A bill that would create a program to help growers find other uses for farmland idled because of groundwater pumping restrictions won approval by a Senate committee, bringing it closer to the Governor’s desk.
AB 252, known as the multibenefit land repurposing incentive program, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee August 26. The bill, authored by Assemblymembers Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) will move to the Senate Floor for a vote, then back to the Assembly for final affirmation of amendments.
If the bill passes those votes it will go to Governor Newsom sometime in mid-September.
AB 252 doesn’t come with any money. It creates a program under the California Department of Conservation that would use grant money to help find other uses for former ag land in critically over drafted groundwater basins.
Newsom included $500 million for land repurposing in his May budget revise as part of the $5.1 billion water infrastructure and drought response package.
Groundwater has been severely over pumped in the San Joaquin Valley for decades. To address the depletion of the state’s aquifers, lawmakers passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 which will gradually restrict groundwater pumping to bring aquifers back into balance. The law doesn’t take full effect until 2040. It is estimated that up to one million acres of farmland in the Central Valley will have to be fallowed as a result.