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Central Basin, WRD, Lawmakers engulfed in ‘water war’

By Brian Hews

A bill winding its way through Sacramento is causing a stir within two of the most powerful local water agencies over who has the ìlegalî rights to oversee the management of groundwater.
State Senator Alan Lowenthal is pushing a bill that he says will ìremove barriers to groundwater storageî in the Central Basin by clarifying existing law concerning the management of groundwater.
SB 1386 is slated to be heard in a Senate committee next week and according to Lowenthal will ìclarify existing law so that it is clearî that the Central Basin Municipal Water District does not have ìauthority to manage or control the storage of groundwater because there is already a water rights judgment in place and a water replenishment district (Water Replenishment District of Sothern California) has authority to deal with groundwater supplies.
Lowenthal thinks that the problem with the current law is that both water replenishment districts and municipal water districts have the ability ìto store water,î but does differentiate between groundwater and surface water.
ìThe boundaries between Central Basin Water District and WRD of Southern California overlap,î Lowenthal claims.
ìSince the creation of the two districts in the 1950’s, the Central Basin Municipal Water District has fulfilled the role of securing imported surface water supplies and the Water Replenishment District has concerned itself with groundwater,î Lowenthal said.
Art Aguilar, General Manager of the Central Basin Water District told Los Cerritos Community Newspaper that Lowenthal’s bill is ìa direct attackî on his agency and called it ìtotally prematureî and ìunneeded.î
ìThis is just politics, and a turf battle,î Aguilar said. He said the bill was specifically written to ìsingle out Central Basin Water Districtî and even going further by stating ìthis will not pertain to any other water district in California, just Central Basin.î
Central Basin Water District President Edward Vasquez told Lowenthal last week in a letter that the bill ìsets a dangerous precedent for all California water agencies.î
ìWe have yet to see any justification for the targeted attack this bill makes on a single water district. The passage of this legislation would unduly impede Central Basin’s ability to perform its core functions and would pave the way for future attempts to usurp the power of one agency and provide it to another,î Vasquez told Lowenthal in his correspondence.
But, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano of Norwalk who is now the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee of Water and Power called for the passage of the bill.
Napolitano told Los Cerritos Community Newspaper this week in a statement that the bill is ìnecessaryî because she claims ìin recent years the Central Basin Municipal Water District has inserted itself into the groundwater area, first by purchasing groundwater extraction rights it does not use, and then by relying on those right to file or intervene in groundwater litigation costing (taxpayers) millions of dollars.î
Napolitano also pointed out that Central Basin MWD has ìsponsored unsuccessful legislation naming itself the groundwater overseer of the Central Basin.î According to Napolitano’s office, CBWD had funded a Program Environmental Impact Report to control all groundwater in the district, and action she said that ìis opposed by the vast majority of its member cities, if not every groundwater producer in both the Central and West Coast Basins.î
Also backing the bill is the City of Norwalk, City of Lakewood, City of Paramount, as well as the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners

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