AB 145 Support Letter, 6-24-3013

The Honorable Henry Perea
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 3120
Sacramento, CA 95814

Copies to the Governor and State Legislators (by fax)

Subject: Russian River Watershed Protection Committee Supports AB 145

Dear Assemblymember Perea:

RRWPC is a nonprofit public benefit organization incorporated in the State of California since 1980. Our supporters include property and business owners, residents, recreationists, and other concerned citizens in the lower river area from Healdsburg to Jenner. They utilize the Russian River for recreation, fishing, swimming, and more, for themselves, family, friends and pets. Many own property in the Russian River area, but reside and work in the greater Bay Area and beyond. RRWPC’s major goal is to protect these beneficial uses from toxic discharges that deteriorate drinking water quality and deny or degrade enjoyment of the river and harm the environment. We especially support clean drinking water for all citizens.

Russian River Watershed Protection Committee (RRWPC) supports AB 145 (Perea/Rendon) in its current form, which proposes transferring the State’s Drinking Water Program from the Department of Public Health (DPH) to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

While the current arrangement may work well for some utilities, especially the larger ones, it has been very difficult for small utilities, and especially low income communities, to access funds from the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund, currently under the control of DPH.

Every citizen in our State deserves access to clean, healthy water. Small, low income communities, especially in rural or semi-rural areas, simply cannot access adequate funds for capital improvements to their often extremely deteriorated infrastructure. Furthermore, there are often complicated issues to resolve regarding groundwater quantity and quality which SWRCB is in a better position to resolve.

It is unacceptable that DPH has had funding on hand, but has not made it available to communities in need. It is particularly urgent that this transfer occur because of the specter of global warming and the likelihood that adequate sources of water may become even more difficult to attain in the future.

Furthermore, it is of concern to us that DPH has no public review process and few, if any of their decisions and scientific studies and conclusions are open to public comment. This may have been a factor in their inability to use their funds to assure safe drinking water for all Californians.

The City of Santa Rosa suggests splitting the Drinking Water Program from the Drinking Water Revolving Fund management. SCWC delegates believe that such a split could turn into a bureaucratic nightmare and doesn’t make any sense. We do not support such a recommendation.

For reasons noted on page 4 of the Bill, items 1-12 in Section 1f, (quoted below) we support AB 145 in its current form.

(1) Greater focus of financial and staff support for the drinking water program.
(2) More coordination and less duplication among programs addressing drinking water quality.
(3) Greater efficiencies of scale and shared resources, resulting in overall lower costs.
(4) Broader array of expertise concentrated on drinking water quality, with agency experience in water quality science and policy.
(5) Coordination between water source protection and drinking water treatment programs.
(6) More accountability for drinking water programs, with a unified agency that has responsibility for oversight and funding and a five-member expert board that makes decisions in public.
(7) Improved understanding and coordination between water quality and water rights programs.
(8) Consolidated reporting of water use and quality in one agency.
(9) Agency experience in fighting fraud, as part of the Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund.
(10) Consolidated funding programs for related water resources, including both source water protection and wastewater treatment.
(11) Combined agency experience in working with the private sector to leverage public funds for public purposes.
(12) A board decision process that allows for public airing of the conflicts inherent in managing critical and limited water resources.

RRWPC supports AB 145 in its current form.

Copies sent by fax:
Governor Edmund G. Brown
Senator Noreen Evans
Senator Mark Leno
Assemblymember Wes Chesbro
Assemblymember Marc Levine