The State Water Resources Control Board has submitted Budget Change Proposals requesting 26 additional positions to be added to multiple programs and projects. The request from the Water Board is a recent addition from the January budget proposal. New positions would be created for the Accurate and Timely Assessment of California’s Surface Water Quality Program, the Water Resiliency Program, and for Water Quality Permitting of Transportation Projects. Concerns are being raised about the timing of the request, as California faces significant budgetary constraints.
“When everybody was told ‘look, we went from a $7 billion surplus to a $54 billion deficit, don’t bring anything new unless it’s related to COVID and start cutting’… the State Water Board is proposing to add 26 new people that were not in the January budget,” said Roger Isom, President and CEO of Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA). “What’s worse, is they said, ‘don’t worry, we’re not asking for it out of the General Fund, we want to increase the fees on waste dischargers.’”
Increasing fees for waste discharge permits will have a significant impact on multiple areas of the industry. Irrigated agricultural land, dairies, food processing facilities, local governments, and all other entities required to obtain a discharge permit would be partially responsible for funding the 26 new positions being requested. “It’s irresponsible, it’s reprehensible, and it’s just frankly unbelievable in any other place besides the state of California. That the State Water Board would have the gumption to come out and try to do something like that is absolutely ridiculous,” Isom noted.
Several agricultural groups including California Farm Bureau, WAPA, California Citrus Mutual, and the Agricultural Council of California have signed a letter that was addressed to state legislators detailing some of the objections to the request for additional personnel from the Water Board. “The SWRCB provides no clear reasoning why these positions were not in the January budget (when the State was expecting a surplus) but now, as the State faces a $54 billion deficit, new staffing is required,” the letter states.