MOORLACH UPDATE — Where’s Leadership? — June 27, 2015

A drought is defined as "a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall; a shortage of water resulting from this." Then there is a man-made water crisis, a phenomenon that could have been avoided. California has a man-made water crisis. Fortunately, Orange County does not.

Last year, Keith Naughton, in a San Francisco Chronicle column, titled "California’s man-made water crisis," stated that water districts should "build water reclamation projects (clean the water and reuse it). California has enough water. The state could sustain itself through conservation and reusing what it has. And there is zero risk in that." Give the OC a gold star in this category.

The collaboration between the Orange County Sanitation District and the Orange County Water District to build and provide the largest groundwater replenishment system in the world is something every resident can be extremely proud. It’s worthy of a toast! The OC Register provides the details on yesterday’s dedication of the expanded facility in the first piece below, including photos. The second photo is in the plant and provides you with an opportunity to play "Where’s Waldo?"

In my remarks at the dedication ceremony, I reminded everyone of the old Chinese proverb, that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. It’s a shame that California did not focus on providing more water retention decades ago. And the current leadership on the drought has been so dismal from the Governor and the Legislature.

Cramming a trailer bill through the Senate Budget Committee whose members, including myself, received it just minutes previous to its meeting is bad form. Imposing a top-down unilateral merging of water districts is an example of flailing and desperate leadership (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 88 — June 19, 2015 June 19, 2015 John Moorlach).

Even AB 91 was a sad and disappointing attempt at providing drought relief (see MOORLACH UPDATE — First Full Day — March 25, 2015 March 26, 2015 John Moorlach). The Wall Street Journal saw it the same way (see MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Why I Won — April 2, 2015 April 2, 2015 John Moorlach). It’s rough having a front-row seat on this nonstop disappointment.

Remember when we had real leaders? On Monday, a statue of the only California Governor who would become President of the United States was dedicated in the Capitol’s basement rotunda. I was in attendance and photos were provided in the LA Times, Sacramento Bee, and OC Register. Thanks to the angles of the shots, I ended up in many of them. So, for another fun game of "Where’s Waldo?," see if you can find me in the next five photos.

Speaking of a man-made water crisis, we also have a man-made pension crisis. In the second piece below, CalWatchdog.com provides another article on the budget that was signed this week. The woeful attempt at addressing the state’s pension deficits is another example of dismal leadership.

As I was leaving the Senate Floor after last Friday’s extra day of Session, the Associated Press photographer was hoping that I would be holding all of my binders. Staff came to my rescue, so he didn’t get what he was hoping for. But, he still got this shot and it was the lead photo of the Yahoo News website all last Saturday.

BONUS: To provide some direction, I released my thoughts on where the State’s budget should be focused and the graph included is provided below, just above the last photo (also see http://district37.cssrc.us/content/budget-update-5-key-indicators-ca-fiscal-health).

DOUBLE BONUS: I was interviewed on the Budget by Phil Cowan of AM 1380 KTKZ and it is available at http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senator-moorlach-am-1380-ktkz-answer. One of my points? California has not only drained its surface retained water, it has also drained its cash reserves.

TRIPLE BONUS: This past week Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon announced the Senators who will be serving on the special session committees. I have been appointed to serve on the Public Health and Developmental Services Committee (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — New Political Split — April 24, 2015 April 24, 2015 John Moorlach)

OC Register Logo

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Cathy Green, president of the Orange County Water District, and others toast with recycled water on Friday. ANA VENEGAS, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

BY AARON ORLOWSKI

Officials unveiled an initial expansion of Orange County Water District’s wastewater recycling facility in Fountain Valley on Friday, bringing production from 70 million gallons per day to 100 million gallons.

With the $142 million expansion, the wastewater program provides enough recycled water to meet the needs of about 850,000 Orange County residents. The Fountain Valley plant is the largest of its kind in the world.

Another, final expansion of the Groundwater Replenishment System, which began treating water in 2008, would bring production to 130 million gallons per day.

At the water district’s facility in Fountain Valley, lightly treated wastewater from the Orange County Sanitation District that would otherwise be discharged into the ocean is pumped through a series of filters. The heart of OCWD’s advanced filtering process is when the water is forced through reverse osmosis membranes, which also can be used to take the salt out of seawater.

The water comes out ultrapure and is used to replenish groundwater stocks through recharge basins in Anaheim. It also is injected into wells in Fountain Valley to ward off saltwater that could penetrate the groundwater basin from the ocean.

Water agencies pump the groundwater out and distribute it as tap water to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County.

As water supplies have tightened during California’s four-year drought, experts have looked to wastewater as a source that’s not dependent on rainfall.

“With the drought, this expansion has come on in the nick of time,” said Mike Markus, the water district’s general manager.

With a final expansion planned sometime in the next decade, officials hope to eventually treat and recycle all the water produced by the sanitation district, which serves 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County.

Current plans would treat only about 70 percent of the water generated by the sanitation district.

“Hopefully, that 70 percent can increase,” said Tom Beamish, chairman of the board of directors at the sanitation district. “We are committed to making that final expansion a reality.”

To complete the final expansion, the sanitation district will have to figure out how to transport water from its treatment plant in Huntington Beach to OCWD’s system in Fountain Valley. The water district is already recycling all of the water generated by the sanitation district’s Fountain Valley plant.

Advances in membrane technology have made reverse osmosis systems cheaper to operate. Other advances lower energy costs by reusing the pressure that forces water through the membranes.

As part of the initial expansion, the water district built two 7.5-million-gallon storage tanks to hold some water during the day and run it through the filters overnight, when the sanitation district isn’t producing as much wastewater.

The Groundwater Replenishment System is in a category called indirect potable reuse, which means there’s a buffer between the recycled water and those who drink it – in this case, the groundwater aquifer.

In the coming years, water experts predict direct potable reuse – wherein recycled wastewater is pumped straight into pipes destined for homes – will become common.

Some water officials lament that it isn’t common already. “It’s a shame we have to put it in the ground in order to use it,” said Philip Anthony, a member of the water district’s board.

Orange County politicos spoke at Friday’s event, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, State Sen. John Moorlach, Assemblyman Matthew Harper and Assemblyman Travis Allen.

Contact the writer: aorlowski. Twitter: @aaronorlowski

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Sculptor Douglas Van Howd, left, and Douglas Elmets, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Capitol Foundation, unveil the 8-foot-tall bronze statue of the former California governor and president during ceremonies at the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday.

Former Secretary of State George Shultz poses in front of a statue of his former boss, President Ronald Reagan, that was unveiled at the Capitol on Monday. The 8-foot-tall bronze statue of California’s 33rd governor and the 40th president was created by sculptor Douglas Van Howd and is on display in the lower rotunda of the Capitol.

CalWatchdog.com

Legislature passes record $117 billion budget

Josephine Djuhana

On Monday, the California Legislature passed a $117 billion state budget on a 52-28 vote, meeting the June 15 deadline to send the bill to Governor Jerry Brown. The Legislature’s version of the budget allocates $117 billion in expenditures and sets aside $5 billion in reserves. Crafted by Democratic legislators on a conference committee, the budget proposes $2 billion more in spending and $3.2 billion more in projected revenue than Gov. Brown’s May Revise.

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Democrats in Sacramento praised the approval of a “balanced” and “on-time” budget. A prepared release from Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, says Assembly Bill 93, the budget bill, will “pay down debt, build reserves and restore funding to schools.”

“I want to thank our Budget Chair, Dr. Shirley Weber, our subcommittee chairs, the members of the Budget Committee and our conferees for performing an incredible amount of work, which is shown in the budget we voted on today,” said Speaker Atkins. “The stability from the years of hard choices gives us an opportunity that has been rare in recent years – the chance to focus on a budget that builds a stronger and brighter future for the people of California.”

Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, released the following statement on the passage of AB93:

“I’m proud to support a balanced budget that prioritizes education, health care, and poverty reduction in California. By strengthening social programs to assist the disadvantaged, such as early education and the Earned Income Tax Program, more Californians will have the freedom to follow their own path to success and happiness. This budget will also help create healthier communities by restoring funding cuts to critical Medi-Cal programs. … Overall, these policies outline the virtues of a society concerned with creating the broadest opportunities for all of our citizens.”

Senator Connie Leyva, D-Chino, also commended the budget approval, calling it a “forward-looking budget that continues to strengthen California’s diverse communities … throughout the state.”

Democratic legislators highlighted the importance of investment in the Earned Income Tax Program, health care and Medi-Cal, state education at all levels of learning, public safety, child care and other programs. Senator Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, said the budget “reflects the Legislature’s priorities of investing in the people of our great state … while paying down the state’s long term debt and setting aside more resources for our rainy day fund.”

But Republican legislators fear the budget does not do enough to meet the needs of California’s unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities.

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Senator John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said on the Senate floor that the budget “departs from Governor Brown’s call for fiscal restraint” and does not “make a dent in our $72 billion in unfunded retiree medical costs, or the over $100 billion [plus] in unfunded pension liabilities.”

Senator Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said the budget “gives a false sense of security to Californians.” Despite providing more resources for education, “it creates new and additional spending in other areas, which is simply unsustainable” and “may lead to higher taxes.” Her release continued:

“The undeniable fact is that this budget would spend a record $269 billion, which is $15 billion higher than last year’s budget. It also promises money that may never materialize as it assumes that the state will receive $3 billion more than what Governor Brown believes we will receive. That’s why he has not agreed to this budget. He recognizes that it repeats the foolishness of relying on rosy economic projections.

“Governor Brown has governed during times of both boom and bust, and I hope he will resist the urge to live beyond our means. By paying down more debt and smartly investing in top priorities such as education, we can avoid major problems down the road and secure a healthier future for all Californians.”

The Republican vice chairs of the Assembly and Senate budget committees, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, and Senator Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, also sent a formal letter to the governor, calling the proposed budget a “political exercise” and saying adoption of the budget would be “fiscal malpractice”:

“The needs of the state are great and the urge to spend is strong. As you have noted, however, a moderate economic downturn could cut state revenue by $40 billion over three short years. In assessing the health of the state’s economy, economists have suggested that California is not even prepared for a moderate recession. While our work to build a Rainy Day Fund is commendable, the Fund is only projected to have a $3.5 billion balance as of next summer. We should not delude ourselves into believing that $3.5 billion would be sufficient to smooth the effects of a significant economic tremor.”

According to charts from the Department of Finance, actual expenditures for fiscal year 2011-12 were $86.4 billion. As state revenues increased, that number has ballooned to $96.6 billion in FY 2012-13 and $99.8 billion in FY 2013-14. The proposed budget for FY 2015-16 is $117.5 billion – that’s about $17.7 billion dollars more than just two years ago.

The estimated revenue for the general fund in FY 2015-16 according to the Gov. Brown’s May Revise is $113.3 billion, which is less than the Legislature’s proposal to spend $117 billion and save $5 billion.

Gov. Brown and the Legislature will continue to negotiate and work out any discrepancies until the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1. The proposal now goes to the governor to sign and approve.

Source: http://district37.cssrc.us/content/budget-update-5-key-indicators-ca-fiscal-health

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State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, gathers his binders together as he prepares to leave the Senate after session at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, June 19, 2015. Both houses of the Legislature approved the $115.4 billion compromise spending plan and sent it to the governor.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, gathers his binders together as he prepares to leave the Senate after session at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, June 19, 2015. Both houses of the Legislature approved the $115.4 billion compromise spending plan and sent it to the governor.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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