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Marc Levine appointed chairman of Assembly’s water and parks committee

When it comes to state politics, few issues are as contentious as water and parks.

North Coast Assemblyman Marc Levine will be navigating those treacherous waters next year after he assumes the chair of the state Assembly’s Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

Reached at home Thursday, the San Rafael Democrat called his appointment to the committee by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins an “honor.”

Levine was elected to his second term in the Assembly last month. He said among his top committee priorities is assuring that funds appropriated for California’s recently enacted $7.2 billion water bond are spent according to the law.

He did not offer specifics for which water projects he supports. Among other things, the bond includes $2.7 billion for water storage and $1.5 billion for watershed restoration projects, as well as $810 million allocated on a regional basis for water projects, including more than $90 million for the North Coast and San Francisco Bay regions.

Levine said the committee’s oversight role is “to ensure that those bonds are spent appropriately and judiciously to advance the sustainability of California’s water supply, in accordance with the law.”

Water storage is an issue on the North Coast, including in Mendocino County, where some advocate raising Coyote Dam at Lake Mendocino in order to increase capacity.

Levine said he did not know enough about that proposal to comment on it. But he did signal tacit support for modifying current flood control policies at Lake Mendocino in an effort to make more water available for use during thirstier summer months.

Local officials sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers on March 4 asking it to deviate from normal practice by storing an additional 17,000 acre-feet of water at Lake Mendocino during the winter compared to a normal year, in the event of another dry spring. The Corps has not responded to that request.

Levine said such a deviation is “something we need to look at” as long as rivers and streams “have the water they need.”

Levine also will play a key role with legislation tied to California’s parks system, which has been beset for years with budget and management problems.

Parks Forward, a blue-ribbon commission created by the state Legislature to address the problems, is expected to release its final report soon. The overarching goal is the transformation of the state’s sprawling network of 280 parks into a modern, integrated system that takes advantage of current technology and bolsters partnerships between public and private entities.

“Parks have had their problems, but I think they’ve found their way, and the Parks Forward recommendations hopefully will be helpful to advancing the parks systems that all Californians enjoy,” Levine said.

He said he supports public and private partnerships for parks. In Sonoma County, nonprofit agencies operate Jack London State Historic Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Austin Creek State Recreation Area.

Levine said such partnerships have “been an amazing success keeping our parks open.”

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter ?@deadlinederek.

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