Senate Leader Atkins’ Bill to Enhance the San Diego River Conservancy Passes Assembly
SACRAMENTO – The California State Assembly passed Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins’ (D-San Diego) SB 1027, legislation that would expand the jurisdictional boundary of the San Diego River Conservancy (SDRC) to include the entire watershed of the San Diego River. The bill also expands the SDRC’s governing board to include a member of the El Cajon City Council and amends the definition of tribal nation to directly reference the Kumeyaay Bands associated with the area.
The SDRC was established in 2002 by legislation sponsored by then-Assemblymember Christine Kehoe to manage, restore, protect, and conserve the riparian and estuarine habitat along the San Diego River. Over the years, its responsibilities have broadened to include protecting and enhancing extensive historic and cultural resources, managing water quality and natural flood conveyance within the watershed, encouraging recreational opportunities, and protecting local wildlife species and native habitat.
“This expansion will not only help the San Diego River Conservancy holistically restore and protect our watershed ecosystem, but will continue a legacy of conservation of this beautiful and delicate resource,” Pro Tem Atkins said. “It also will allow more communities to benefit from the Conservancy’s funding, projects, and responsible management, which is integral in our region.”
The San Diego River area is an historical, archaeological, and biological treasure, with 33 state and national historic landmarks, 23 state and local parks and open spaces, and rich cultural resources. The SDRC plans to expand public access to public lands by constructing and maintaining a 52-mile park and hiking trail system from Ocean Beach to the river’s headwaters near Julian.
Current law defines the SDRC’s jurisdiction to include a half mile on both sides of the San Diego River, its tributaries, streams and creeks, which includes about 90 percent of the watershed. SB 1027 expands the boundaries to include the entire watershed of the San Diego River.
The bill also expands the voting members of the SDRC governing board from 15 to 16 to provide for the equitable inclusion of the City of El Cajon. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report from July 2021, approximately 20 percent of residents in El Cajon live in poverty and 30 percent are immigrants.
SB 1027 builds upon Senator Atkins’ prior legislation, which further strengthened the San Diego River Conservancy. All three bills were signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.
- AB 392, which made the San Diego River Conservancy a permanent agency (2015).
- SB 214, which strengthened the conservancy’s capacity to protect and enhance the San Diego River watershed (2017).
- SB 1367, which created a program allowing the San Diego River Conservancy to help protect and enhance the Otay, Sweetwater, and Tijuana rivers (2018).
SB 1027, which passed the Assembly on a 75-0 vote, now heads to Governor Newsom’s desk for his signature.
Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.senate.ca.gov/Atkins