Significant changes and the removal of funding for SB 559 made by the California Legislature have ended the path forward for the legislation. Action taken by the California State Assembly Appropriations Committee effectively rendered the legislation useless, according to several ag groups. As a result, California State Senator Melissa Hurtado was forced to pull the bill. The legislation would have provided much-needed funding to support critical repairs on the Friant-Kern Canal and Delta-Mendota Canal.
“Senator Hurtado has been a champion for California, particularly for the Valley when it comes to repairing the infrastructure that’s so vital to get the water to where we need it; to get it to the communities that we need it,” said California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson. “But yet again, is unsuccessful either through a previous veto of her bill that got to the governor’s desk and then, of course, a lack of priority when it comes to water and addressing this drought in the legislature which we saw yesterday when her bill was essentially gutted and made insignificant.”
SB 559 had previously been introduced by Senator Hurtado but was ultimately defeated after being vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom last year. Other farming organizations including California Citrus Mutual, and the California Fresh Fruit Association also expressed disappointment by the latest development.
“The Assembly leadership, unfortunately, stripped out the funds that would have given one-third of what was needed to repair those facilities and get them back up to 100 percent of carrying capacity. ‘Unfortunate’ is a kind word. I used probably harsher words than that when the decision was first made. Because it really is a statement of intent by the leadership of the California Assembly as to what they believe ought to happen to the San Joaquin Valley,” said Dave Puglia, President and CEO of Western Growers. “It’s a really dark decision to make on behalf of millions of people, who without water literally cannot continue to live and thrive in those communities.”