County officials have detailed their top priorities derived from the Tulare Lake Basin Disadvantaged Community Water Study. On February 18, Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida and Senior Administrative Analyst – Water Resources Denise England testified before the State of California’s Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials during an Oversight Hearing on “Tulare County’s Drinking Water: Addressing Water Quality and Water Supply Challenges.”
Upon hearing Ishida and England testify about the water study, Vice Chair of the Assembly Committee Brian Dahle requested that the county detail its top five priorities that came from the study, which included 59 recommendations affecting state agencies, local government, water boards, well owners and systems. In response to Dahle’s request, the county prepared a list of its priorities in challenge-solution format. Below is a short summary for each of the top five priorities identified by the water study.
1. Private Well Assistance
• Challenge: More than 950 private domestic wells in TulareCounty have gone dry due toprolonged drought conditions.
• Solution: Provide funds that canbe used for low interest loans forprivate wells and allow repayment to be collected on the taxroll or establish a loan programwith seed money within theHousing Authority.
2. Create Sustainable Operation& Maintenance Revenue Streams
• Challenge: Prop 218 oftenhinders systems and local governments from collecting reasonable and necessary fees tocover basic costs of operatingand maintaining the systems.
• Solution: Reform the statue toinclude for reasonable and necessary water and sewer rates. Inorder to protect rate payers, ameans test could be establishedto determine “reasonable andnecessary” rates.
3. Streamline Funding Processes
• Challenge: In previous waterbond measures, less than twopercent of funding went to disadvantaged community waterand wastewater needs. Due tothe incapacity of these communities to prepare complicated application packets and thelong waiting period for projectsto be funded, disadvantagedcommunity water funds are notreaching their target.
• Solution: Similar to the Tulare Lake Basin DisadvantagedCommunity Water Study, theState could allocate funds to aregion and allow those in theregion to prioritize projects tomeet the community’s needs.
4. Establish a Regional Disadvantaged Community Coordinator
• Challenge: There are many entities that house programs andfunding opportunities for disadvantaged community waterand wastewater needs. Many communities have boards that are comprised of volunteer members that have varying degrees of experience and knowledge accessing these programs and funding streams. There is also an opportunity to help communities identify instances where resources could be shared across several communities or a region, however, because of the silo nature of the communities it is difficult to make those connections.
• Solution: Establishing a one-stop shop in a region for communities and residents as a starting point for programs, funding streams, information and support would vastly improve access, regional planning efforts and drive better and more sustainable solutions.
5. Continue Pre-Planning and Local Entity Formation Assistance Programs
• Challenge: The initial round of pre-planning and Local Entity Formation Assistance (LEFA) was heavily pursued and quickly over-subscribed. This is demonstrative of the acute necessity of the two programs.
• Solution: Re-authorize funds for the Pre-planning and LEFA programs. Include additional funding caps for regional solutions based on the number of communities included in the regional effort.
To review the County’s detailed list of water priorities, as well as the full Tulare Lake Basin Disadvantaged Community Water Study including all 59 recommendations, please go to www.tularelakebasin.com.