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

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Date Published: 03/29/2021 09:00 PM
AB252:v98#DOCUMENT

Revised  April 12, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 29, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 252


Introduced by Assembly Members Robert Rivas and Salas
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Bennett and Eduardo Garcia)

January 14, 2021


An act to add and repeal Division 10.6 (commencing with Section 12285) of the Public Resources Code, relating to land use.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 252, as amended, Robert Rivas. Department of Conservation: Multibenefit Land Repurposing Incentive Program: administration.
Existing law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), requires numerous groundwater basins throughout the state designated by the Department of Water Resources as medium- or high-priority basins to each be managed under a separate groundwater sustainability plan or coordinated groundwater sustainability plans by specified dates. SGMA requires, with some exceptions, that local agencies designated as groundwater sustainability agencies prepare, administer, and enforce the groundwater sustainability plans with the goal of sustainably managing these groundwater basins to avoid undesirable results such as overdrafting groundwater, subsidence, and sea water intrusion, among others. To achieve the sustainability goal, SGMA authorizes a groundwater sustainability agency to, among other measures, control groundwater extractions by regulating, limiting, or suspending extractions from groundwater wells, establish a program of voluntary fallowing of agricultural lands, or validate an existing fallowing program.
This bill would require the Department of Conservation to establish and administer a program named the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Incentive Program for purposes of providing grants to groundwater sustainability agencies or counties, or other specified entities designated by groundwater sustainability agencies or counties, for the development or implementation of local programs supporting or facilitating multibenefit land repurposing at the basin scale. The bill would establish procedures for the department’s administration of the program and would require the department to develop guidelines to implement the program and to exercise its expertise and discretion in awarding program funds to eligible applicants. The bill would specify numerous criteria regarding program eligibility, including compliance with several specified requirements of SGMA. The bill would prescribe certain actions regarding program accountability and oversight, including preparation of an annual report with specified information evaluating the implementation of local programs and use of program funds.
The bill would repeal its provisions on January 1, 2032.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

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


SECTION 1.

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

DIVISION 10.6. Multibenefit Land Repurposing Incentive Program Act

CHAPTER  1. General Provisions

12285.
 This division shall be known, and may be cited, as the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Incentive Program Act.

12285.1.
 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is imperative to the future viability of the state’s economy, agriculture, and environment. environment, and protection of the human right to water.
(b) Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Act, while necessary, will result in significant changes to the rural landscape, placing additional burdens on creating challenges for rural communities and economies.
(c) Coordinated management of landscape 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.
(d) If coordinated at a regional scale, land repurposing presents an opportunity to maximize cobenefits on converted lands.

12285.2.
 The following definitions apply to this division:
(a) “Basin” has the same meaning as that term is defined in Section 10721 of the Water Code.
(b) “Department” means the Department of Conservation.
(c) “Groundwater sustainability agency” has the same meaning as that term is defined in Section 10721 of the Water Code.
(d) “Groundwater sustainability plan” has the same meaning as that term is defined in Section 10721 of the Water Code.
(e) “Land repurposing” means converting previously irrigated agricultural land to new uses through any of the following methods:
(1) Restoring upland habitat.
(2) Creating pollinator habitat.
(3) Restoring floodplains.
(4) Creating dedicated wildlife-friendly recharge areas.
(5) Dryland farming or planting cover crops.
(6) Switching from irrigated agriculture to rangeland.
(7) Creating parks or community recreation areas.
(f) “Local agency” has the same meaning as that term is defined in Section 10721 of the Water Code.
(g) “Local program” means a local or regional program to support and implement multibenefit land repurposing of lands for a period of at least 10 years on each participating parcel of land.
(h) “Multibenefit” means providing more than one benefit, including, but not limited to, improving water quality, increasing water supplies or water supply reliability, reducing groundwater demand, preserving, enhancing, or restoring wildlife habitat, improving flood protection, improving soil health and carbon storage, supporting jobs, local communities, and economies, including disadvantaged communities, creating buffer zones for disadvantaged communities, and preserving or enhancing recreational opportunities.
(i) “Program” means the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Incentive Program established pursuant to this division.
(j) “SGMA” or “Sustainable Groundwater Management Act” means the act contained in Part 2.74 (commencing with Section 10720) of Division 6 of the Water Code.

CHAPTER  2. Program Administration

12285.3.
 The department shall establish and administer a program named the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Incentive Program for purposes of providing grants for development or implementation of local programs supporting or facilitating reduced use of groundwater and multibenefit land repurposing at the basin scale.

12285.4.
 (a) The department may use moneys from the General Fund or bonds as appropriated by the Legislature in the annual Budget Bill or another bill for the purposes of this division, to do all acts necessary to establish and administer the program.
(b) The department may use program funds to provide block grants and other forms of financial support to eligible applicants to support and implement local programs.
(c) It is the intent of the Legislature that in any year the department use no more than 5 percent of revenues appropriated for purposes of implementing the program for administrative functions of the department in implementing this division, and that the department make the other 95 percent of funds available to eligible applicants for eligible local programs.

3. Program Eligibility
CHAPTER  3. Program Eligibility

12285.5.
 (a) The following agencies and entities may apply for program funds:
(1) A groundwater sustainability agency.
(2) A county.
(3) A local agency, including a resource conservation district, designated by a groundwater sustainability agency or county.
(4) A nongovernmental organization designated by a groundwater sustainability agency or county.
(5) A mutual water company designated by a groundwater sustainability agency or county.
(b) The applicants listed in subdivision (a) shall apply individually to the department for an award of program funds, but each funds. Each applicant’s application may be for any of the following purposes:
(1) To support a local program that will be implemented within a basin or portion of a basin that is managed by one groundwater sustainability agency.
(2) To support a local program that will be implemented within a basin, portion of a basin, or area encompassing multiple basins that is collectively managed by multiple groundwater sustainability agencies through agreements, a joint powers authority, or other similar combination or coordination effort.
(3) To support a local program overseen by a county that will be implemented within a basin, portion of a basin, or area encompassing multiple basins that is located in whole or in part within the county.
(c) A groundwater sustainability agency that applies individually for program funds and all groundwater sustainability agencies involved in an application on behalf of multiple groundwater sustainability agencies shall have a current list of interested parties pursuant to Section 10723.4 of the Water Code. Code, and shall engage stakeholders in the development of the local program per an adopted stakeholder communication and engagement plan.
(d) A groundwater sustainability agency that applies individually for program funds and all groundwater sustainability agencies involved in an application on behalf of multiple groundwater sustainability agencies shall comply with the annual reporting requirements in Section 10728 of the Water Code.

12285.6.
 Program funds from the department shall only be available for use and implementation of local programs that satisfy all of the following criteria:
(a) The local program will be implemented in a basin designated by the Department of Water Resources as in a condition of critical overdraft.
(b) The local program will be implemented on lands that are within the jurisdiction of one or more groundwater sustainability agencies as required by Section 10723 or 10724 of the Water Code.
(c) The local program will be implemented consistent with the groundwater sustainability plan or plans covering the lands where the applicant proposes to implement the local program, if one has been adopted. The local program is described and included in the groundwater sustainability plan covering the basin where the local program will be implemented. If a groundwater sustainability plan for the basin where the local program will be implemented does not describe the local program and has been submitted to the Department of Water Resources, the groundwater sustainability agency shall include a description of the local program as an attachment to its next annual report to the Department of Water Resources pursuant to Section 10728 of the Water Code and next five year update pursuant to Section 10733.8 of the Water Code.
(d) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the local program will be implemented on lands covered by a groundwater sustainability plan prepared pursuant to, and in compliance with, Section 10723.4 of the Water Code, and the Department of Water Resources has not determined that the plan is inadequate or insufficiently meeting its sustainability goals. If a review by the Department of Water Resources pursuant to Section 10733.8 of the Water Code has identified deficiencies in the plan, the corrective actions recommended by the Department of Water Resources, or equally effective actions, shall be implemented by the groundwater sustainability agency or multiple groundwater sustainability agencies that prepared the plan in order to remain eligible to receive program funds.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to a local program that is overseen by a county and implemented on lands that are within an area that is unmanaged in accordance with Section 10724 of the Water Code or are within the jurisdiction of a groundwater sustainability agency other than the county.
(e) The local program prioritizes land repurposing on acres with the lowest soil quality, highest potential habitat value, including lands that expand habitat connectivity or create wildlife corridors, the best aquifer recharge potential, or best opportunity for a community’s recreational use, greatest potential to enhance local water supply and water supply reliability, greatest flood protection benefit, or any combination of these characteristics to capture the highest level of potential multiple benefits.
(f) The local program reduces groundwater use in the basin and, in combination with other demand reduction elements in existing groundwater sustainability plans for the basin, contributes measurably to the long-term attainment of the basin’s groundwater sustainability goal.
(g) The local program is consistent with the county general plan, and with all other applicable local land use plans.
(h) The local program gives special consideration to the provision of incentive payments to farms and ranches of 500 acres or less and to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as defined in Section 512 of the Food and Agricultural Code.
(i) The local program is developed with input from local stakeholders and community members. members using stakeholder outreach and communication methods detailed in the Department of Water Resources’ Guidance Document for Groundwater Sustainability Plan - Stakeholder Communication and Engagement and consistent with an adopted stakeholder communication and engagement plan.

12285.7.
 Applicants shall satisfy all of the following elements to be eligible to receive program funds:
(a) Applicants shall agree to fund their local programs with participating local matching funds of no less than 50 percent of the total amount of program funds that the department would award to them. Up to one-half of the required matching funds may be from in-kind contributions of goods or services.
(b) Applicants shall agree to use funds received from the department pursuant to the program for land repurposing to implement one or more of the following purposes:
(1) Payments for habitat restoration.
(2) Payments for maintaining habitat.
(3) Payments for converting to rangelands.
(4) Payments for constructing wildlife-friendly multibenefit groundwater recharge facilities.
(5) Payments for restoring floodplains.
(6) Payments for planting cover crops.
(7) Payments for dust control measures.
(8) Payments for creating community recreation areas or parks.
(c) Applicants may provide landowners with payments for the costs of certain activities that implement and are consistent with the local program and the program. Applicants may provide payments to landowners on a per-acre basis. Applicants shall agree that per-acre payments made to landowners by their local programs for land repurposing shall be between 25 and 50 percent of the annual average market irrigated cash rental rates for cropland and pastureland for the county or area where the land is located, fixed at the rate at the time of the agreement. For purposes of calculating these rental rates, the most recent, publicly available estimates derived from the survey conducted by the United States Secretary of Agriculture pursuant to paragraph (4) of subdivision (d) of Section 3834 of Title 16 of the United States Code shall be used.
(d) Land that is sold or transferred during the term of the local program shall continue the local program activities until at least the minimum time agreed upon when a grant was awarded, and the grant award shall continue to be used for implementation of the local program.

12285.8.
 An application to receive program funds shall include the following:
(a) A description of how the local program will prioritize repurposing of agricultural lands to habitat, dryland farming, wildlife-friendly groundwater recharge facilities, recreation space, or rangeland.
(b) A description of the applicant and, if the applicant is the designee of a groundwater sustainability agency or county, a description of that groundwater sustainability agency or county and documentation establishing the applicant’s status as a designee.
(c) The current groundwater sustainability plan or plans covering the lands where the applicant proposes to implement the local program or a statement that the lands are within an area that is unmanaged in accordance with Section 10724 of the Water Code.
(d) If the lands where the applicant proposes to implement the local program are managed by multiple groundwater sustainability agencies, a description of how those lands are managed under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, including the management structure or entity and all related coordination or cooperation agreements, joint powers agreements, articles of incorporation, bylaws, ordinances, and other relevant documents or agreements.

12285.9.
 The department, with stakeholder input, shall develop guidelines regarding program eligibility and application requirements requirements, which includes information and resources for applicants, that are consistent with this division, and the department shall determine program eligibility and award program funds consistent with this division using its expertise and discretion.

CHAPTER  4. Monitoring and Reporting

12285.10.
 (a) All applicants, on April 1 following the award of program funds to them and annually thereafter for as long as program funds are expended, shall complete a report describing and evaluating the implementation of their local program and the use of program funds during the previous year, including, but not limited to, the following information:
(1) The number of acres participating in the local program.
(2) The aggregate reduction in groundwater use resulting from acreage participating in the local program.
(3) The public benefits provided by acres repurposed through the local program.
(4) The aggregate cost of enrolling acres in the local program. program, including a breakdown of payments made pursuant to subdivisions (b) and (c) of Section 12285.7.
(b) If the applicant is a groundwater sustainability agency or county, the annual report shall be posted on the groundwater sustainability agency’s or county’s internet website, or, if the applicant is a designee of a groundwater sustainability agency or county, then the annual report shall be posted on the internet website of the groundwater sustainability agency or county that designated the applicant.
(c) The groundwater sustainability agency that posts the annual report prepared pursuant to this section shall include that report in its annual report of information to the Department of Water Resources pursuant to Section 10728 of the Water Code.

12285.11.
 This division shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2032, and as of that date is repealed.

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REVISIONS:
Heading—Line 2.
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