A NEW STUDY OF WATER SUPPLY in California provides a mixed picture. The state could meet much of the demand required by a growing population through water conservation, groundwater banking, recycling and water transfers, according to a report from the Public Policy Institute of California. However, the long-term plans of many water agencies rely heavily on the development of new supplies, especially groundwater in areas with no groundwater management policies.
“Water for Growth: California’s New Frontier” by Public Policy Institute of California Research Fellow Ellen Hanak recognizes what many water experts have said for years — the era of constructing large dams and aqueducts is over. Instead, water suppliers will have to be more creative in managing limited water supplies.
According to the PPIC report, California is expected to add 14 million new residents by 2030. If current water use trends prevail, the state would need an additional 3.6 million acre-feet of water to provide for population growth. And that projection might be low because about half of the state’s population growth is expected to be in the Sacramento region, the San Joaquin Valley and the Inland Empire — locations where single-family houses predominate and more than half of water is used for landscaping.
Hanak was encouraged to find that a little more than half of planning agencies participate to some extent in utility planning and in regional water policy groups. She also reports that compliance with SBs 610 and 221 — 2001 legislation requiring proof that water will be available for large developments —is quite high. Hanak was less upbeat about mandatory urban water management plans. She found that one-sixth of agencies did not submit required plans during the 2000 update cycle, and the plans of many utilities rely heavily on “paper water” and additional groundwater pumping to meet future needs.
Hanak makes four recommendations:
• Strengthen long-term water planning, in part by giving land use planners more say.
• Streamline project-level water adequacy reviews by improving long-term planning documents and finding ways to pay for new water supplies. Hanak also recommends charging developers impact fees to fund water development.
• Realize the potential of water conservation, in part by charging higher rates to the biggest water users.
• Consolidate progress in groundwater management because overdraft is a serious problem in some areas.
Hanak further recommends that the state withhold new water supply permits from local agencies that do not manage water responsibly.
The PPIC report is available at www.ppic.org
HOUSES IN FRESNO will have water meters. In July, the city approved a 40-year contract renewal with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for the delivery of 60,000 acre-feet of water from the San Joaquin River. The deal requires installation of water meters at all single-family houses in the city by 2013.
Only about 25,000 of the city’s 105,000 houses have meters, and the city has never billed homeowners anything but a flat rate. However, both state lawmakers and federal officials insist that the days of meter-less water use in Fresno had to end so that homeowners would be encouraged to conserve. Retrofitting existing customers with water meters is estimated to cost at least $50 million. Commercial and multi-family developments already have meters.
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE BAY BRIDGE is again moving forward now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that addresses funding of the $6.3 billion project.
Under the deal spearheaded by state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), the state will provide an additional $630 million for the project. Tolls on all bridges in the Bay Area except the Golden Gate Bridge will increase by a buck to $4 in 2007 to raise another $800 million for the project. Caltrans will keep the single-tower suspension design that has caused much consternation.
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused a section of the Bay Bridge’s eastern span to fail. Caltrans has retrofitted the western span and plans to replace the eastern span. However, the project stalled last year when the state received only one bid, at double the expected $740 million cost, for the suspension tower (see CP&DR Public Development, October 2004). Nearly a year of negotiations, which added an estimated $400,000 per day to the project cost, resulted in the deal signed by Schwarzenegger. The re-bidding process has already begun.
The project’s expected 2012 completion date would give a fourth governor a Bay Bridge photo op. Pete Wilson signed the first funding bill on the bridge in 1997. Gray Davis attended the project groundbreaking. And in July Schwarzenegger signed the latest funding bill with the bridge looming over his shoulder.
CITY OF SANTA PAULA VOTERS will not decide on a growth-control initiative during the November 8 special election. Ventura County Superior Court Judge Steven Hintz ruled in July that Santa Paula City Clerk Josie Herrera was correct to disqualify the initiative because signed petitions did not include the ordinances that the initiative wanted to amend.
The proposed initiative would have put to a public vote any project of more than 80 acres proposed at a higher density than allowed under the general plan. The initiative came in response to Centex Homes’ proposal for about 2,200 houses, townhouses and apartments on 2,200 acres that Santa Paula would annex. The city’s general plan now calls for about 450 houses on the site.
The City Council is scheduled to consider the housing project later this year. Opponents vowed to keep fighting.
A 5.8-MILE TROLLEY EXTENSION to San Diego State University opened in July — 28 years after it was first planned. The $500 million project extends San Diego’s thriving, 54-mile trolley system through Mission Valley, providing an alternative to congested Interstate 8. The line is expected to get about 11,000 riders a day, one-third of them SDSU students.
THE AIR FORCE IS PROPOSING to reduce the cleanup of groundwater contamination at the closed McClellan Air Force Base, according to the Sacramento Bee. Sacramento County fears that the reduced cleanup could substantially set back reuse of the 3,000-acre base as a business and industrial park.
The military has been pumping and treating tainted groundwater at McClellan for two decades. The new proposal calls for shutting down extraction wells. Instead, the military would only take steps necessary to contain pollution within the base boundaries. The change would save about $600 million, but it still needs approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
TWO SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCILMEN were convicted in July in a federal corruption trial. According to prosecutors, Councilmen Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza accepted $23,000 in campaign contributions from the owner of Cheetahs adult nightclub. They were convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion. Also convicted was Lance Malone, a former Clark County, Nevada, commissioner, who went between the Cheetah’s owner and the San Diego councilmen.
Zucchet, Inzunza and Councilman Charles Lewis, who died while under indictment, tried to ease the city’s “no touch” rule for nude dance clubs. The scheme also involved closing down a Cheetahs competitor and amending the city’s zoning code to make it more difficult to open new adult businesses.
Zucchet, Inzunza and Malone have maintained their innocence and vowed to appeal. Sentencing is scheduled for November.
THE MARIN COUNTY GRAND JURY has criticized the county’s planning process as “unclear, convoluted, time-consuming and costly.”
The Marin Community Development Agency got the grant jury’s attention last year when there was controversy over a 6,500-square-foot house in Greenbrae that was originally permitted for only 3,950 square feet. The grand jury found flaws in the agency’s code enforcement, building inspection and planning practices.
The county, however, has already undertaken steps to improve the system, according to officials. The county has adopted new design guidelines for single-family homes, added planners and revised various procedures.