Mayors from around the country will converge on Pleasanton in mid-October for a meeting of the Mayors Water Council to discuss national and state water issues and the funds that will be required to meet future needs.
The semi-annual meeting is being hosted by Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, who co-chairs the council with Mayor Brian Stratton of Schenectady, N.Y.
Hosterman said the council will meet Thursday, Oct. 14, to consider federal water issues, and then reconvene on Friday, Oct. 15, to look at California's water issues and the state's Water Bond Proposition 18 that is on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot. The measure, known by its supporters as the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010, if approved, would allow the state government to borrow $11.1 billion to overhaul the state's water system.
Although part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors organization, the Mayors Water Council functions as an independent committee with its own budget and a Washington, D.C., staff. A recent study it commissioned indicates that local government spending on water and sewer infrastructure to comply with water laws over the next 20 years could be one-and-a-half to three-times what it spent over the last 53 years.
"What this report said is that in the last 53 years, from 1956-2008, we have spent $1.8 trillion in water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure," Hosterman said. "But over the next 20 years, starting with 2008 and out to 2028, we will be required to spend somewhere between $2.5 and $4.8 trillion."
Besides focusing on the national funding needs of U.S. cities, Hosterman said her group also will look at issues facing the California Delta and sewer capacity that's occasionally used up during heavy rains. Regulatory issues, including federal laws that determine what constitutes protected and navigable waters, also will be examined. Some waters, including a seasonal pond on the Dublin side of I-580 that was found to have harbored small marine critters during the month it actually contained water, were determined by federal regulators to be protected waters and off limits to developers.
"Within a month, the weather warmed up and the water disappeared along with whatever lived in it for a short time," Hosterman said of the Dublin panel. "These are rules cities face all the time."
The Water Council's keynote speaker at a Thursday evening session will be Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator who has gained a reputation as a resolute defender of the environment. He serves as chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and as president of Waterkeeper Alliance.
Leading off the conference will be Joshua Bloom, a San Francisco attorney who has been practicing environmental and transactional law since 1990. He is well known for his expertise with regard to the Clean Water Act, endangered species and overall environmental regulatory matters.
Hosterman said she has also invited Andrea A. Matarazzo to speak at a session of the water council, dealing with water supply. An attorney with the Sacramento law firm of Diepenbrock Harrison, she handles the firm's Land Use and Environmental Law Department. Matarazzo's practice focuses on land use issues and project permitting, with particular emphasis on issues arising under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Another invited speaker is Jason Peltier, chief deputy general manager of the Westlands Water District in Fresno. He is scheduled to speak on the impact of litigation and regulatory constraints affecting water supplies. He will also outline possible actions to be taken in the event the state bond fails to pass in the upcoming election.
Hosterman said sewer capacity and structural concerns are especially troubling in the older Midwestern and Eastern cities. Cities such as Philadelphia and Boston have sewer pipes that are more than 100 years old, yet lack the funds to replace them.
She described a Catch-22 situation involving many cities and the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Department of Justice.
"The EPA has been promulgating new regulations that say cities must ensure that their sewer lines don't have problems, which in effect is telling these cities that they have to rip up the streets and replace these old pipes," Hosterman said. "So cities put the projects off for lack of funds. Then the Justice Department comes along and sues the cities for failing to comply with the EPA's orders."
"These are the concerns we have as mayors and what we hope to address in the fall water council meeting," she added.