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AB-2348 California Waterfowl Habitat Program: eligibility: winter-flooded rice lands.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 06/18/2018 02:00 PM
AB2348:v96#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  June 18, 2018
Amended  IN  Assembly  April 17, 2018
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 20, 2018

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill No. 2348


Introduced by Assembly Member Aguiar-Curry

February 13, 2018


An act to amend Sections 3460, 3461, and 3467 of, and to add Section 3461.5 to, the Fish and Game Code, relating to wildlife.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2348, as amended, Aguiar-Curry. California Waterfowl Habitat Program: eligibility: winter-flooded rice lands.
Existing law authorizes the Director of Fish and Wildlife, pursuant to the California Waterfowl Habitat Program, to enter into land use contracts to conserve waterfowl and waterfowl habitat with nonpublic entities that are owners of record, or with lessees, who have the owners of record execute the contract, of land determined by the director to be important for the conservation of waterfowl, subject to the appropriation of money for that purpose. Under those contracts, the use of the land is restricted for waterfowl conservation and habitat purposes and the department Department of Fish and Wildlife makes payments for that restriction. Existing law requires the contract to be recorded by the county recorder, as specified, and, if the land is divested, the successor to the owner or lessee of the land is subject to the contract.
This bill would specifically authorize the director to enter into contracts with nonpublic entities that are owners of record, or with lessees, who have the owners of record execute the contract, of productive agricultural rice lands that are winter-flooded and that are determined by the director to be important for the conservation of waterfowl. Under these contracts, the use of the land would be restricted for waterfowl conservation and habitat purposes in a manner that allows for the use of the land for rice farming. The bill would require these contracts to include a requirement that the department reduce the amount of any payment to the owner or lessee by an amount equal to the portion of any payment that the department determines to be in compensation for the same obligation undertaken by the owner under any other governmental program. The bill would require the department to contract with a nongovernmental organization to develop a generally applicable habitat management plan to be carried out as a condition of one of these contracts and would require the department to approve the plan if it makes a specified finding. The bill would authorize the director to consult with specified entities to determine a fair and reasonable standard rate or rates to pay owners or lessees who enter into these contracts. The bill would provide that certain moneys made available for purposes of the California Waterfowl Habitat Program shall not be used to fund these contracts. The bill would make other related changes.
To the extent that the bill expands the types of contracts required to be recorded by a county recorder, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

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


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) California’s great Central Valley, encompassing the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and joined by the Bay Delta, was once an expansive complex of permanent and seasonal wetlands. Over 100 years ago, an estimated four million acres of these valuable habitats lined the Central Valley, supporting an estimated 20 million to 40 million waterfowl and countless millions of other shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, and other wildlife.
(b) By the 1970s, the rich ecological wetlands complex in the Central Valley dwindled to less than 250,000 acres, just 5 percent of historic levels.
(c) Habitat improvement in this Critical Conservation Area can make a significant and beneficial conservation impact on waterbird populations in the Pacific Flyway.
(d) The Central Valley is a critical hub to the Pacific Flyway as a major migratory corridor running from Alaska to South America.
(e) Over the past few decades, winter flooding of California rice lands has created high-quality habitats on approximately 350,000 acres annually. In recent years, the average total amount of winter-flooded rice fields has decreased, and many waterbird conservationists are concerned that this trend will continue.
(f) For waterfowl, the consequences of fewer acres of winter-flooded rice fields is devastating, as the Central Valley Joint Venture has estimated that winter-flooded rice fields provide over 60 percent of the food required by waterfowl in the Sacramento Valley.
(g) Recent studies show that winter-flooded rice fields may also prove to be a valuable tool in improving the salmon populations by demonstrating that growth rates of juvenile salmon reared in these habitats are the highest on record.
(h) Considering the multiple threats facing the region, California should consider substantial conservation investments designed to help preserve the Pacific Flyway for future generations.

SEC. 2.

 Section 3460 of the Fish and Game Code is amended to read:

3460.
 (a) (1) Subject to appropriation pursuant to Section 3467, the director may enter into contracts with nonpublic entities that are owners of record, or with lessees, who have the owners of record execute the contract, of land determined by the director to be important for the conservation of waterfowl. The contract shall enforceably restrict the use of the land for the conservation of waterfowl and their habitat consistent with Section 8 of Article XIII of the California Constitution.
(2) In accordance with paragraph (1), Subject to appropriation pursuant to Section 3467, the director may enter into contracts with nonpublic entities that are owners of record, or with lessees, who have the owners of record execute the contract, of productive agricultural rice lands that are winter-flooded and that are determined by the director to be important for the conservation of waterfowl. The contract shall enforceably restrict the use of the land for the conservation of waterfowl and their habitat in a manner that allows for the use of the land for rice farming consistent with Section 8 of Article XIII of the California Constitution.
(b) The director shall give priority to contracts that have the greatest potential for restoring, enhancing, and protecting high-quality waterfowl habitat, especially that subject to destruction, drastic modification, or significant curtailment of habitat values. The director may give priority to contracts that provide additional environmental cobenefits, including cobenefits to species such as fish or snakes.
(c) Contracts entered into pursuant to this section are not subject to Part 2 (commencing with Section 10100) of Division 2 of the Public Contract Code.
(d) For purposes of this article, “productive agricultural rice lands that are winter-flooded” means a field that has been farmed to rice at least two of the last three growing seasons and is intentionally maintained in a flooded state for at least 70 days between October 15 and March 15, inclusive, of the following year.

SEC. 3.

 Section 3461 of the Fish and Game Code is amended to read:

3461.
 Each contract shall be for an initial term of 10 years and shall include all of the following:
(a) The designation of the owner of record and any lessee, and the legal description and the assessor’s parcel number of the land subject to the contract.
(b) (1) For a contract entered into pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 3460, but not pursuant to paragraph (2) thereof, an agreement by the owner and any lessee to restore, enhance, and protect the waterfowl habitat character of the described land and to carry out a waterfowl habitat management plan developed with the department.
(2) For a contract entered into pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 3460, an agreement by the owner and any lessee to restore, enhance, and protect the waterfowl habitat character of the described land and to conduct habitat management pursuant to the generally applicable habitat management plan approved pursuant to Section 3461.5.
(c) Specification of the amount and date in each year that the payment is to be made by the department to the owner or lessee, which shall be calculated at the rate or rates that the director determines to be fair and reasonable in consideration of the obligations undertaken by the owner or lessee.
(d) A requirement that the owner or lessee do either of the following:
(1) Refund to the state all payments received under the contract plus interest at the legal rate, as specified in Section 3289 of the Civil Code, upon the owner’s or lessee’s violation of the contract, or any extension thereof, if the director determines that the violation warrants termination of the contract and the director terminates the contract.
(2) Make refunds or accept payment adjustments that the director determines are appropriate, not to exceed the total amount paid by the state to the owner or lessee in the preceding calendar year plus interest at the legal rate, as specified in Section 3289 of the Civil Code, if the director determines that the violation by the owner or lessee does not warrant termination of the contract.
(e) A requirement that the department reduce the amount of any payment to the owner or lessee under subdivision (c) by an amount equal to the portion of any payment under the Federal Water Bank Program (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1301 et seq.) which that the department determines to be in compensation for the same obligation undertaken by the owner under the water bank program.
(f) With respect to contracts entered into pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 3460, in addition to subdivision (e), a requirement that the department reduce the amount of any payment to the owner or lessee under subdivision (c) by an amount equal to the portion of any payment that the department determines to be in compensation for the same obligation undertaken by the owner under any other governmental program. This requirement does not apply to any payments that an owner or lessee receives under a governmental program for supporting research projects or fisheries on the land subject to the contract.

(f)

(g) A requirement that the department monitor compliance with the management plan or contract with the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service, a county agricultural commissioner, or other appropriate agency, entity, or person to monitor compliance with the management plan, and that the owner or lessee allows access for the monitoring.

(g)

(h) Any additional provisions that the director determines are desirable to effectuate the purposes of the program or to facilitate its administration.

SEC. 4.

 Section 3461.5 is added to the Fish and Game Code, to read:

3461.5.
  (a) The department shall contract with a nongovernmental organization to develop a generally applicable habitat management plan to be carried out as a condition of a contract entered into pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 3460. After the plan has been developed, the department shall approve the plan if it finds that the plan is consistent with the purposes of this article.
(b) The director may consult with industry-supported foundations, nongovernmental organizations, local water agencies, and any appropriate state agencies to determine a fair and reasonable standard rate or rates to pay owners or lessees who enter into contracts pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 3460.

SEC. 5.

 Section 3467 of the Fish and Game Code is amended to read:

3467.
 (a) The California Waterfowl Habitat Preservation Account is hereby created in the Fish and Game Preservation Fund, and the money in the account shall be transferred to the Surplus Money Investment Fund for investment pursuant to Article 4 (commencing with Section 16470) of Chapter 3 of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code. The proceeds of the investment deposited in the account shall be available, upon appropriation by the Legislature, for expenditure pursuant to this article. However, not more than 7 percent of the money appropriated from the account for expenditure in any fiscal year shall be expended in that fiscal year for administrative costs of the department.
(b) Moneys made available for purposes of this article pursuant to the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access For All Act of 2018 (Proposition 68 of the June 5, 2018, statewide primary election) or the Water Supply and Water Quality Bond Act of 2018, if that act is submitted to the voters, shall not be used to fund a contract entered into pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 3460.

SEC. 6.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the program or level of service mandated by this act, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code.