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AB-2697 Wildlife, bird, and waterfowl habitat: idled agricultural lands.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 04/18/2018 04:00 AM
AB2697:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  April 17, 2018

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill No. 2697


Introduced by Assembly Member Gallagher

February 15, 2018


An act to add Section 1349.5 to the Fish and Game Code, and to amend Section 1018 of the Water Code, relating to wildlife habitat.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2697, as amended, Gallagher. Wildlife, bird, and waterfowl habitat: idled agricultural lands.
(1) Existing law establishes the Wildlife Conservation Board within the Department of Fish and Wildlife and requires the board to investigate, study, and determine what areas within the state are most essential and suitable for wildlife production and preservation, and will provide suitable recreation. Existing law also requires the board to ascertain and determine what lands within the state are suitable for game propagation, game refuges, bird refuges, waterfowl refuges, game farms, fish hatcheries, game management areas, and what streams and lakes are suitable for, or can be made suitable for, fishing and hunting. Existing law also authorizes the board to administer various habitat conservation programs.
This bill would require the board to establish a program, which may include direct payments or other incentives, to encourage landowners to voluntarily cultivate or retain cover crops or natural other upland vegetation on idled lands to provide waterfowl, upland game bird, and other wildlife habitat cover for purposes, including, but not limited to, encouraging the use of idle agricultural lands for wildlife habitat. The bill would also authorize the department to provide incentives pursuant to the program for the creation or enhancement of waterfowl brood habitat, and to develop guidelines and criteria for the program as it deems appropriate. The bill would require the board and the Department of Water Resources to consult with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Wildlife, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the State Water Resources Control Board, and nonprofit waterfowl and upland gamebird organizations before implementing those provisions, to determine the optimal ways of increasing and enhancing wildlife habitat on idled lands. and to ensure that any applicable water transfer requirements are met.
(2) Existing law requires the Department of Water Resources to regulate water resources in the state, including water transfers. 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 scientific or other credible 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 provide that, if the department makes such a determination that an injury would occur, the department may require the landowner to remove or kill the nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation from those lands.

This bill would authorize the department to require any nonirrigated cover crops or upland vegetation that are actively transpiring water beyond that associated with normal annual precipitation to be abated and would require that efforts should be made to remove, either through discing or chemical treatment, only that portion of the subject area that requires abatement in order to maintain waterfowl and upland gamebird nesting cover. The bill would allow nonirrigated cover crops or upland vegetation to remain on the subject area for as long as the department deems allowable. The bill would require that notification be given to permitted entities to conduct egg salvage activities prior to any abatement of nonirrigated cover crops or upland vegetation. The bill would provide that participating landowners are not subject to additional regulations for subsequent manipulation or removal of nonirrigated cover crops or upland vegetation during normal agricultural activities.
The bill would require the department to incorporate these requirements into its water transfer guide. The bill would provide that it does not alter any requirement for approval of a water transfer by the State Water Resources Control Board, change the burden of proof in any proceeding before the board for approval of a water transfer, or relieve the department of the obligation to comply with any condition of approval imposed by the board.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

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


SECTION 1.

 Section 1349.5 is added to the Fish and Game Code, to read:

1349.5.
 (a) The board shall establish a program, which may include direct payments or other incentives, to encourage landowners to voluntarily cultivate or retain cover crops or natural other upland vegetation on idled lands to provide waterfowl, upland game bird, and other wildlife habitat cover, including, but not limited to, for the purposes described in subdivision (a) of Section 1018 of the Water Code. The board may also provide incentives pursuant to the program for the creation or enhancement of waterfowl brood habitat.
(b) The board may develop guidelines and criteria for the program established under subdivision (a) as it deems appropriate but shall ensure that it is flexible enough to meet landowner needs. The program shall do all of the following:
(1) Prohibit a landowner who participates in the program and has committed to leaving the established cover crops or natural other upland 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 1, or as late as possible each year, to address waterfowl nesting, upland gamebird habitat, and other wildlife needs.
(2) Utilize licensed professionals such as biologists or other wildlife experts to monitor nesting bird activity and salvage eggs before permitting the removal of any cover crops or natural other upland vegetation on any lands covered under the incentive program.
(3) Be consistent with waterfowl habitat breeding goals and objectives of the Central Valley Joint Venture Implementation Plan as it may be amended.
(4) Allow for one year or multiyear contacts with landowners.
(5) Allow for the rotation of fallowed fields to different areas of a landowner’s property on an annual basis.
(6) Prohibit, in connection with the approval of a transfer, a landowner who participates in the program from diverting or using any water under any basis of right to irrigate land idled in order to provide water for transfer, unless the transfer is expressly allowed by the State Water Resources Control Board pursuant to Part 2 (commencing with Section 1200) of Division 2 of the Water Code, or by the Department of Water Resources pursuant to Article 4 (commencing with Section 1810) of Chapter 11 of Part 2 of Division 2 of the Water Code.
(7) Allow for activities undertaken or requested by mosquito control agencies to address mosquito production, if necessary.
(c) The program shall be supported with state or federal grants, state bond moneys, and private grants and donations. Funds shall be deposited in the California Waterfowl Habitat Preservation Account established pursuant to Section 3467. Funds may also be used as a state match for related federal conservation programs that provide waterfowl and upland gamebird breeding habitat benefits.
(d) The board may utilize the assistance of the department in implementing the program, including, but not limited to, monitoring and compliance activities. Nonprofit conservation organizations may also assist in implementing the program to the extent that the board or the department deems appropriate.
(e) The program may also include agricultural lands not subject to water transfers or lands fallowed for any other legal purpose.
(f) The board and the Department of Water Resources shall consult with the department or department, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the State Water Resources Control Board, and nonprofit waterfowl and upland gamebird organizations before implementing this section and Section 1018 of the Water Code to determine the optimal ways to increase and enhance waterfowl and upland gamebird breeding habitat on idled lands. lands and ensure that any applicable water transfer requirements are met.
(g) Landowners who take voluntary action to cultivate or retain irrigated or nonirrigated cover crops, natural vegetation, or other wildlife habitat on lands fallowed pursuant to the goals of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (Part 2.74 (commencing with Section 10720) of Division 6 of the Water Code) shall also be eligible to participate in the program described in subdivision (a).
(h) The program is established for waterfowl and other gamebird breeding purposes and shall not be used to provide waterfowl wintering habitat, including managed wetland habitat as defined in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 1506.

SEC. 2.

 Section 1018 of the Water Code is amended to read:

1018.
 (a) 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.

(b)(1)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 scientific or other credible 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.

(2)If the department determines that an injury to another legal user of water would occur under paragraph (1), the department may require the landowner to remove or kill the nonirrigated cover crops or natural vegetation that would cause that injury. Any other vegetation that would not cause an injury to another legal user of water pursuant to a determination under paragraph (1) may remain on those lands.

(b) The department may require the abatement of any nonirrigated cover crops or vegetation that are actively transpiring water beyond that associated with normal annual precipitation. Efforts shall be made to remove, either through discing or chemical treatment, only that portion of the subject area that requires abatement to maintain waterfowl and upland gamebird nesting cover. Nonirrigated cover crops or vegetation may remain on the subject area for as long as the department deems allowable. Notification shall be given to permitted entities to conduct egg salvage activities prior to any abatement of nonirrigated cover crops or vegetation. Participating landowners shall not be subject to additional regulations for subsequent manipulation or removal of nonirrigated cover crops or vegetation during normal agricultural activities.
(c) The department shall incorporate the requirements in subdivision (b) into the water transfer guide described in Section 482.
(d) This section does not alter any requirement of this division for approval of a transfer of the board, change the burden of proof in any proceeding before the board for approval of a transfer, or relieve the department of the obligation to comply with any condition of approval imposed by the board.