Saturday, November 17, 2012

Water District action next year

In response to questions, I wanted to give some updates on three expected Water District actions next year.

First, the Water District plans to go back to the state legislature for several revisions to the District Act that authorizes the District's existence.  The last effort several years ago bogged down in conflict, so the proposed approach now is to split it up and only try for relatively non-controversial parts first.

Video of the staff summary below (if it doesn't work, click here and then on October 23 2012, and finally advance to 1:32:00 through 1:35:00 in Item 6.1)

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I had some comments that first went to the issue of CEQA "reform" being proposed in the legislature, and then on the District Act legislation (same link as above, from 1:39:00 to 1:44:00):
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The specific short term goals are here:

Summary of Near-Term Legislative Needs 

Following are near-term legislative needs that are least likely to raise controversy or generate stakeholder opposition

• Remove obsolete language associated with the transition from a Board consisting of five elected and two appointed at-large members, to a Board consisting of seven elected members.

• Update the Act to reflect that Board Members are compensated and reimbursed pursuant to Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 20200) of Division 10 of the Water Code and Sections 53232.2 and 53232.3 of the Government Code.

• Revise the Act to provide the Board greater flexibility with respect to the appointment of advisory committees by deleting references to specific committees and committee membership.

• Delete the requirement to prepare and hold hearings on Engineers Reports, as that process has been superseded by the CEQA process and the Capital Improvement Plan process undertaken as part of the annual budget development and review process.

For my part, I'm considering the following long-term possibilities for reform of the District Act (just possibilities I'm considering at this point):

From seven to five directors to match County Supervisor Districts, legislative authorization to rely on County redistricting results for subsequent changes to district boundaries
  Alternative A: Districts 6 and 7 terminate in 2014
  Alternative B: Districts 6 and 7 terminate in 2016 (final term is for two years, 2014-2016, instead of four)
  Alternative C: Districts 6 and 7 terminate in 2018
Note that the change to the District Act would choose one of the above alternatives

Cap on individual donations to campaigns – choose best practice found in elections to local office like county supervisor elections

Loans by candidate to campaign committee must be forgiven if not repaid within one month after the election

Voluntary cap on overall campaign budget

Match funds for small individual donors to a campaign up to a TBD level for each campaign committee and a TBD level for a campaign cycle, whichever is reached first

Authorization of District to establish instant runoff/ranked choice voting if such authorization is needed
  Alternatively, authorization of District to establish instant runoff/ranked choice voting if the County Board of Supervisors switches to that type of voting system.

Watershed restoration – District is authorized to undertake activities to protect, enhance, and restore Santa Clara County watersheds
  Clarification that this measure not meant to affect District’s authorization to issue permits

Okay, so all that is just the first update.  I'll be more concise on the other two.

The District has begun preliminary work on community involvement over separating Alamitos Creek from Almaden Lake, an important issue both for reducing the problem of mercury contamination and protecting our native fish from unnaturally warm temperatures and predatory invasive fish.  Solutions could create new riparian zones, new wetlands (as mitigation for wetland losses elsewhere) and/or new parkland, at the expense of a diminished or eliminated Lake Almaden.  Anyone who wants to contribute to the discussion should start to get involved, with the next public effort in February.  Info on potential alternatives is here.

Finally, we have the very welcome problem of figuring out how to implement Safe Clean Water funding!  I hope that we can reinitiate grant funding for wildlife habitat and trail proposals as soon as possible, maybe beginning the process this winter and awarding grants in August.

A very busy year in the making, and I'm looking forward to it.

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