Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed Senate Bill 559 (SB 559) after two years of effort to garner funding support to repair areas of the Friant-Kern Canal. The bipartisan bill was initially introduced by Senator Melissa Hurtado. SB 559 sought to address the failing infrastructure of the water conveyance system that more than 18,000 farms throughout the Central Valley rely on. The bill was returned without the Governor’s signature on September 28.
“As established in the Water Resilience Portfolio, state agencies are holistically assessing the needs of all of California’s water supply systems. This bill focuses on a single piece of conveyance and directs DWR to develop a proposal for the state to help fund this specific project,” Governor Newsom stated in his veto message. “We need to evaluate, develop and identify solutions and funding that provides water supply and conveyance for the entirety of the state, not one project at a time.”
SB 559 originally sought $400 million to be used to make repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal. The bill had failed to make it to the Senate floor before last year’s legislative deadline. Supporters were hopeful that SB 559 would have better success this year. The legislation was supported by a diverse group of stakeholders including several agricultural organizations. The announcement of Governor Newsom’s veto of the bill was met with considerable disappointment.
“SB 559 – a bill with bipartisan support – offered the State an opportunity to define appropriate terms for becoming a partner on the project. Unfortunately for the San Joaquin Valley, this is just the latest in a long history of snubs from Sacramento,” Friant Water Authority Chief Executive Officer Jason Phillips said in a press release. “The Governor’s message of needing to step back and take a more holistic approach rings hollow to the San Joaquin Valley; the real message this veto sends to the Valley is loud and clear, yet again: ‘Nope.'”
The vetoed version of the legislation was a significant change from where it began. While in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, SB 559 underwent substantial amendments. The bill that was ultimately passed by both houses removed the funding support for the Friant-Kern Canal repairs. The amendments would have simply tasked the Department of Water Resources with reporting how much the federal funding would be needed to restore capacity to the canal.