Monday, March 11, 2024

Article provided by the SCGA

Today we update you on two (2) topics of ongoing interest: 1) 2024 legislation, and 2) the two snowpacks (Sierra Nevada & Colorado Rockies) that determine Southern California’s import allocations.

# # # # # # # # # # #

First up, where things stand just before the legislative policy committees take up the bills that were either filed by the February 16 deadline for 2024 filings or made it through the January 31 deadline for bills filed in the first year of the 2023-24 two-year session.

AB 3192 [“Major Coastal Resorts Environmental Accountability Act”] would among other things prohibit the use of “any nonorganic pesticide or fertilizing material at a “major coastal resort” that per the Act is defined as a resort or hotel that “Includes or operates a golf course on the premises.”The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) has decided to join the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) in opposing the bill unless amended to remove the prohibition on all non-organics; there are other provisions in the bill that are beyond the scope of the golf community’s specific interest.The bill may be heard in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee March 19 but not yet docketed.

AB 2285 [“Environmental protection: 30×30 goal: urban nature-based investments: parity”] would among other things make the following declarations that presage future actions: 1) It is the intent of the Legislature to codify the priorities identified in the November 2023 report of the Outdoors for All initiative, “Providing Equitable Access to Parks and Nature,” and to encourage the Governor’s administration and the Legislature, when distributing resources towards conservation and restoration goals during future budgetary deliberations, to ensure parity in allocations toward urban nature-based investments; 2) It is the intent of the Legislature to require state funding entities, including, but not limited to, state conservancies and the Wildlife Conservation Board, when programming and awarding funds to revise, modify, or amend guidelines as necessary to meet the 30×30 goal, to allow for urban nature-based projects on degraded lands to be eligible and competitive for state funds.Because AB 2285 specifically references the massive “Parks Needs Assessment” study the County of Los Angeles completed in 2022 as having “piggybacked off the Governor’s and First Partner’s work on the 30×30 goal and “Outdoors for All” and prepared the 2022 Parks Needs Assessment Plus (PNA+) that identifies areas for Los Angeles-based environmental conservation and restoration that form the basis of the 30×30 goal, SCGA has determined to join other of Los Angeles County’s “active” recreational stakeholders in strongly supporting the bill and working with them and LA County to secure funding therefore, funding that very much could include golf projects such as the Maggie Hathaway $15 million “Legacy Project” in South Los Angeles as well as similarly situated ones in the county’s other “underserved” areas now served by SCGA Junior Golf Foundation programming at golf properties in those areas.The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) has yet to determine whether the bill is sufficiently impactful beyond Los Angeles County to merit the same full-throated support, although it is leaning in the direction of some measure of support.The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee March 19 along with another bill (AB 2240 – Reyes; D-San Bernardino) that also purports to effectuate the Governor’s Outdoors for All Initiative, albeit in a form much weaker in terms of providing funding for underserved communities in urban areas.

AB 1776 [Year-Round Standard Time] would repeal daylight saving time in the state and the provisions regarding the Legislature’s authority to amend the above-described provisions by a 2/3 vote. It would instead require the state and all political subdivisions of the state to observe year-round standard time and would exempt the state and all political subdivisions of the state from the provisions of federal law that establish the advancement of time. [Note: While a separate enabling act of Congress is required to go to year-round Daylight Savings Time, a state may go to year-round Standard Time without it.]The bill has been double referred to the Assembly Energies & Utilities and Governmental Organizations Committees but not yet set for hearing.There is widespread consensus that year-round Standard Time would harm the California golf community to the degree to which municipal and daily fee golf courses would lose twilight golf revenues with spring/summer sunsets one hour earlier than they are today with at best a negligible increase realized from sunrises that would be one hour earlier.The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) has yet to determine what course if any it will take, but smart money would be on filing a letter of opposition that points out this harm.

SB 1413 is a Senate version of AB 1776 [Year-Round Standard Time]. Both in the Assembly and Senate these companion bills are before Committees chaired by Members that have demonstrated strong support for the golf community.

AB-817 [Open meetings: teleconferencing: subsidiary body], a 2023 filing that made its way through January’s 2-year bill process, is a bill that would allow some measure of virtual participation for members of purely advisory bodies that because their advice has some measure of connection to a “legislative body” as defined in the state’s Open Public Meetings Law (Brown Act), come thereunder. Its passage would enable “subsidiary bodies” such as the region’s many golf advisory commissions/committees to allow for virtual participation so long as a quorum of the body is established in-person, and this could allow for more robust participation by the citizen advisors who populate them. Or as some have suggested, less effective overall participation to the degree to which personal critical mass is lost. The golf community is tracking this bill for the moment, undecided whether it merits overt support.

# # # # # # # # # # #

Now up, how are things shaping up water-wise as we get close to the April 1 date that informs Southern California what it can expect in terms of import allocations – more specifically and accurately, what it portends in terms of the State Water Project’s allocations and the Colorado Basin’s reductions? The days of 100% Colorado Basin allocations are over, replaced by a set of pre-2026 givebacks that presage more permanently reduced allocations as the seven (7) states in the Colorado Compact continue to negotiate reduced allocations 2027 and beyond.

The Sierra snowpack was at 96% of the April 1 average as of March 7. Worst case scenario is that the rest of March will be precipitation free, and California will have enjoyed an average year after having enjoyed a 2023 that saw enough rain and snow to bring the state’s network of 154 reservoirs to 77% capacity as of March 4, which is 8% above the average of the last 30 years for that date, presaging more atop that as this year’s snow melts into the State Water Project. What next year and the years immediately beyond will bring is anybody’s guess, but the climatologists guess is that California’s Sierra Nevada has entered a period of “whiplash” – long periods of hot/dry conditions punctuated by short bursts of intense precipitation that the state’s infrastructure was not built to capture and store for use in the hot/dry years.

As the readers of these “Updates” know all too well, the Colorado Basin is another matter. Yes, this has been a bountiful precipitation season for the Colorado Basin as well, albeit not as bountiful as California. While this has helped stave off what looked not too long ago as Lakes Mead and Powell dropping below the levels required to generate electricity, it has not obviated the need for the three (3) Lower Basin states (Arizona, California, and Nevada) to voluntarily cede allocations before more permanent reductions are negotiated among all seven (7) states of the Compact 2026 and beyond – givebacks that are much more digestible now that Lake Mead is at 34% capacity, Lake Powell is at 37% capacity, and the region’s reservoirs are full. [The groundwater basins, not so much, but the readers of these “Updates” understand that as well. It takes considerably more rain and snow to replenish depleted aquifers than it does to fill above ground reservoirs, but that’s a subject for another day.]

The commitments Arizona, California, and Nevada made last year to reduce 3 million-acre-feet between then and 2026 pencil out to a 14% reduction that when added to the region’s conservation efforts promises to add thereto when the results are finally tallied. The three states drew less water off the river last year than in any year since 1983, and California’s draw was its lowest since 1949, a testament to the effectiveness of Southern California’s conservation and import substitution efforts. This will be enough to get the region through 2026, but the following statement issued last week by Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton, the federal government’s point person for all things Colorado Basin, should tell us all we need to know about the long-term sufficiency of those givebacks. As reproduced in the Los Angeles Times:

“The prolonged drought crisis is driven by effects of climate change, including extreme heat and low precipitation. The reality is that aridification will only intensify the drought-related impacts in the Colorado River Basin and the communities it supports. We know we must adapt to this new reality with innovative and durable solutions.” [Los Angeles Times – “Reprieve for the Colorado River” – March 9, 2024]

Added to the “whiplash” phenomenon that characterizes the region’s other major imported source, Touton’s comments should tell the Southern California golf community all it needs to know about the imperative to continue making the investments, undertaking the innovations, and developing and using the technologies that are the sine qua non of continued water footprint reduction.