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Economic Summit: Prep for challenges

More water rules likely

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Madera County Economic Development Commission executive director Bobby Kahn, left, thanks Mac Taylor, legislative analyst for the State of California, for being a keynote speaker at the Economic Summit luncheon.


State and local governments should prepare for the next economic downturn and more water restrictions may lie ahead, according to speakers at the county’s Economic Summit this week. California legislative analyst Mac Taylor and General Manager Tom Greci of Madera Irrigation District spoke at the annual gathering of civic and business leaders.

Taylor analyzes the state’s budget, program, and ballot item proposals as a nonpartisan fiscal advisor to the California Legislature. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to retire in greater numbers, he urged state and local governments to maintain healthy reserves and pay off on unfunded liabilities to help mitigate the impact of any future economic downturn.

“If it’s a milder recession, and ... the reserves are still there you wouldn’t expect to have the dire consequences that we had to deal with in those very difficult years” of the 2008 recession, he said.

“We’ve implemented systems to try to address the really huge unfunded liabilities (in our retirement programs so) that we’re really doing a better job at the state level,” he later said. “We really have to keep a watch on it as this can get back out of hand if we’re not funding and paying off and amortizing our unfunded liabilities. We still have to retire our health liabilities ... We still have lots of retirement related liabilities throughout the state that local governments have to deal with.”

He advised local business to keep up their own reserves or invest in infrastructure and other one-time costs, rather than commit to new ongoing expenses.

Greci explained the functions, scope, and challenges of the irrigation district before answering audience questions, including the future of water meters and rules. While he doesn’t expect rural wells to be charged by metering, there will most likely be more water restrictions ahead.

“I fully expect there will be more regulations … Let’s look at history,” Greci said. “It tells you where we’re headed. Look at the tributaries to the north of us. New regulations related to water quality and inflows to the delta were placed upon them. We have our settlement that’s ongoing in the San Joaquin River. What’s next?”

State Water Resources Control Board staff released a working draft of its Scientific Basis Report earlier this week (see The report details science that will be used to update the Sacramento River and Bay-Delta plan to improve water flow and protect fish and wildlife. The report is the second phase of an update of the plan with the first phase report released Sept. 15.

The report said more water needs to flow out of the delta in the winter and spring for the sake of salmon and other aquatic life. Such a change would reduce surface water available to state agriculture and cities.

Already 11,480,700 acre feet of state surface water flows out to the ocean annually, according to Greci. The state’s water system manages more than four times that amount each year, according to the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management in 2004.

A final draft will be developed after public comment and a review of the working draft by the Delta Independent Science Board.

Public comment on the report can be submitted no later than noon Dec. 16 by emailing or mailing Jeanine Townsend, State Water Resources Control Board, P.O. Box 100, Sacramento, CA 95812-2000. The subject line for comments should read “Comment Letter – Bay-Delta Phase II Working Draft Science Report.”

A public workshop on the report has been set for 9 a.m. Dec. 7 at the CalEPA Headquarters, Coastal Hearing Room, 1001 I St. in Sacramento.

The Madera County Economic Development Commission hosted the Economic Summit on Thursday at Madera Municipal Golf Course. Pacific Gas and Electric, the featured sponsor, also presented its Energy Champion Award to AllWire Inc. during the luncheon. Other sponsors were Citizens Business Bank, Red Rock Environmental Group, State Center Community College District, Newmark Grubb Pearson Commercial and casino hopeful North Fork Rancheria.

“The speakers were outstanding and we left today with a better understanding of water and why we have financial issues within the state of California,” said Mayor Robert Poythress.

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