Gov. Brown bids to change authority over drinking water money

Posted by Mark Grossi on January 15, 2014 

Glass of nitrate-laced drinking water in Tulare County.

JOHN WALKER — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

Remember how lawmakers quietly dumped the idea to reorganize the state's drinking water program? This is the same program that often left small Valley cities waiting years to get healthy tap water.

The reorganization is back -- meaning the California Department of Public Health might lose control of this program. This time, the idea is in Gov. Jerry Brown's budget.

The governor proposes to do the same thing as the scuttled Assembly Bill 145, written by Assembly Member Henry Perea, D-Fresno. 

The main thrust: transfer oversight of drinking water from public health to the State Water Resources Control Board. That would include the authority over the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

Over the last three years, The Bee has written several stories about the state foot-dragging and delays in the funding for towns such as Seville in Tulare County.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protecton Agency criticized the public health leaders because millions of federal dollars for water fixes had not been used.

EPA required a plan of action to spend the money, and the health department complied in summer.

But leaders in Valley towns continued to be skeptical. Perea's bill to reorganize the administration of the drinking water program later failed as lawmakers from larger areas refused to allow it.

Now, an elated Perea congratulated the administration for advocating the change: “Governor Brown’s budget proposes a major victory for thousands of Californians who do not have access to clean and safe drinking water."

At the same time, some kind of political horse trading among politicians still could scuttle the move.





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