[env-trinity] Steinberg, Bass Pick Conference Committee/UFW Joins Fight Against Water Bond!

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Wed Sep 2 11:11:54 PDT 2009

Here is my article on the conference committee for the water bills,  
followed by a LA Times article about the UFW joining the fight  
against water bond.


Photo of Bass and Steinberg courtesy of Darrell Steinberg's office.


Steinberg, Bass Pick Conference Committee to Push Peripheral Canal

by Dan Bacher

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and  
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass yesterday (September 1) named the  
conferees to a politically stacked conference committee to  
“reform” California’s water system in what appears to be a  
thinly-veiled attempt to build the multi-billion dollar Peripheral  

The conference committee will vote on a package of five water bills  
that Delta advocates believe will serve as a “road map” to the  
canal. Conspicuously missing from the 14 member committee are Delta  
Legislators critical of the canal and water package including Senator  
Lois Wolk (D-Davis), Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), Senator  
Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), and Assemblymember Alyson Huber (D-El  
Dorado Hills). The vast majority of committee members are from  
southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.

The Senate conferees are Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg  
(D-Sacramento), Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Bakersfield),  
Senator Alex Padilla (D- Pacoima), Senator Fran Pavley (D- Agoura  
Hills), Senator Dave Cogdill (R- Modesto), Senator Sam Aanestad (R- 
Grass Valley) and Senator Bob Huff (R- Diamond Bar). Steinberg will  
chair the committee.

The Assembly conferees are Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles),  
Assemblymember Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), Assemblymember Jean Fuller  
(R-Bakersfield), Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael),  
Assemblymember Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), Assemblymember Jim  
Nielsen (R-Gerber), Assemblymember Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim).

“I’m confident the Assembly’s conference committee members will  
attack the decades-old challenge before us with gusto and with the  
goal of producing a responsible and comprehensive plan that ensures a  
safe, clean and sufficient water supply for California that meets the  
needs of our environment and our economy,” Karen Bass said.  
“It’s a difficult challenge but do-able -- and do-able in the  
right way.”

However, opponents of the canal were outraged that the committee  
appears to be stacked to produce a pre-determined outcome – the  
peripheral canal and increased water diversions to corporate  
agribusiness and southern California at the expense of Delta farms  
and collapsing Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations.  
Sacramento River chinook salmon, green sturgeon, Delta smelt, longfin  
smelt, striped bass, Sacramento splittail, American shad and striped  
bass have declined to record low population levels in recent years,  
due to massive increases in Delta water exports and declining water  

“There are no legislators from the Delta region on the committee  
other than Steinberg," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign  
director of Restore the Delta (http://www.restorethedelta.org). “It  
also appears that the majority of the Senate appointments are not  
only pro-canal, but they support making large expenditures for water  
infrastructure at a time when the state is in a great economic  

“The omission of Legislators from the Delta is a grievous  
oversight,” said Bill Jennings, excecutive director of the  
California Sportfishing Protection Allianch (http://www.calsport.org).

Steinberg yesterday announced that the first conference committee  
meeting Tuesday would take place at 3 p.m. Tueday, but that hearing  
was cancelled. The committee was rescheduled to meet today September  
2, at 9:00 a.m. in State Capitol room 4203. It will also meet  
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday upon call of the chair in the same  
room, room 4203.

“The conference has until Tuesday, September 8 to bring a final  
conference report to the floor of both houses,” according to a news  
release from Steinberg's office. “A conference report can only be  
brought to the floor if eight conferees (four from the Senate and  
four from the Assembly) sign the conference report.”

A broad coalition of recreational fishing groups, commercial fishing  
organizations, environmental groups, Delta farmers and California  
Indian Tribes is opposing the Legislature's attempt to push through a  
water package that they say would reshape California water policy and  
support the construction of a peripheral canal, Governor Arnold  
Schwarzenegger’s “Big Ditch.” They characterize the water deal  
as “backdoor attack” on 130 years of California water law and  
legal precedent and the Public Trust Doctrine.

“The similarities between this backroom water deal, which has left  
Delta communities and fishing representatives out of the process, and  
energy deregulation are startling,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The  
proposed package would allow the legislature to give up their  
authority on oversight and costs regarding future decision regarding  
the Delta (including new conveyance) to a seven member appointed  
council, with six of the appointees coming from outside the Delta.”

The Council would have the authority to authorize the construction of  
the peripheral canal. A draft economic report by Steven Kasower of  
the Strategic Economic Applications Company, released to the  
California Legislature last Tuesday, reveals that the costs for the  
construction of a peripheral canal around the California Delta or a  
tunnel under the estuary would be much higher than previously  
estimated, ranging from $23 billion to $53.8 billion depending upon  
the conveyance facility.

“The canal, a 48-mile long ditch comparable in size to the Panama  
Canal, won't make more water for California,” Barrigan-Parrilla  
stated. “It will just ship water from the north to Western Central  
Valley Agribusiness - at the expense of Delta fisheries and Delta  
family farmers.”

Jennings slammed Steinberg's cynical attempt to ram the water bills  
through the Legislature for political gain. "Steinberg seems to  
believe that, given the Legislature's current 9-11% approval rating,  
a water package is essential in order to improve the public's  
perception of the Legislature - regardless of merits of the bills -  
regardless of their effects on one of the great estuarine treasures  
of the world," he said.

Jennings also said the push for the canal is "sadly reminiscent" of  
the "mad rush" to the $50 billion energy deregulation fiasco. "If  
Steinberg wishes to avoid becoming the Senator Peace, of energy  
deregulation fame, perhaps he should consider that a vast majority of  
his constituents are opposed to a peripheral canal,” he concluded.

A poll of 800 registered voters throughout California released Monday  
indicates all segments of voters are strongly opposed to a Peripheral  
Canal and nearly half oppose a bond for new dams, reservoirs or other  
water infrastructure projects. The poll also disclosed that voters  
believe that ensuring a long-term reliable water supply is a "very  
high priority."

Ruth Bernstein and Tom Patras of EMC Research in Oakland, CA  
conducted the statewide voter survey on water issues on behalf of  
Restore the Delta from August 23-27, 2009. For a full copy of the  
report, go to http://www.calsport.org/DeltaWaterPollMemo.pdf

“There are better ways in terms of cost and environmental  
effectiveness to make more water for California, such as water  
recycling, floodplain restoration, groundwater cleanup and  
desalinization, stormwater capture and reuse,” stated Barrigan- 
Parrilla. “This needs to be the center of California's water policy,  
especially in an era of excessive deficits.”

Barrigan-Parrilla and Jennings urged everybody concerned about the  
future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its imperiled fish  
populations, farms and people to immediately contact Senate President  
pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to make clear their displeasure with his  
promotion of this water package. His Capitol office number is (916)  

To sign an on line petition against the peripheral canal and to send  
a quick email to committee chairs, go to http://www.calsport.org.

 From Yesterday's LA Times: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/ 

Farmworkers union has $1-million war chest to fight water bonds
September 1, 2009 |  5:52 pm
A new ripple appeared today in the fragile negotiations to overhaul  
California’s water system, as the United Farm Workers union reported  
receiving a $1-million donation that it could use to fight a possible  
water bond.

With 10 days left before the end of the legislative year, lawmakers  
and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are scurrying to forge agreement on  
measures to stabilize the state’s water supply and restore the  
delicate ecosystem in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Schwarzenegger has insisted that a water bond be part of any  
overhaul, to fund new storage capability underground and through  
dams. Farming interests also support a bond.

The farmworkers union, which historically has not been flush with  
cash, reported that the $1-million donation was made to a political  
action committee called “United Farm Workers’ Committee to Oppose  
Statewide Water Bonds.”

The union declined to comment about the money, which came from Change  
to Win, a national labor coalition.

A water bond proposal would require voter approval.

Earlier today, state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento),  
said a water overhaul was his No. 1 priority now.

"I want to get water done," he said. "The administration wants to get  
it done. Many of the stakeholders want to get it done."

--Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

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