As communities face infrastructure challenges across the United States, many are looking to public-private partnerships (P3s) as a valuable tool to gain access to private capital and deliver projects in an efficient and timely manner. One requirement for successful implementation of a P3 is well-crafted legal authority. Because local and state government procurement laws are normally dictated by state legislatures, most P3 authorities are established on a state-by-state basis, although some cities and counties have also authorized P3 projects pursuant to home rule.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein has been taking flack from the Progressive Left recently about legislation she introduced into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 regarding water transfers in the Central Valley. Critics have charged that the water transfers language was added secretly and will allow a small group of landowners in the Central Valley to make untoward profits from marketing water. One such critique was launched by Patricia Schifferle in the Sacramento Bee this week. Sen. Feinstein has answered critics regarding process, and I will let her handle that, so this post focuses on the substantive language and what it does for water transfers in the Central Valley. (UPDATE: Sen. Feinstein made a substantive response to Ms. Schifferle after my original post.)
Last week, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (Judge Wanger) issued a decision in Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority v. U.S. Department of the Interior, Case No. 1:10-cv-0712 OWW DLB (August 2, 2011), holding that Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors in the Sacramento Valley are not entitled to an area of origin priority over contractors in the San Joaquin Valley (see general area map below). This decision is the latest in a long series of disputes between north-of-Delta and south-of-Delta contractors, with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) in the middle as owner of the CVP.
In my occasional series of posts including public signs about water, here are a few from the Westlands Water District area in the Central Valley of California. The past several years, Westlands has received a relatively small proportion of water under its contracts with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation due to dry conditions in the Sacramento River watershed and regulatory restrictions on diversions based on protection of salmon, steelhead and delta smelt fisheries. As is obvious from the photos, farmers and residents in Westlands are not happy about some of those decisions.
As a water resources professional who regularly handles issues related to climate change and water planning, I have noted in past that one of the key missing data points in scientific studies related to climate change is a reliable projection of sea levels. This is important because sea level is a key input for determining the potential impact of climate change on coastal groundwater basins. Such basins frequently have both on-shore and off-shore areas, and intrusion of seawater into the on-shore portion is affected by the relative head of groundwater in the two areas. The head of groundwater in the off-shore portion is directly related to sea level, such that a rising sea level would increase the head in off-shore basins and tend to push seawater toward or into the on-shore portion. Seawater intrusion can be a significant problem for management of coastal basins and the water utilities, industries and individuals that rely on those basins for water supply.