Cambria’s emergency water-supply project has been included on a roster of 13 water-recycling projects that could qualify for federal funding under the California Emergency Drought Relief Act, a bill introduced July 29 by U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
A relentless drought for the past four years has turned most areas of the state to dust and fire tinder. Officials of the state, San Luis Obispo County and the Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) — along with those from many other counties, cities and communities — have declared their areas to be in drought emergency status.
The Feinstein-Boxer bill appears to be the latest volley in an ongoing legislative battle to get drought-related funds to suffering California communities, with the prominent Democrats apparently trying to counter a Republican-sponsored bill from the House of Representatives.
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As with any bill, submitting it is only the beginning. It would have to pass through a number of debates, votes and signatures before taking effect.
In a news release about the proposal, Feinstein said, “I’ve introduced a lot of bills over the years, and this one may be the most difficult, and a warming climate will only make things worse.
“For months now, my staff and I have held meetings with many interested parties. My state staff has visited almost 50 water agencies, and my Washington staff has consulted closely with federal agencies to ensure the bill adheres to environmental laws.”
Gail Robinette, president of the CCSD Board of Directors, said Tuesday, Aug. 4, that “the fact that we’re listed in the bill is very, very positive … very encouraging. Having these two women taking it forward is good for California. And that we’re on the list is good for Cambria. We certainly could use any additional funding” support from the federal or state government.”
Amanda Rice, CCSD director, said Tuesday that, while many communities in the state are suffering from the prolonged lack of rain and snow, Cambria has experienced water shortages for decades. If there’s a potential benefit to the situation, she said, it’s that “now, the best minds are focusing on finding solutions to the problems we’ve had here for years.”
The Cambrian asked for comment from services district management, but had received no reply by press deadline.
Other communities, entities and the eight cities on the bill’s list of 13 projects include Bear Balley, Beaumont, Burbank, Central Contra Costa, American Canyon, Benicia, Brentwood, Camarillo, Carlsbad, Corona, Daly City and Del Mar. Agencies are services districts, a water district, a water and power district, sanitary district and city governments.
The project roster is defined in the bill as “Eligibility for Water Recycling Federal Support — Upon submission of a completed feasibility report compliant with Bureau of Reclamation standards, the Secretary of the Interior shall review requests for water-recycling project funding assistance, and subject to the availability of appropriations, award funding on a competitive basis for projects that meet the eligibility requirements …” including “reviewed water recycling projects sponsored by” the projects on the list of 13.
According to an analysis of the bill by www.huffingtonpost.com, “Key provisions of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act will assist rural and disadvantaged drought-stricken communities with a new USDA program, seek federal support for desalination projects, promote the building of new reservoirs, support water recycling projects, increase agriculture water conservation mandates and expand protections for threatened fish and wildlife.”
The Huffington site said “The proposed USDA program will provide funds to suffering communities, mainly those with fewer than 10,000 residents, to use for projects ranging from bottled water deliveries to improving water treatment plants.”
According to the bill’s summary, the proposal “includes a range of provisions with the goals of moving and creating water long-term to help those communities suffering the worst effects of the drought, while remaining completely compliant with environmental laws … as well as all biological opinions.”
The summary states that key provisions of the proposed act include: “Assistance for drought-stricken communities, desalination, storage projects, water recycling, conservation and groundwater recharge, research and innovation, protecting endangered and threatened fish and wildlife, moving water to communities that need it most, environmental protections added to 2014 bill, provisions from the 2014 Senate bill to help move water to areas that most need it, and additional funding programs.”