CLU/CERF: Policy, Politics and Prognostication (Part Four)

By Sheryl Hamlin

This is Part Four in a multi-part article of the CLU/CERF 2016 Ventura County Forecast meeting held on November 10, 2016 at the Serra Center in Camarillo.

In Part One, Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee, gave the political outlook for the state as well as thoughts on a possible recession. In Part Two, Joel Fox of the Fox and Hounds political blog,

Matthew Fineup

Matthew Fineup

drills down into California Tax issues and the current appetite for more taxation. In Part Three, the founder of CLU/CERF, Dr. Bill Watkins, speaks about Ventura county economy, demographics and anomalies.

The fourth and final segment from the November 10, 2016 meeting presents two innovative land use/planning ideas from Dr. Mathew Fienup. Dr. Fienup had previously participated in the CLU/SOAR dialogue which was reported here. And, it must be noted that during the November 10 meeting, Dr. Fienup was formally passed the crystal ball as the new CLU/CERF Executive Director.

Water Policy as an Agent of the Economy

Dr. Fienup prefaced his talk by explaining that CERF has a long-term involvement in county policy issues, such as the green jobs initiative, California energy policy, oil and gas production, transportation and water.

He explained that he was invited to a meeting expecting to discuss land use issues, but found that the group was deep into California water law.

Because of the devastating drought with well below average precipitation, the county must bank all water possible. However, also because of the drought, there has been long term damage to the ground water storage with levels dropping precipitously. And, since 2011, the underground storage levels have been dropping below sea level which allows sea water intrusion.

The issue, he explained is how we issue water rights. Historically, a property owner can use the water under his land for his own purposes, but may not sell it, although the crops grown with the water may be sold, which is indirectly selling the water, so much California water leaves the state via vegetable and fruit exports.

New Idea. New Market.

The group, consisting of farmers, business and the Nature Conservancy has created a model of fixed allocation, wherein farmers could decide to plant or sell their allocation. Cities would also be able to choose. This gives water users flexibility and theoretically creates sustainability due to the fixed allocations, the sum of which will not exceed the capability of the basins involved.

A similar water market is at work in Nebraska. And, in Australia, he said, the entire country established such a system in 2001 due to the millennium drought where farmers have reported that water trading saved their businesses and improved the quality of water.

This basins are managed by Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency which includes Las Posas, Oxnard and Santa Rosa basins. The growers pitched the idea to Fox Canyon management. Interestingly enough, the new California Water Law SGMA (Strategic Groundwater Management Act) requires local control and management of water, which dovetails perfectly with this plan and the SGMA allows for trading, says Fienup. SGMA reporting appears in numerous previous articles.

The group has named itself “Water Market Group” with 52 members who have held 14 meetings over a seven month period. They have unanimously passed the full structure of the water market for their area and plan for a pilot in 2017.

Because real-time monitoring is essential in this plan, telemetric meters will be required for all meters. A company called Ranch Systems will be providing the monitors.

From Water Policy to Land Use

If you thought that the November 8th election meant an end to land use discussions in Ventura County, you would be wrong. Dr. Fienup has studied the effects of such legislation and concluded that there will always be winners and losers. In the case of SOAR, the property immediately adjacent to the CURB is a winner while other property father from the urban core follows naturally declining values.

He said that during the housing bubble/crisis, cities with urban growth legislation (about 25%) had the biggest losses to value post-crisis. And since SOAR has no policy to help landowners near the CURB, he is researching how to use market ideas.

Tradeable Development Rights

The idea is to identify permanent areas that would receive deed restrictions in perpetuity against development, while other properties would be given “tradable” rights. He mentioned Montgomery County, Maryland as an example.

He hopes to start with a test area near Port Hueneme involving the Nature Company.

Perhaps by inserting market based ideas Mathew Fienup can increase economic activity in Ventura County, which would be his goal.

This is the last of four part in the series.

Part One: HERE Part Two HERE  Part Three HERE

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