SCGA Public Affairs


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

With 9 days to go before next week’s big “Golf & Water Summit” there are more than two hundred persons signed up with a waiting list to accommodate the overage – a powerful testament to the importance the Southern California golf community places on all matters water. The fact that the nation’s largest water wholesaler (Metropolitan Water District) is a sponsor/supporter of the event and a contributor of the keynote speaker and a closing panel of four (4) senior policy staffers is powerful testament to the degree to which the Southern California golf community has long collaborated with water suppliers and local governments to adopt policies that incentivize golf to make the investments of time and money necessary to reduce the game’s water footprint – a trajectory supported by the hard data.

If there is a theme to the summit it is this. As proud as the golf community is of that consistent trajectory of water footprint reduction, it is not content to rest on that laurel, but rather to use it as a springboard to reduce its water footprint further and faster moving forward. That’s a high aspiration to be sure. But golf has resolved to risk falling short of high aspirations rather than settling for meeting low expectations, and as painful as the metric can sometimes be, to ask that it be judged as much if not more by its deeds than its words.

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As we barrel toward Southern California’s Golf & Water Summit, we are also barreling toward the deadline for the seven (7) western states that are part of the Colorado River Compact to figure out how to agree among themselves to conserve somewhere between two and four million acre feet of water. If they are unable to come to agreement, the US Bureau of Reclamation will determine who gives up what. Given California’s position as the highest priority user among those states, it is sure to lose one way or the other – either voluntary givebacks or federally forced givebacks. When that happens, many of the 13 million MWD customers that have thus far avoided the draconian restrictions heaped upon those customers entirely dependent upon the state water project for their imports will begin to see cutbacks in addition to the 15% requested by the Governor. Even the water rich and secure Coachella Valley will be affected, albeit to a much lesser degree than any other area of Southern California and likely not until next year.

But there’s one late breaking piece of good news on this count. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema made a condition of her support for the “Inflation Reduction Act” $4 billion of relief targeted for the seven states that sip from the long overallocated Colorado River Basin, and this could go a long way toward helping California and the rest figure out how to make do with two to four million acre feet less of water. That largesse is all but guaranteed to be passed by the House of Representatives Friday and signed by President Biden immediately thereafter.

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As the water providers already under severe MWD restrictions come to final terms about how to deal with the golf courses in their service areas, it bears repeating that the protocol pioneered by the City of Los Angeles 12 years ago represents what the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) called a “best practice” during the last drought. The protocol is called “Alternative Means of Compliance,” and it is something that every golf facility should be armed with when dealing with its water provider. We share its particulars in detail for those golf courses that are serviced by small operators and small cities that simply don’t have the bandwidth or expertise to find their way to protocols that are as effective in terms of water conservation as they are amenable to the agronomic needs of golf courses. This is particularly true for some of the smaller providers in Ventura County and sure to be true for many more once those Colorado River cuts are announced.

Click here for the details of that “best practice” program.

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The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) has released Phase 3 of its national golf course environmental profile. It’s the most detailed summary of the relationship between golf and water in the United States. It’s broken down into seven (7) agronomic regions, one of which is the Southwest. Most compelling among the statistics revealed in the Southwest Region’s overview are the ones involving overall declines in water usage and steep declines in irrigated acreage. Click here to read the full report.

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The California Legislature is back in session for its final push toward the end of the 2022 session. Only those bills that get through both houses of the legislature by midnight August 31 move forward to the Governor for signature or veto. Given that AB 672/1910 failed in its house of origin’s Appropriations processes not once but twice, it is highly unlikely that there is any shenanigan that outgoing Assembly Member Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) can pull to resurrect any of its contents this session, and given that she’ll be leaving the Assembly at the end of the year, she won’t be bringing it back in 2023. But that’s not to say that someone else won’t bring it or something like it back. We will remain vigilant on both counts – end of session shenanigans and the 2023 session.

There is one bill that has moved from Assembly to Senate that we are watching with interest – AB 2201 (Bennett; D-Ventura). Called the “Community Drinking Water Protection Act,” the bill proposes that new wells can be permitted only after proof is provided that they will not harm drinking water or otherwise obstruct sustainable groundwater management. If the bill as now written were passed into law, groundwater sustainability agencies would have to confirm that all well-drilling permit applications align with the sustainability plan for their basin. Applicants for permits would have to supply a report showing that their wells would not harm communities, and communities would be allowed to weigh in with comment during a mandatory 30-day public posting period. While clearly aimed at those California counties in the Central Valley and along California’s Central Coast that have permitted new wells in high priority basins, the law as now written would also apply to the sinking of new wells in medium priority basins as well. Given that there is significant opposition in the Senate from agricultural districts, there is some chance that the bill can be amended to apply only to the higher priority groundwater basins, leaving those basins currently in a state of replenishment (e.g., Coachella Valley) outside the confines of the additional regulatory hurdles.

While not a bill per se, we are also paying close heed to Senator Dave Cortese’s (D-San Jose) expressed desire to float a bill in 2023 that would short circuit local zoning prerogatives and CEQA for privately held golf courses that have been closed for at least 5 years. Depending on details not yet formulated, there can be some devils in there for the greater California golf community. Anything that smacks of obviating normative land use planning processes for golf courses and golf courses only is a potential slippery slope reminiscent of the most troubling aspect of the just concluded AB 672/1910 saga. Cortese is said to be open to stakeholder input in the development of the bill’s “details,” and golf will certainly take him up on that professed openness.

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To be filed under golf’s need to be very careful in determining the arguments it chooses to lead with, we share the following from the front page of the Arizona Republic’s Sunday July 31 edition. In response to the Arizona Golf Alliance’s assertion about the Arizona golf sector representing $4.6 billion of economic activity, the newspaper wrote the following: “And though $4.6 billion is a lot of money, it represented just 1.2% of Arizona’s economy in 2019.” Ouch!

Maybe now you can better understand why SCGA never injected one word about golf’s economic heft in its campaign against AB 672/1910 and rarely if ever suggests economic impact as among the top ten reasons why golf courses are good for the communities in which they are located.

The fact that economic heft is such a weak argument is no stranger to us, precisely because we are among the few in the golf advocacy universe accountable for achieving measurable results. We’re not alone, but we are lonely. We don’t have the luxury of platitudes, homiletics, deracinated statistics, or facts isolated from the contexts that matter most to policymakers. It’s not that their invocation is beneath us; it’s just that we’ve found that on their own, they move little. And “move” is what we’re asked to do.

Archived Updates

Opposition to Assembly Bill 1910

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Are you interested in becoming an advocate for golf in California? The CGCOA is seeking amateur golfers who are passionate about protecting the game of golf and promoting public policies that enable golf to flourish in California. Take the next step to becoming an advocate for golf by completing the attached Golf is Good Ambassador Application.

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FORE - Public Affairs

FORE - The magazine of the SCGA. Find archived Public Affairs articles on the website of the SCGA's award winning quarterly publication.

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Four Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion yesterday that seeks to crack down on what the motion describes as “black-market tee time brokers” who book and resell city golf course tee times for profit.

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Every year there seems to be one bill filed in one house of the California Legislature that keeps the California golf community up at night.

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