Gino DiCaro

Changes to regional water boards proposed

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, July 20, 2007 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Senator Don Perata (D-Oakland), President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, authored a bill, SB 1001, which would significantly alter the make-up of the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs).  This bill would reduce and change the membership of the nine RWQCBs in a manner that would make these boards less accountable to the public and less able to properly balance the range of factors that they are required to consider under the Porter-Cologne Act.  It would also make it more difficult to recruit and appoint qualified members, and therefore may impede the boards' abilities to meet quorum requirements to do their business.  

RWQCBs are currently comprised of members whose general backgrounds hails from each of the major types of water users and dischargers in the state.  This mix of members is well calculated to bring all of the necessary interests and expertise to the process of setting standards and adopting permits and enforcement orders.  In place of these specified appointment categories, SB 1001 would take a very narrow, academic, credential-based approach to board membership.  The proposed credentials in the bill do not ensure any member of the board will have useful experience in the areas of recreation, irrigated agriculture, industrial water use or water supply, conservation or production.  The effect of the bill would be to reduce the likelihood of experience with municipal wastewater or urban stormwater.  There is also a reduction in the number of members for each board to five which, again, will likely make it more difficult to obtain a quorum and conduct business.

SB 1001 additionally introduces a bizarre, costly, time-consuming, and counter-productive process under which the State Water Resources Board would engage in adversary proceedings against the RWQCBs to suspend or revoke the Regional Boards' authority to regulate water quality.  This process will throw the RWQCBs into disarray, limiting their effectiveness for all concerned.  Regional boards would probably inappropriately modify permits or other orders merely to avoid the threat of program withdrawal.  Furthermore, allowing the State Water Board to revoke the regulatory authority of a RWQCB runs afoul of the United States EPA's Clean Water Act, which is based on the RWQCBs having the authority to issue National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits.

SB 1001 has already moved through the Senate and is now in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  A broad coalition of local government, agriculture, water agency and industrial interests, including CMTA, are opposed to this bill.   

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