COVID-19 Updates for Water Agencies and Water Users

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Postpones Some Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) Deadlines

On March 18, 2020, DWR announced the postponement of the following three deadlines under SGMA, in light of ongoing public health and safety concerns related to COVID-19:

  1. Public comment period for groundwater sustainability plans (GSP): extended by 30 days, bringing the new comment deadlines to May 15, 2020, and June 3, 2020, depending on the date the GSP was posted to DWR’s SGMA Portal.
  2. Comment period for DWR’s Draft Water Budget Handbook: extended by 30 days, bringing the new comment deadline to May 7, 2020.
  3. Annual Reports, Alternatives to GSPs: DWR will accept the annual reports for basins with adopted GSPs, approved and pending alternatives to GSPs, and adjudicated areas after the April 1, 2020, deadline. No specific extension has been formally announced.

Certain Reports for Surface Water Users Still Due April 1

In contrast, water rights holders should take note of the April 1, 2020, deadline to submit Reports of Licensee, Permittee Progress Reports and Registration Reports covering the 2019 calendar year.

  • These reporting requirements apply to water right holders diverting surface water under a permit, license or registration (domestic, stockpond or small irrigation use) issued by the SWRCB.
  • More information on these reporting requirements can be found here.
  • The State Water Resources Control Board has not announced any extension of this deadline, and the Water Code provides for penalties of up to $500/day for failing to submit a timely report.

Governor Further Relaxes Brown Act Meeting Requirements

On March 17, 2020, Gov. Newsom issued another executive order designed to further relax Brown Act meeting requirements to implement social distancing in response to COVID-19. Among other changes, Executive Order N-29-20 suspends the requirement that local agencies must provide a location for members of the public to comment in-person. Local agencies must still enable public participation through telephonic or other electronic means, but agencies no longer have to make a physical location open to the public. The latest executive order also adds a requirement that when conducting meetings via teleconference, public agencies must implement a procedure for receiving and “swiftly resolving” requests for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For details, public agencies should carefully consult the full executive order.

Insights on Coronavirus: Resources for Businesses and Organizations

In addition to these updates of particular interest to water agencies and water users, Brownstein has assembled a COVID-19 Task Force including attorneys and policy professionals to provide guidance on the legal and regulatory issues the COVID-19 threat raises for businesses and organizations more generally. Click here to access these resources.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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