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AB-472 Water transfers: idled agricultural land: wildlife, waterfowl, and bird nesting habitat.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 03/29/2017 04:00 AM
AB472:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  March 28, 2017

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill No. 472


Introduced by Assembly Member Frazier

February 13, 2017


An act to amend Section 1018 of the Water Code, relating to water.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 472, as amended, Frazier. Water transfers: idled agricultural land: wildlife, waterfowl, and bird nesting habitat.
Existing law establishes the Department of Water Resources in state government and prescribes the functions and duties of the department with regard to the regulation of water resources including water transfers throughout the state. Existing law requires landowners to be encouraged, when agricultural lands are being idled in order to provide water for transfer and an amount of water is determined to be made available by that idling, to cultivate or retain nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation to provide waterfowl, upland game bird, and other wildlife habitat.
This bill would require the department to allow nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation to remain on idled agricultural lands, without penalty to the landowner, unless it determines, based on peer-reviewed scientific studies or other credible scientific evidence, that an injury to another legal user of water would occur as a result of allowing those crops or vegetation to remain on those lands. The bill would require, if the department makes such a determination that an injury would result, that the landowner remove or kill the nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation from those lands. The bill would require the department to establish an incentive program, which may include grants or other financial incentives, for landowners who voluntarily cultivate or retain nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation on idled agricultural lands to provide waterfowl, upland game bird, and other wildlife habitat, and would require that the program meet certain requirements. The bill would require that the department consult with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service prior to developing the incentive program, implementing those provisions, to determine the best ways of protecting wildlife habitat on idled agricultural lands.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 1018 of the Water Code is amended to read:

1018.
 (a) (1) When agricultural lands are being idled in order to provide water for transfer pursuant to this division, and an amount of water is determined to be made available by that idling, landowners shall be encouraged to cultivate or retain nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation to provide waterfowl, upland game bird, and other wildlife habitat, provided that all other water transfer requirements are met.
(2) (A) The department shall allow nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation to remain on idled agricultural lands, without penalty to the landowner, unless it determines, based on peer-reviewed scientific studies or other credible scientific evidence, that an injury to another legal user of water would occur as a result of allowing those crops or vegetation to remain on those lands.
(B) If the department determines that an injury to another legal user of water would occur under subparagraph (A), the landowner shall remove or kill the nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation that would cause that injury. Any other vegetation not required to be removed or killed pursuant to a determination under subparagraph (A) may remain on those lands.
(b) The department shall establish an incentive program, which may include grants or other financial incentives, for landowners who voluntarily cultivate or retain nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation to remain on idled agricultural lands to provide waterfowl, upland game bird, and other wildlife habitat, as described in subdivision (a).
(c) The incentive program required to be established under subdivision (b) shall meet all of the following requirements:

(1)Ensure that any landowner who participates in the program complies with any standards prescribed by the department regarding the removal of nonirrigated crops or natural vegetation in order to minimize any harm to any other landowner.

(2)

(1) Prohibit a landowner who participates in the program and has committed to leaving the established nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation in place after April 1 from engaging in practices such as discing, spraying of herbicides, mowing, chipping, or rolling any vegetation on those idled lands until after July 15 of each year when the waterfowl and bird nesting season ends. July 1, or as late as possible each year, to address waterfowl nesting, upland gamebird habitat, and other wildlife needs, consistent with this section.

(3)

(2) Employ licensed professionals such as biologists or other wildlife experts to monitor nesting bird activity and salvage eggs prior to permitting the removal of any nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation on any lands covered under the incentive program.

(4)

(3) Ensure that any determination regarding the removal of nonirrigated crops or natural vegetation is supported by credible scientific data, including peer reviewed such as peer-reviewed scientific studies.
(4) The incentive program may provide direct payments to private landowners using available federal funds, including funds made available under federal legislation, state or federal grants, or private grants and donations. Other incentives deemed appropriate by the department may also be offered to participating landowners.
(5) The incentive program may also include agricultural lands not subject to water transfers or lands fallowed for any other legal purpose.
(d) The department shall consult with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service prior to developing the incentive program implementing this section to determine the best ways to protect wildlife habitat on idled agricultural lands.