Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law the Lower American River Conservancy Program, Chapter 375 (AB 1716/McCarty). You might ask – what is the significance of this bill being signed into law?
The bill, as introduced, would have created the Lower American River Conservancy, a new state agency with a 15 member board of directors within the Natural Resources Agency. As amended in the Senate, the law instead creates a new Lower American River Conservancy Program within the state Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB). Making this change in governance significantly lowered the cost of the bill and enhanced its chances of enactment.
The WCB is authorized by the new law to receive and expend bond monies or other appropriations for the benefit of the American River Parkway. Priority is given to the development and implementation of a natural resources management plan by the County of Sacramento to improve access to, and protection and restoration of, the Sacramento American River Parkway. The County of Sacramento is the program manager for the Lower American River Parkway.
The Lower American River Parkway is part of the state and federal Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and the 2008 American River Parkway Plan serves as the management plan for the Lower American River under the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
The law also creates an advisory committee composed of local and state officials, along with three members from the public at large. The Governor and the Legislature are well-known to look more favorably upon legislation in which they play a role in the appointment process. The Governor, Senate Rules Committee, and the Speaker of the Assembly are each authorized to appoint one of public at large advisory committee members.
In recognition of the importance of the local perspective, the WCB is required to coordinate with the County of Sacramento, each city along the Parkway and local and regional flood control districts. Additionally, prior to approving funding, the WCB must consult with the County of Sacramento as to whether their proposed action is consistent with the American River Parkway Plan.
Grants to other local agencies and nonprofit organizations, approved by the County of Sacramento for the implementation of the natural resources management plan, are also authorized.
One of the WCB’s main functions is land acquisition. However, the new law prohibits the WCB from owning or acquiring lands within the American River Parkway. Instead, the law requires that the County of Sacramento or another local public entity willing to do so to hold title of lands acquired.
So what does this all mean?
The creation of the Lower American River Conservancy Program Fund establishes a “place” to deposit funds appropriated or donated that can be used to implement the program. Now the true work begins.
The success of the Lower American River Conservancy Program will depend on the amount of future appropriations approved for the program. Potential funding sources include monies from existing resources diverted to the new program, new appropriations in the State Budget, potential federal funding for water and/or park resource programs, or monies from future state water and/or park bonds.
If “donations” of monies are made from other sources, the law provides for deposit of these funds into a Donation Account and specifies that these monies would be continuously appropriated to the WCB for the program. In other words, the Legislature would not have a say over when or how the monies are spent.
So, I expect that the relevant local agencies and stakeholder organizations will be keeping their eyes open for opportunities to secure funding from whatever sources are available now that there is a program, a “place” to deposit the monies and a process for distribution.
Comments on the Lower American River Conservancy Program?
Do you utilize the American River Parkway? What do you see as the top two or three most urgent needs?
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