[env-trinity] LA Times August 5 2009
bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Aug 5 12:46:19 PDT 2009
Democratic lawmakers introduce bills to deal with California water policy
By Bettina Boxall
Democratic lawmakers unveiled a package of water bills Tuesday that would
create a politically appointed council with power to push through projects
dealing with the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the troubled hub of
The legislation, which deals with issues including conservation, ecosystem
restoration and water rights, aims to break the stalemate over state water
But the proposals are already under fire from some interests that fear the
bills are a blueprint for jamming through big construction projects, such as
a canal that would carry water around the delta.
The legislation, which is to be fleshed out in a conference committee when
lawmakers return to Sacramento later this month, does not specifically
authorize any projects. Rather, it creates the Delta Stewardship Council,
which would have the authority to pursue delta restoration work and a "water
Four of the council's seven members would be appointed by the governor and
two by the Legislature. The seventh would be the chair of the Delta
The bills call for water conservation and delta protections. They would also
set in motion a potentially explosive examination of water rights in the
"Neither the delta ecosystem nor the state's water needs have been well
served by decades of benign neglect," said Silicon Valley Sen. Joe Simitian,
author of one of five bills in the package and chair of the Senate
Environmental Quality Committee. "The system of governance is broken and the
system of conveyance is broken."
Backers hope that a confluence of factors has created a window for action on
the state's water problems, pushed into headlines this year by drought and
environmental restrictions on delta pumping.
They aim to get the package to the Assembly and Senate for floor votes
before the Legislature's adjournment in mid-September.
Only majority approval is required for the bills, meaning Democrats would
need little Republican support. But that does not necessarily mean smooth
Delta farm interests and some environmentalists are wary of anything that
could clear the way for a delta canal, a version of which was killed by
California voters in the early 1980s.
"It's a fairly global, comprehensive package," said Jeffrey Kightlinger,
general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California,
which imports water from the delta. "Whenever you do that, you're taking on
a lot of sacred cows."
Kightlinger said he was glad the bills dealt with "most of the major issues
that need to be addressed. The large 'but' is we have concerns with quite a
few of the mechanics of how they want to do it."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has called for construction of new
reservoirs and indicated support for a delta canal, said in a statement that
"fixing California's broken water system cannot be put off any longer; we
must get it done this session.
"I look forward to reviewing their proposal and working in a quick and
bipartisan way toward a comprehensive water plan that focuses on water
supply reliability, conservation, environmental protection and increased
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land
415 519 4810 cell
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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