AB-377, is a proposed state Assembly bill titled Water Quality: Impaired Waters. The premise of this legislation seems to be that local authorities are responsible for all the dirty water in local waterways. While the goal of “cleaning up the water” is commendable the proposed solution is problematic.
The Lompoc City Council discussed a staff request to oppose this legislation on May 4; the staff explains that “Assembly Bill (AB) 377 seeks to ensure California’s waterways are drinkable, fishable and swimmable by 2050.”

The staff report explains the folly of this plan as it applies to the city best:

“The City of Lompoc is located at the terminal end of a 896-square-mile watershed, comprised of open space, forest land, agricultural land, and three small rural communities. No amount of penalties will change the fact the City of Lompoc, and the other two small communities in this huge watershed, cannot begin to influence the overall water quality of the 92-mile-long Santa Ynez River.”

All legislators want to make a name for themselves while in elective office. Assemblyman Robert Rivas, sponsor of AB-377, represents a district that includes a large portion of Monterey County and a long stretch of the Salinas River. Rivas is the chair of the Assembly Agricultural Committee and has only been in office three years.

Why Rivas chose to champion legislation that would harm the small rural communities and farmer/ranchers in his district and the rest of California is an unanswered question.

The last time the Santa Ynez River was “fishable” was prior to construction of the Bradley Dam (Cachuma Lake) some 70 years ago and prior to a prohibition of fishing to protect the endangered steelhead trout.  And to think a person would ever be able to swim in the Santa Ynez River or San Miguelito Creek is laughable.

Residents in other areas of the county should pay attention to this proposal, too; your communities stand to be subject to the penalties that would be imposed if this bill passes.

The Building Industry Association has concerns, too. “The Act is outright not feasible in the timeline proposed and suggests all other existing state water programs are ineffective, needing replacement,” the BIA said. “While standards should be upheld in terms of water runoff at construction sites and new building, this bill does not take into consideration the constant evolution of water quality standards and the rigorous process involved.

“This bill will increase costs for builders and eventually trickle down to a rise in cost for homeowners and HOA fees.”

The staff advised the Lompoc City Council to consider that “The significant fines proposed by AB 377 would not increase funding for local surface water quality improvement, but rather would further deplete the limited operating funds of already struggling small, rural, disadvantaged communities.”

So, once again environmental activism and a politician seeking his place in history have conceived a plan that would raise the cost of housing and industrial development. 

This is no surprise as other proposals just like this have put moderate- and low-income families in a position where home ownership is only a dream, raised utility rates and raided local government operating funds in hopes of accomplishing the impossible dream.
The Lompoc City Council joined scores of other jurisdictions when they unanimously approved sending a letter opposing this poorly-thought-out legislation.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.