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April 12, 2011

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Government Relations

California Governor Announces End to State’s Drought

Following significant increases in statewide rainfall and mountain snowpack this season, Governor Jerry Brown recently proclaimed an end to the state’s drought, but urged Californians to keep conserving water as we move into the spring and summer months.

“While this season’s storms have lifted us out of the drought, it’s critical that Californians continue to watch their water use,” Governor Brown said. “Drought or no drought, demand for water in California always outstrips supply. Continued conservation is key.”

The recent announcement follows the fourth snow survey of the season, conducted by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), which found that water content in California’s mountain snowpack is 165 percent of the April 1 full season average.

A majority of the state’s major reservoirs are also above normal storage levels. Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s principal reservoir, is 104 percent of average for the date (80 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity). Lake Shasta north of Redding, the federal Central Valley Project’s largest reservoir with a capacity of 4.5 million acre-feet, is at 111 percent of average (91 percent of capacity).

DWR estimates it will be able to deliver 70 percent of requested State Water Project (SWP) water this year. The estimate likely will be adjusted upward as hydrologists make adjustments for snowpack and runoff readings.

Given the heavy water inflow from the series of storms that have swept across California, the state’s flood managers are monitoring high river flows and making flood control releases from reservoirs to maintain storage space.

Governor Brown’s Proclamation officially rescinds Executive Order S-06-08, issued on June 4, 2008 and ends the States of Emergency called on June 12, 2008, and on February 27, 2009.

For additional information on California’s water supply, please visit the Department of Water Resources website.


House Budget Debate Begins, Republican Framework Proposed

Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) laid out his budget proposal to serve as the budget "map" or "blueprint" for the House Appropriations Committee (and subcommittees) to set their spending levels for FY 2012. The Budget proposes $6.2 billion in spending cuts (relative to the President’s budget) and $5.8 trillion in spending cuts relative to the current policy baseline.

The House proposal raised fundamental questions about the size of the federal government, tax policy and the nation’s debt burden. We see a slight elaboration on the notion of “Comprehensive Tax Reform” and a proposal to set top rates for individuals and businesses at 25 % rather than 35%. Goals to remove distortions in the tax code by eliminating credits and special carve outs are also laid out. We also see a continuation of the ban on Earmarks.

The Senate is not likely to agree on a joint budget resolution that would establish the total amount of discretionary spending that can be divided among the appropriations bills. If the House and Senate do not adopt a final, unified, budget resolution lawmakers can try to set discretionary spending caps or move bills without budget guidance.

The Senate budget negotiators are said to prefer a plan more along the lines of that issued by the president’s bi-partisan fiscal commission. The commission proposed a series of spending cuts, a simplified tax system, aimed at cutting $4 trillion from the deficit over 10 years.

Click here to read more about the Path to Prosperity.

Senator Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced the BUILD Act, S.652 which is the Senate proposal for an Infrastructure Bank. It was introduced in a bi-partisan manner and has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The proposal intends to create an entity that serves as a real “bank” and would not provide grants to infrastructure projects.

NAWC’s broad policy position is supported by this proposal. NAWC has not yet taken a position on the bill, however. The broader water community is concerned at this point that the $100 million project cost threshold is too high for most water projects.

NAWC appreciates the BUILD Act’s intention: to better engage the private sector in infrastructure provision and financing.


NAWC Policy Position: Infrastructure Banks

An Infrastructure Bank could provide an excellent supplement to the State Revolving Loan Funds and help increase private capital investment.

  • Any federal Infrastructure Bank should include water infrastructure as part of its portfolio of projects.
  • An Infrastructure Bank should give priority to projects with existing financing tools to facilitate project finance and expand the financial capacity of infrastructure projects.
  • An Infrastructure Bank should provide merit-based financing and give priority to applications from public-private partnerships.

Click here to read more about the Build Act Summary.

Click here to see a graphic of "How it Works."