I wrote about the state level governance structure proposed by the PPIC report back when it was the Little Hoover Commission suggestion. The PPIC proposal for state level bureaucracy is even closer to my preferences, and adds in cool things like a Public Trust Advocate. (Although, I’m never in private utility circles, so I don’t know whether people like the work of the PUC’s analogous Ratepayer Advocate. Has that worked out?) A new DWM would affect me directly, so I am naturally opposed just ’cause it is different. Aside from CHANGEBAD, however, it looks far better than our current messed-up bureaucratic structure.
I am more interested in the prospect for regional entities. I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon for regional management, for two reasons. First, my experience with regional offices has been that they are even more subject to regulatory capture than the Sacramento office, and come to consider their job to be buffering their local buddies from the outrageous edicts that come down from the out-of-touch central office. Which gets real frustrating, you know? I know that IRWM “Regions” are supposed to be more than that, but I’m starting with a bias against regions.
My second, and more reasonable objection to Regions is that they aren’t a thing. So far, they’re a set of agreements between a bunch of agencies with varying jurisdictions and authorities. That strikes me as wholly inadequate for serious water planning; what if the patchwork of eminent domain authority doesn’t reach the entire length of a proposed wetland? What if some local agencies can tax their constituents and others can’t? Who do you serve if you are suing a Region? There is nothing in there.
But, so long as the legislature is messing with the structure of California water governance, they could remove my objection by creating legal entities to bolster this notion of Region. Just like the legislature creates special districts and LAFCO regulates them, there could be something with more heft than a JPA behind the Region concept. I don’t know what shape it should take. A mixed appointed and elected board, with local agencies as voting members? Move county water authorities to the Region? Taxation and eminent domain powers? No doubt the lawyers could do a better job suggesting those than I can.
After reading the PPIC report I started to imagine these Regions being housed in the same buildings as the regional offices of the (new, proposed) Department of Water Management. They could write Basin Plans together! All of a sudden I started to distrust Integrated Regional Water Management less. Maybe there’s some potential in that approach after all. But only when a Region is an actual thing. The legislature should go for it, so long as they’re rearranging executive water agencies anyway.
ADDED 3/8: These Regional entities could run intra-basin markets as part of their authorities and duties.