Today's Law As Amended


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AB-252 Department of Conservation: Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program.(2021-2022)



As Amends the Law Today


SECTION 1.

 Division 10.6 (commencing with Section 12285) is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:

DIVISION 10.6. Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program Act

CHAPTER  1. General Provisions
12285.
 This division shall be known, and may be cited, as the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program Act.
12285.2.
 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (Part 2.74 (commencing with Section 10720) of Division 6 of the Water Code) is imperative to the future viability of the state’s economy, agriculture, environment, and protection of the human right to water.
(b) Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, while necessary, will result in significant changes to the rural landscape, creating challenges for rural communities and economies.
(c) Absent state support to incentivize multibenefit repurposing of formerly irrigated lands, most of these lands will likely be fallowed and left idle.
(d) Coordinated management of landscapes affected by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act can minimize economic and social dislocation in rural economies, reducing or avoiding environmental health impacts, facilitating a transition to less water-intensive but still productive and economic uses of land to achieve sustainable groundwater management.
(e) If coordinated at a regional scale, land repurposing presents an opportunity to maximize cobenefits on previously irrigated agricultural lands.
12285.4.
 The purpose of this division is to assist groundwater sustainability agencies in critically overdrafted basins achieve their groundwater sustainability goal by providing grants to public and private entities for projects and programs that reduce groundwater use by converting irrigated agricultural land to new uses that both reduce groundwater demand or use and provide some other measurable benefits to the environment or broader community.
12285.6.
 (a) The department shall establish and administer a grant program pursuant to this division.
(b) The grant program applies to a project or program in a critically overdrafted basin or a part of a critically overdrafted basin managed under an approved groundwater sustainability plan or alternative plan.
(c) The grant program does not apply to a project or program in any of the following basins:
(1) A basin that is not designated as being critically overdrafted.
(2) A basin or portion of a basin that has been designated as probationary.
(3) A basin or portion of a basin for which the Department of Water Resources has not yet approved the submitted groundwater sustainability plan or alternative plan.
CHAPTER  2. Definitions
12286.
 Unless the context otherwise requires, the definitions in this chapter govern the construction of this division.
12286.2.
 “Alternative plan” means a plan submitted to the Department of Water Resources as an alternative pursuant to Section 10733.6 of the Water Code.
12286.4.
 “Basin” has the same meaning as defined in Section 10721 of the Water Code.
12286.6.
 “Critically overdrafted basin” means a basin identified as being in a state of critical overdraft for purposes of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (Part 2.74 (commencing with Section 10720) of Division 6 of the Water Code).
12286.8.
 “Department” means the Department of Conservation.
12287.
 “Disadvantaged community” has the same meaning as defined in Section 79505.5 of the Water Code.
12287.2.
 “Grant program” means the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program established pursuant to this division.
12287.4.
 “Groundwater sustainability agency” has the same meaning as defined in Section 10721 of the Water Code.
12287.6.
 “Groundwater sustainability plan” has the same meaning as defined in Section 10721 of the Water Code.
12287.8.
 “Probationary basin” means a basin for which the State Water Resources Control Board has issued a determination under Section 10735.2 of the Water Code.
12288.
 “Public agency” means any state agency, county, city, special district, or joint powers authority.
12288.2.
 “Sustainability goal” has the same meaning as defined in Section 10721 of the Water Code.
12288.4.
 “Tribe” means a federally recognized Native American tribe or a nonfederally recognized Native American tribe listed on the California Tribal Consultation List maintained by the Native American Heritage Commission.
CHAPTER  3. Grant Eligibility
12289.
 A project or program shall be eligible for a grant if it reduces groundwater use, and provides other measurable benefits to the environment or broader community, by permanently converting irrigated agricultural land to a new use.
12289.2.
 Agencies and entities that may apply for grants shall be any of the following:
(a) A public agency, including, but not limited to, a groundwater sustainability agency, implementing a groundwater sustainability plan or alternative plan.
(b) A nonprofit organization.
(c) A watermaster or water district implementing an approved groundwater sustainability plan or approved alternative plan.
(d) A tribe.
12289.4.
 Projects and programs that are eligible for grants include, but are not limited to, all of the following:
(a) A program to identify potential land repurposing projects and develop a land repurposing plan.
(b) A project to permanently convert irrigated agricultural land to a new use, including, but not limited to, all of the following uses:
(1) Creating or restoring wildlife habitat.
(2) Creating or restoring seasonal wetland habitat that provides aquifer replenishment.
(3) Improving groundwater supply, including groundwater recharge, improving base flows in rivers and streams, and including improving groundwater supply for fish and wildlife habitat.
(4) Converting land to less intensive water uses while maintaining natural and working lands.
(c) A purchase of a conservation easement on repurposed land to permanently protect any of the new uses specified in subdivision (b).
12289.6.
 Priority shall be given to projects and programs that do any of the following:
(a) Maximize habitat consolidation and connectivity.
(b) Are located adjacent to land with high habitat value.
(c) Provide habitat for endangered plant or animal species.
12290.
 A project or program that is awarded a grant shall meet all of the following requirements:
(a) Be consistent with both of the following plans:
(1) The approved groundwater sustainability plan or alternative plan for the basin or portion of the basin within which the project or program is located.
(2) Any city or county general plan wholly or partly within the geographic scope of the approved groundwater sustainability plan or alternative plan described in paragraph (1).
(b) Reduce groundwater use and provide one or more other measurable benefits to the environment or broader community. Benefits to the environment or broader community include, but are not limited to, all of the following benefits:
(1) Improving water quality.
(2) Increasing water supplies or water supply reliability.
(3) Preserving, enhancing, or restoring wildlife habitat.
(4) Improving flood protection.
(5) Improving soil health and carbon storage.
(6) Creating buffer zones for disadvantaged communities.
(c) Include a 50-percent match from nonstate sources. Up to one-half of the required nonstate match may be from in-kind contributions of goods or services. The 50-percent match may be suspended or reduced for projects that provide significant direct benefits to disadvantaged communities.
(d) Any groundwater recharge achieved under this division shall remain in the basin to improve groundwater conditions.
12290.2.
 For a program to identify a potential land repurposing project and develop a land repurposing plan that is awarded a grant, before initiating the development of a plan, the grant recipient shall make available to the public, the persons on the relevant groundwater sustainability agency’s list of interested parties pursuant to Section 10723.4 of the Water Code, and the department, a written statement describing the manner in which interested parties may participate in the development and implementation of the plan.
CHAPTER  4. Grant Administration
12291.
 On or before January 1, 2023, the department, in administering the grant program, in consultation with the Department of Water Resources, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the Department of Food and Agriculture, shall develop and adopt guidelines for awarding grants.
12291.2.
 In developing the guidelines, the department shall solicit input and participation from all of the following agencies and entities:
(a) Public agencies.
(b) Nonprofit organizations.
(c) Groundwater sustainability agencies, counties, watermasters, and water districts implementing a groundwater sustainability plan or alternative plan.
(d) Disadvantaged communities.
(e) Tribes.
(f) Farmers and ranchers.
12291.4.
 The guidelines shall contain provisions that do all of the following:
(a) Determine how a project or program is consistent with all of the following plans:
(1) Groundwater sustainability plans and alternative plans.
(2) General plans.
(b) Ensure projects and programs are developed with active participation of interested parties identified in Section 12290.4.
(c) Ensure project benefits are permanent.
(d) Require, as a part of the application for a project, a projection by year of the quantity of groundwater that would not be pumped as a result of a proposed project and estimated annual groundwater recharge, if any.
(e) Require regular monitoring of projects to measure their impacts on groundwater use and benefits to the environment or broader community, and require annual reporting of those impacts and benefits to the department and relevant groundwater sustainability agency.
12291.6.
 Grants shall be awarded on a competitive basis. In awarding grants, the department shall strive to award grants equitably to projects and programs across eligible basins, as described in Section 12285.6.
12291.8.
 An application for a grant shall include the estimated annual reduction in groundwater use or demand resulting from a project or program.
12291.9.
 The department may provide technical assistance to grant applicants.
CHAPTER  5. Funding
12292.
 Up to 10 percent of funds appropriated for the purposes of the grant program may be expended for planning and monitoring necessary for the successful design, selection, and implementation of eligible projects and programs.
12292.2.
 The purposes for which grant funds may be expended include, but are not limited to, costs of environmental review required pursuant to Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000).
CHAPTER  6. Reporting
12293.
 The department shall post the annual reports described in subdivision (d) of Section 12291.4 on its internet website.
12294.
 (a) On or before January 1, 2026, and five years thereafter, the department shall submit a report to the relevant policy and budget committees of the Legislature that evaluates the performance of the grant program in relation to its goals. The report shall also include recommendations to improve the grant program.
(b) The department may contract with an independent third party to prepare the report.
12295.
 This division shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2032, and as of that date is repealed.
SEC. 2.
 This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the California Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting the necessity are:
In order to provide urgently needed relief for farmers and agricultural communities that are currently removing irrigated land from production due to the concurrent impacts of drought and implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (Part 2.74 (commencing with Section 10720) of Division 6 of the Water Code), it is necessary that this act take effect immediately.