Catalyst: California August 11, 2015
Brett: Hey, this is Brett Walton of Circle of Blue here, Felicia are you on the phone?
Felicia: I am.
Brett: Excellent, you can go ahead and start, I think everyone is in the room now.
Felicia: Great! I think my first one was a little long, so this should be short. I am eager to get into the conversation because there’s so much going on, I really appreciated what my other colleagues had to say. The first thing I want to say, as a role is that we’ve been looking at this issue as administration since the drought was declared, we do a lot of action plans which I would direct people to, I would say California Water Action Plan. We have been in California Water Action Plan and then you can find it, you’ve got to put action in but basically in all of the above strategy meaning historically it seems in the water wonk world at least in the policy world there’s still a lot of dialogue that I would call the challenging ego system management rather that eco system management which is people talking past to each other, repeating themselves louder and slower sort of the equivalent, and so it’s not (Overlapping conversation 01:15:08.16 – can you guys hear what I’m hearing? 01:15:37.06) all of the above where everybody can see themselves which is how do we cope with, what climate change is going to bequeath us in terms of the lack of snow pack. How do we deal with the future looking just a few decades, start now? Our view is that, we’re all will be late so in that document, we’ve committed ourselves to conservation, recycling, stormwater capture, Desalinization as appropriate in circumstances, ecosystem management ahead of the curve restoring systems. Providing safe drinking water to all Californians which I’ve never seen on the list for a Governor, it is probably the most important thing they will ever do. Dealing with the real issues and the delta, dealing with storage as Nadine said; may have been big, small, above ground and below ground and that’s why we doubled down on getting ground water legislation passed last year which was a real accomplishment, we got to do flood control preparation and we got to prepare for droughts ahead of the curve. And we do all of those and we do that in a way that we try to figure out how to maximize water and most of its benefits out of every drop. We can absolutely make it because the way we use water now is fraught with conflict and terribly inefficient but we’ve got to get off our butts and do things together sort of figuring out how to get all the things that people need working together rather than allowing sort of the politics and discord to prevail. So, I think the drought has provided a real tension between those two where folks can either rise to the occasion or go in to their corners and over time moralizing into the dialogue stage. So I just wanted to start with that. And the question I have was do we all have the tools and information that needs to respond to this, what are lacking and what are the most important short term challenges. I have to start out on an optimistic note you know, on the one hand we definitely have more tools than ever, we’ve got more in the last couple of years than what we got in the last few decades. A lot of emergency authorities can be able to do emergency information orders a lot of authority to do enforcement that we never had so that our roles actually have some teeth and mean something. We’ve gotten more people from the administration and the legislature to deal with the drought and water rights implementation but also to set public trust flows that have been horribly late on, will get back to it in a minute. To do ground water monitoring, to deal with tracking regulation or with gas regulation generally where we got a tremendous amount of more authority and more people, to deal with enforcement in the [garbled] arena whether legal or illegal growth, we do have folks who are not complying with water right laws or water quality laws and it’s a combination of enforcement and education but really a big issue, particularly on the North Coast and parts of the Central Valley. With that said, while the tools and information we had are a lot better that last year, we frankly on the water rights side are still far behind virtually all of the Western States, we have a theoretical system and we’ve got permits and licenses for the Push 14 water rights holders [Inaudible 01:19:00.14] but we don’t have a regular information, we don’t have leader and we don’t have extreme gauges that are up to speed and so we’re doing a lot better this year than the last, but they are so long way to go to be much more precise with managing such a scarce resource and not just managing it but managing it in a transparent way where all can see which is something that the Australians really worked on heavily in the 90s which was something that put them in better stead to deal with their issues once they’re really focused. We also don’t really have a formal knowledge of groundwater surface water interconnections, we can regulate it under our traditional authorities to subterranean stream that we can figure it out otherwise it’s been trying to use somewhat unexercised tools or even just try to get the information about the level of groundwater pumping and light that are going on in most places. Now the Groundwater legislation will have help us, it is going to take three, five, maybe ten years to fully implement but it’s going to be a legacy piece of work which will give us kind of the information we need, more importantly locals, the information they need to actually manage those groundwater bases in the future because part of the reason why it’s not ten times worth, particularly in agriculture these years because people have been pumping groundwater any way they can get it and it’s been drying down those basins which is what you want in a drought but you got to pay that bank back so for the next drought. We also need a full on assessment of what fish and wildlife be to implement with full trust responsibilities. We finally in this administration got more people as did fish and wildlife to start prioritizing streams and doing work that we have an obligation to do since ’82, we’ve done it in some places in the _____ Delta where we are right now but we haven’t really done our public trust work the way we might like to because they haven’t had the capacity, now we are finally starting to get it and frankly if you want the system to work well with water rights, you need to adjudicate it or at least get closer to what other Western States have done to layout where everybody’s rights are, we could give each other and what you are going to do in a drought like this in advance so that you are not trying to do it on the fly in a conflict which is certainly not the ideal way to do it. In an ideal system which has public trust flows on all our major streams and we adjudicate all the rights to each other and know what to do in advance. As I said, last year we go out of emergency information authority and enforcement authority so we’re in a much better shape to do it this year than last but still we’re not where we need to be in the 21st century.
Brett: Where did all these changes come from?
Felicia: Where the changes come from? Legislature primarily. I think both in terms of authorities and in terms of staffing overtime, but adjudication is kind of a big deal, it took Colorado twenty years to do this, it took Idaho twenty seven, so you don’t do it lightly, there might be some way to do it in a shorter term we’re certainly resolving disputes between water right holders right now and those will be litigated for a number of years and set the stage but you got get started and make some of these decisions so that we can get it set in stone. The other issues, I would say the short term challenges really helping the communities that are running out of water – has got to be the number one priority. That is normally not a state role and it is very much a local role, water at the local level tends to be which is why our [Inaudible 01:22:39.17] nation regs were kind of a big deal in that we were the first state in the country to ever do that but we got thousands of water agencies particularly very small ones around the state and we really do need better funding sources and authorities to work with them. We’ve done a lot in the last year, I am very happy about that as legislation uses drinking water over to us and passed some trailer bill legislation, it even allowed us to consolidate some smaller entities that can’t do it on their own with water shortage and entities with some caveats on it but that will help a little bit but really until the legislature comes up with the funding source to help local communities we’re going to have a hard time and that sort of the next thing on back. We’ve got hundreds and millions of dollars in the bond to build capital projects which is phenomenal in the past. The bond itself which is, you know, that’s half billion a lot of it is for conservation, recycling poor communities’ drinking water and waste water etc. I mean it’s [unintelligible] because it is all the things I said in the action plan and until we get a long term and source which has to happen in the legislature, it’s going to be very hard because you can build the system and people won’t be able to operate or will not be able to loan money to people who can’t pay back so the human right to water bill that passed a couple of years ago still has a lot of implementation ahead of it. Conservation, recycling, storm water capture, I had to say, accelerate it go, go, go. Let’s seize that moment, see that change that Kevin mentioned in the beginning. I really do think for paradigm ship towards a more integrative water future but we’ve got to go, go, go and capture the moment and as I said earlier, we’ve got to make some of these decisions that have lingered for years or decades not just the page where just farmers but farmers versus farmers. Water right holder versus other water rights holders’ battle. So that’s gone on for decades just to break the log jam. And then finally I do think communication is one of the biggest challenges, I mean the world’s water today in many part of the state is full of confusion, misinformation and frankly disinformation in some accounts and so sometimes having a legitimate and important conversation, we need to be having about water gets cut off in a [Inaudible 01:25:08.04] Monty Python routine which is a waste of scarce human energy and we really do need to be getting people together to talk about real facts, data helps do that but also in a way where we find out we’re not just the win wins but where we define what’s important to people which is the combination of a healthy ecosystem with fish and salmon not just for the salmon fisherman but for all of us and who we are but also for appreciating agriculture and what it is important to the world and urban areas. We’ve done pretty well on conservation once we got passed that initial blame game where people where in, I always said it was something like a little bit could be worse saying things of getting in to something where people who are in the anger denial but then the blaming period whether it’s tracking or bottled water, new development of urban somewhat falls the economy water rights and environmental versus water users, that was as helpful as conversation. I’m seeing it happen in urban areas, I’m seeing it happen in the media, I’m seeing it happen infront of us where people spoke only of the extremes and the last big hearing we had, folks came in and said we know you need the water users, and folks saying, okay we know the fish are important and you need to help protect the fish but can you work on this detail that would make a really big difference for us and that was a huge breakthrough from what we normally do which is to hear hours and hours of people talking at the extremes and then we have to do the balancing ourselves. So the effect of that we can see is acknowledging that we’re all on this together and helping suggest that solutions and so with that gong, I will close and look forward to the conversation.
Brett: Thanks Felicia, we just have some questions here. Some of these are covered in your presentation, I’ll read the questions that you might not touch on, so one question here, what’s the role on the feasibility in developing water markets to improve water efficiency and getting water to areas where it is needed more? The question on values: How do you take the value of water into consideration when you’re talking about restriction being cut?
Felicia: Well, two things, I mean on water markets this water discussion about what the Australians did and the fact that pricing is really all over the lot. I think in the first instance to have more vibrant, markets we’ve got to have right settled and metering and measuring in quite part of what slows up, water trading is a lack of transparency and lack of certainty. When folks are trying to trade water what tends to take a long time is someone tends to believe the way you are, have to assess whether it’s real water or paper water and if folks have not chewed up their water rights in the case of controversy or come to us to get a license, it’s theoretical, so the value of water to people as they have may not really knew what they have until it adjudicated. So it’s hard to do the kind of full on marketing that what Australia did but it could make it though a lot faster if you just had better information and chewed up some of the rights. When it comes to the balancing, I have information that allows us to do it at more precision… I’ve seen agencies agonize in multiple conversations about how can they try and protect not just endangered fish and wildlife but not endangered fish like the commercial fisheries but we have to protect in trying to figure out how to maximize beneficial uses and I think this year well pretty much it’s been said, I can’t say what I think about it because it’s up on appeal to me, but it’s been portrayed as really on the knife’s edge. We lost an awful lot of Salmon fry last year when the temperature control plant for ________ didn’t work because it was way hotter than anybody had predicted and they have some temperature gauge issues and this year they have some temperature gauge issues again and we’re really crossing our fingers and hoping that we can make it through the summer without losing it an entire year class of salmon. So it’s really quite challenging. In Australia when they did it, it’s kind of simple, when you’re talking about air and gauge missions, they actually created all kinds of zones where trades could be done automatically and transparently and online. In other places where we have to go through two more steps to deal with this fear factor and if all of a sudden you went to markets or whole communities, economies would plummet as farmers decided they could make more money, all their water and then all of a sudden not only their workers but all the community retailers and others that depend on farm economy go kaput and so it is very complex but if we spent some time on it, we could probably come up with the way to enhance marketing without destroying whole communities.
Brett: We’re talking about the community issue and someone had asked about rural communities and how California doesn’t uhm [unintelligible] case of water have and water have not. You know the person who control [interrupted by Ben – “One minute to go”] water.
Felicia: Well, It’s a hugely important issue, and that’s why I’ve been happy to be a part of this administration for safe drinking water and human rights water up at the top of the list, the way we’ve done it is by prioritizing communities both through tool that I encourage people to look at to sort of map communities and try and prioritize disadvantaged communities funding sources, we certainly prioritize a hundred millions in the bond have prioritized it. We have tools to do deal with our communities. Ironically through the emergency money we’ve got to use to run to the rescue of communities that ran out of water, we’ve been able to help communities that have water but it was crap water that we didn’t have the tools to deal with before a drought, so it is absolutely our top priority. And we work with community groups like Community Water Center to make that happen.