By Robert LaHue

A controversial flood control bill cleared the state Senate on Wednesday and is headed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

AB 930, by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, will give the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency the power to acquire land easements, including those outside SAFCA boundaries.

The bill passed the Senate 24-11, with all 11 no votes coming from Republicans.

Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, whose district includes Yuba and Sutter counties, opposed the bill, saying such easements would allow SAFCA to flood areas of rural counties to ease pressure on levees protecting urban Sacramento.

Speaking against the bill on the Senate floor, Aanestad said the legislation would “destroy” development in the two counties.

“We know that in the winter when it rains, and in the spring when the snow melts, the water has to go somewhere,” he said. “But the solution proposed by (SAFCA) is to have it go into my district. Folks, we’re talking only about my district.”

Aanestad said he was also concerned about how eminent domain may come into play in the acquisition of easements.

“I admit it’s a willing seller proposition by SAFCA – but it will be done in coordination with the state Department of Water Resources – which does have the power of eminent domain,” he said.

Aanestad also echoed concerns of the Sutter County Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Flood Control Funding about the county’s veto power.

“It’s not clear,” Aanestad said in a phone interview following the vote. “The wording is such that the supervisors think they have veto power.”

But Aanestad said the veto could be on the end of an eminent domain end-around.

“If you get two or three willing sellers in a flood plain, and there’s five or six (property owners), it’s feasible DWR would go to those remaining property owners and say, ‘Hey, look, half your fellow owners (are selling).’”

Aanestad was pleased with the 11 no votes, including two from members of the Natural Resources and Water Committee who earlier voted for the bill.

“At that time, there was no opposition,” Aanestad said. “It kind of slipped through.”

The bill passed the Assembly 65-8 in June. Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who represents Sutter County, voted no. Yuba County’s representative, Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, did not vote.

During their Aug. 14 meeting, Sutter County supervisors voted 3-2, with Stan Cleveland and Jim Whiteaker in the minority, to send a letter to SAFCA and to Jones in appreciation for bill amendments, including the veto power.

Today, Yuba County supervisors will vote on sending letters to Aanestad and to Jones asking for rights of first refusal if SAFCA seeks to acquire an easement in the county.

The last day to amend bills is Friday, said Russ Brown, Yuba County’s communications & legislative affairs coordinator.

But since the AB 930 passed Wednesday, there’s not much chance for such wording to be added. But the board will still consider sending the letter since it could still be seen by Schwarzenegger.

“It’s still important to let it be known where Yuba stands,” Brown said.

Aanestad said he has no idea what Schwarzenegger will do with the bill.

“I intend to send him a letter showing him that several members of the Senate have opposed this bill, and I’m hoping he will veto it,” the senator said. “However, with environmental issues such as this, its really hard to predict which way he’ll go.”