California Water Commission

The California Water Commission consists of nine members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. Seven members are chosen for their expertise related to the control, storage, and beneficial use of water and two are chosen for their knowledge of the environment. The Commission provides a public forum for discussing water issues, advises the Director of the Department of Water Resources on matters within the Department’s jurisdiction, approves rules and regulations, and monitors and reports on the construction and operation of the State Water Project. Proposition 1: The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act approved by voters in 2014, gave the Commission new responsibilities regarding the distribution of public funds set aside for the public benefits of water storage projects, and developing regulations for the quantification and management of those benefits. In 2018, the Commission made maximum conditional eligibility determinations for eight projects in the Water Storage Investment Program.  

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Special Application for Early Funding in the WSIP

The Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) implements Proposition 1, Chapter 8, which provided $2.7 billion for the public benefits of water storage projects. To implement this chapter, the Commission adopted program regulations, as required in Chapter 8, then proceeded with a solicitation and application review. Water Code section 79755 (c) allows for early funding of projects to assist with work related to completion of environmental documents and permits. Program regulations implemented the early funding provision by requiring applicants to request early funding in their initial applications. Four of the eight applicants that completed the review process requested early funding in their applications. Early funding is capped at 5 percent of the Maximum Conditional Eligibility Determination to limit stranding of funds should a project not progress to final award and to reserve the majority of Proposition 1, Chapter 8 funding for project construction. In a May 11 letter to the Water Commission, proponents of six of the eight WSIP-funded projects including Chino Basin and Willow Springs stated that “we are concerned that the uncertain financial times ahead could cause delays to these projects that you have previously determined create an important statewide benefit.” The Commission directed staff to draft and present emergency regulations to the Commission to address concerns raised in the May 11 letter at its July 2020 meeting. The Commission adopted the proposed emergency regulations at its August 19, 2020, meeting with a minor change. Commission staff submitted the adopted regulations to the Office of Administrative Law on August 19, 2020. The Office of Administrative Law approved the emergency regulations on August 31, 2020, and they became effective immediately. Commission staff filed the Notice of Proposed Action with the Office of Administrative Law on November 17, 2020. This starts the formal rulemaking process to make the emergency regulations final. The notice was published in the California Notice Register on November 27, 2020, which starts the formal 45-day public comment period. Written comments are due to the Commission no later than January 13, 2021. The proposed regulations do not change the amount of funding available to any applicant in the Water Storage Investment Program.

WSIP Project Screening

The California Water Commission’s Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) is accepting screening information for water storage projects that provide public benefits as defined by Proposition 1, Chapter 8. Proposition 1 includes a statutory deadline of January 1, 2022, by which time project proponents must have completed a feasibility study, have draft environmental documentation made available for public review, have received commitments for at least 75 percent of the non-public benefit cost share of the project, and have their project found feasible by the Commission. Any project submitted would need findings by the Commission no later than the December 2021 regularly scheduled Commission meeting. It is recommended and encouraged that project proponents submit screening proposals to Commission staff no later than October 22, 2021. If the Commission moves forward with additional regulations and a second solicitation, only projects successful in the screening process would be eligible to apply.

Regulations for Procedure for WIIN Act Determination

The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act was enacted by Congress on December 16, 2016. The purposes of the WIIN Act include improving water infrastructure across the country. Section 4007 addresses water projects in California and makes funding available to build water storage projects in California. The proposed regulations provide the process for a project proponent to obtain the California Water Commission’s determination that the project is consistent with Proposition 1.