California Law Recognizes Meadows and Forests as Water Infrastructure

Walker Watershed, California | Luke Hunt

Governor Brown signed AB 2480, which recognizes California’s watersheds as water infrastructure.

California’s vast water infrastructure is likely the most extensive in the world. It includes the tallest dam in the nation and enormous state and federal water projects that tap rivers flowing from as far away as Wyoming.

Carson Watershed, California | Luke Hunt
Carson Watershed, California | Luke Hunt

On September 27th, Governor Brown signed legislation that recognizes the state’s watersheds as part of it’s infrastructure. Just as the state’s canals and levees need maintenance and repair, so do our rivers and watersheds. This bill opens the door to using modern infrastructure financing approaches to protect and repair rivers and watersheds. Infrastructure bonds can now be used for restoration and protection. Likewise, it will be easier for utilities to justify investment in watershed restoration. Importantly, watershed degradation should now go on the books as value lost to deferred maintenance. The cost of deferred maintenance and asset condition will be two parts of the State Treasurer’s infrastructure inventory. This inventory should now value California’s watersheds as key water supply assets, on par with pipes and levees.

The short bill is a pleasure to read beginning with: “It is hereby declared…that source watersheds are recognized and defined as integral components of California’s water infrastructure.” Eligible maintenance and repair activities include:

“(1) Upland vegetation management to restore the watershed’s productivity and resiliency.

(2) Wet and dry meadow restoration.

(3) Road removal and repair.

(4) Stream channel restoration.”

American Rivers has long advocated that to ensure our prosperity, we need to invest in our natural water infrastructure, just as we maintain our built systems. Now California has made it official!

By Luke Hunt, Ph.D. – October 4, 2016

Yuba Watershed, California Luke Hunt

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