RANCHO SANTA FE — At the last Aug. 6 Rancho Santa Fe Association board meeting, Assemblyman Brian Jones of the 71st District spoke to members about drought issues.
After Jones introduced himself, he mentioned that he would be running for Senator Joel Anderson’s seat, which does include Rancho Santa Fe territory.
Once Jones touched upon his political background, he delved into the lawsuit between the San Diego County Water Authority at the Metropolitan Water District (MET), who is Southern California’s wholesaler of water. They get most of their water, he said, from Northern California and then it is disbursed to other local wholesalers such as the San Diego County Water Authority.
According to Jones, the legal battle has been ongoing for the past several years.
“So the Water Authority, a couple of years ago, discovered that the MET was overcharging the Water Authority on their rates,” he said.
Jones called the lawsuit groundbreaking.
The San Diego County Water Authority is due back around $180 million, plus interest, he said.
“The County Water Authority has promised that that money is going to be returned to the local districts, and then the local districts will disburse that, and use it how they think is appropriated based on their each individual board,” Jones said. “I don’t know when the monies are going to change hands but the good news is we won the lawsuit.”
The board of directors at the RSF Association then asked Jones if he could convey what was happening in Sacramento in terms of water issues and any upcoming legislature.
Jones told everyone that unfortunately not much has happened this year.
“Last year at this time we were working on the water bond which is a $7 billion water bond,” he said. “The disappointing thing about it is the state hasn’t really started spending very much of that money yet. The main thing that Sacramento could do to help with water is reform CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act.”
Jones stated that through the majority party and leadership through the governor’s office, their focus on CEQA is project by project.
He added, “Rather than a statewide reform that we could all take advantage of, the way they want to mange CEQA reform is you have a project, you come to the legislature, hire a lobbyist and spend a lot of money to get your waiver from CEQA to special favors to the legislature.”
Jones said a few CEQA waivers were for the high-speed rail authority, and the two stadiums being proposed in Los Angeles County.
Jones believed a complete reform of CEQA was needed.
According to Jones, 2,300 bills were introduced this year, which is a normal amount. He went on to say that about 1,100 of them die in committee while 1,100 of them may get to the governor’s desk.
The governor typically signs 600 to 900.
“This year, there was only a handful that dealt with the drought and the water,” he said.
Jones pointed out that the governor called two special sessions: Medi-Cal funding and sustainable funding for highways and roads.
“But no discussion about the drought and building reservoirs to make sure that we’re prepared for the next drought,” he said.