.7 billion will fare better, as will a $434 million plan to enlarge Contra Costa County’s Los Vaqueros Reservoir.
Bottom line: We 40 million Californians need more water storage, either above ground or below. It seems likely that, after years of stagnation, some projects will get funding, but not all that farmers and their legislators seek.
As the Central Valley sinks
Imagine an acre, which is roughly the size of three or four modest suburban lots, covered in a foot of water.
Now imagine 2 million acres, inundated with a foot of water. That’s the amount of water that gets sucked from San Joaquin Valley aquifers in an average year, and not replaced. Year after year.
Unable to rely on water from California’s major rivers and the Delta, farmers have dug deeper wells to pull water from the ground to irrigate their crops, mostly without restriction.
In 2014, the Legislature finally imposed some regulation on the use of groundwater. Part of that legislation requires that groundwater be replenished. Easier said than done, as detailed in a report by the Public Policy Institute of California.
To recharge aquifers, California must figure out a way to get water from the north end of the valley, where there are rivers, to the southern end where groundwater depletion is most severe.
One way to move water is via aqueducts, including the Friant-Kern Canal, which transports water from Millerton Lake east of Fresno south to Kern County.
Among the problems: Because of over-pumping, the ground has sunk, damaging the canal. Because of subsidence, the volume of water that part of the Friant-Kern Canal can carry has been reduced by 60 percent. In other words, the impact of groundwater depletion makes it tough to replace what has been taken.
“She was elegant, she was tough, and she was an incredible negotiator,” Sen. Kevin de Leon, speaking on the Senate floor in honor of of Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, Nancy McFadden, who died last month at age 59.
Thanks for reading. See you on Monday.