Newsom budget would cut some money for flood protection

Jan 21, 2023, 5:43 PM | Updated: Jan 22, 2023, 7:51 am
FILE - Julie Rentner, president of the nonprofit River Partners, stands by a small grove of trees d...

FILE - Julie Rentner, president of the nonprofit River Partners, stands by a small grove of trees during a tour of the Dos Rios Ranch Preserve in Modesto, Calif., on Feb. 16, 2022. Rentner has criticized Newsom's plan to cut $40 million from the state budget for projects that would restore floodplains. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

              FILE - The Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers meet on the edge of the Dos Rios Ranch Preserve in Modesto, Calif., on Feb. 16, 2022. The 2,100-acre preserve is California's largest floodplain restoration project, designed to give the rivers room to breath and restore traditional riparian habitats. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed cutting $40 million from the state budget for floodplain projects to help balance the state budget. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
            
              FILE - Julie Rentner, president of the nonprofit River Partners, stands by a small grove of trees during a tour of the Dos Rios Ranch Preserve in Modesto, Calif., on Feb. 16, 2022. Rentner has criticized Newsom's plan to cut $40 million from the state budget for projects that would restore floodplains. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
            FILE - A driveway is flooded by the overflowing San Ysidro creek on Jameson Lane in Montecito, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2023. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed cutting $40 million from the state budget for floodplain projects to help balance the state budget. The Newsom administration says the projects could be funded from other places in the budget. But advocates say the decision will lead to significant delays if it stands. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Multiple flood protection projects in California are on hold after Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed cutting their funding to help cover a $22.5 billion budget deficit — a decision disappointing environmental advocates as weeks of powerful storms have caused widespread flooding that damaged homes and washed away roads.

Newsom’s budget proposal, released last week, cuts $40 million that had been pledged for floodplain restoration projects along rivers in the San Joaquin Valley, an area at high risk of catastrophic flooding.

Those projects would allow for rivers to flood in strategic places during winter storms or the spring Sierra Nevada snowmelt, reducing the risks for populated areas downstream while also benefiting environmental ecosystems.

Newsom approved that money last year, when the state had a record budget surplus of around $100 billion. Just a few months later, things have changed dramatically as a sluggish stock market has slowed the state’s economy, reducing the amount of taxes the state collects. Now, Newsom says California will have a $22.5 billion deficit this year.

The governor’s plan to cover that relies in part on cutting $9.6 billion in spending, including the $40 million for the floodplain projects. It would restore the funds in 2024 if they are available.

“I see it as prioritizing winners and losers in California — and we’re the losers,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, an environmental advocacy group.

The Newsom administration would cut that money because “we are facing serious economic headwinds,” said Wade Crowfoot, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. He said those floodplain restoration projects are eligible to get funds from other places, including the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Program and the Wildlife Conservation Board.

The decision was made in early December, weeks before record rainfall hit the state, and Crowfoot acknowledged the recent storms could change the administration’s thinking. The budget won’t be finished for months and will be changed multiple times, he noted.

“I think clearly these storms and the flooding impacts they have created have elevated policy makers’ understanding of the importance of flood investments,” Crowfoot said.

For more than 100 years, Californians have tried to tame their rivers with a complex system of dams, canals and levees that have transformed the state’s Central Valley into fertile farmland.

But recently state officials have been rethinking that strategy by returning large swaths of land to floodplains.

One celebrated example is the Dos Rios Ranch Preserve in Modesto, which marked its 10th anniversary last fall with a ceremony attended by high-level Newsom administration officials. The project has been so successful that it was one of the reasons the governor signed off on the $40 million for similar projects.

The money was set to pay for nine floodplain reconnection projects that are ready to begin plus help another six that are still in the planning process, said Julie Rentner, president of River Partners, a nonprofit that is managing the projects.

“The work has stopped,” she said.

Newsom can’t sign the budget into law until it has first been vetted by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature, a process that will last for much of this year. But announcing the cuts essentially puts the money on hold, stalling projects.

Adam Gray, a former Democratic member of the state Assembly who pushed for the funding, said it was “one of the most exciting things I worked on in the 10 years I was in the Legislature.”

“I was extremely thrilled to have gotten it done, but now we can’t move forward,” he said, adding: “I’m hoping the governor will see the wisdom in restoring that money.”

Newsom’s budget plan does contain other funds targeting flooding. He proposed more than $200 million in new spending on flood protections, including $135.5 million over two years to reduce urban risk; $40.6 million to strengthen levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta; and $25 million to reduce flooding risks in the Central Valley.

Since 2021, Newsom and state lawmakers have committed to spend roughly $8.7 billion on the paradoxically connected issues of drought and flood. The governor’s budget would lower that by about $194 million, a cut that doesn’t include the $40 million for floodplain projects.

Crowfoot said it’s still by far the most the state has ever committed to those issues.

“I think our commitment to flood investments are pretty clear,” Crowfoot said. “We have to balance a budget with less revenue this year. Even given that, we’ve proposed more funding for flood investments.”

But environmental advocates say more must be done.

Under the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, the state historically has averaged about $250 million on flood management. Last year state regulators updated it to call for an increase to between $360 million and $560 million, noting that in a worst case scenario, flooding could cause up to $1 trillion in damage.

Rentner said that while it’s a significant allocation, it doesn’t keep up with what the flood plan says is necessary.

“I don’t think my faith is shaken that folks believe in flood plain restoration,” she said. “I just think maybe we don’t understand how to do it quickly. That’s the hard part. We need to take every opportunity we can to move forward as fast as possible.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Protesters gather in front of police headquarters while marching Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Memphi...
Associated Press

Memphis police disband unit that fatally beat Tyre Nichols

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis police chief disbanded the city’s so-called Scorpion unit on Saturday, citing a “cloud of dishonor” from newly released video that showed some of its officers beating Tyre Nichols to death after stopping the Black motorist. Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis acted a day after the harrowing video emerged, saying […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: JAN 29, Prohibition launches

Today in History Today is Sunday, Jan. 29, the 29th day of 2023. There are 336 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Jan. 29, 1936, the first inductees of baseball’s Hall of Fame, including Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, were named in Cooperstown, New York. On this date: In 1820, King […]
22 hours ago
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., is seen in the U.S. Capitol, July 14, 2022, in Washington.  Gallego sa...
Associated Press

Gallego holds first events of Arizona Senate campaign

PHOENIX (AP) — Democrat Ruben Gallego held the first public events of his U.S. Senate campaign Saturday, taking aim at independent incumbent Kyrsten Sinema and casting his candidacy in a patriotic appeal to the American dream. The fifth-term congressman recounted his journey from a poor family in Chicago to cleaning toilets as a Harvard student […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL= Bothell 44, Glacier Peak 40 Burlington-Edison 47, Squalicum 33 Columbia River 53, R.A. Long 28 Entiat 60, Cascade (Leavenworth) 9 Evergreen Lutheran 48, Three Rivers Christian School 26 Hermiston, Ore. 66, Pasco 36 Kamiakin 61, Kennewick 35 Kennedy 49, Bainbridge 42 La Conner 81, Skyview 77 Lakeside (Seattle) 71, Seattle Prep 37 […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Bothell 64, Glacier Peak 49 Cedarcrest 60, Marysville-Pilchuck 57 Inchelium 71, Springdale 70 Kellogg, Idaho 50, Newport 27 Lynden 69, Lakewood 50 Naselle 63, Winlock 59 Sound Christian 69, Pope John Paul II 34 ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Arizona Republicans pick former Trump official to lead party

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Republicans on Saturday selected former state treasurer and Donald Trump aide Jeff DeWit to be the party’s next chairman, turning to a familiar face with relationships across the fractured party after its worst election in decades. DeWit replaces firebrand Trump ally Kelli Ward, who helped the former president in his efforts […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Newsom budget would cut some money for flood protection