[env-trinity] FW: NY Times website: "Historic Water Reform package Passes Calif. Legislature"

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Nov 4 10:53:18 PST 2009

More help from Jeff in trying to understand what the legislation does and
doesn't include.





From: Jeff Shellito [mailto:jshellito at comcast.net] 
Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2009 10:47 AM
To: bwl3 at comcast.net
Subject: NY Times website: "Historic Water Reform package Passes Calif.



See dueling quotes between Steve Evans (Friends of the River) and Barry
Nelson (NRDC).  


 <http://www.nytimes.com/>  <http://www.nytimes.com/> The New York Times



November 4, 2009

Historic Water Reform Package Passes Calif. Legislature 

By COLIN SULLIVAN of  <http://www.greenwire.com/> Greenwire

The California Legislature voted early this morning to overhaul the state's
governance of water supply, sending a five-part reform package to Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

A day after the water effort seemed near collapse, Senate leaders managed to
negotiate a settlement to finish their half of the work as the clock ticked
well beyond midnight. Crucially, the Senate passed revised legislation to
enact a groundwater monitoring program, clearing a key roadblock.

With the Senate's work done, the action turned to the lower chamber, where
lawmakers traded blows until about 4 a.m. PST over a comprehensive package
that opponents called an unprecedented expansion of a state bureaucracy that
is already the nation's most extensive. But the Assembly overcame the
protests to pass the four policy sections of the omnibus effort, along with
an $11.14 billion bond measure to finance water projects.

If the governor signs the package, the bond would be placed on the November
ballot next year, as any new debt must be approved directly by voters. The
bond was raised at the last minute in the Assembly from a previous level of
$9.99 billion.

The increase brought a round of reprisals from critics who cited the state's
economic woes and recent budget cuts to core programs like education and
health care. Assemblymember Chuck DeVore (R), a candidate for Sen. Barbara
Boxer's (D) seat in Washington, said the bond measure had been "so bulked up
with pork" it would fail next year.

"This is not the time to put an $11.14 billion bond before the voters,"
Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D) added.

Schwarzenegger, a supporter of the bond, is expected to sign the entire

Core details

The bills moved by the Legislature are nothing if not complex, but they
would essentially accomplish five key goals. The package would:

*	Do away with the long-troubled CalFed program and the Bay Delta
Authority to establish a seven-member governing council to oversee both
restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which supplies water
to 23 million Californians, and future construction of levees, dams, canals
or other water projects.

*	Mandate a 20 percent reduction in urban per capita water use by Dec.
31, 2020.

*	Begin the first-ever groundwater monitoring program in the state,
wresting control of the process from local authorities.

*	Prevent illegal diversions and increase fines for those found
stealing water.

*	Pursue funding for all of the above.

Water monitoring had threatened to derail negotiations this week, but Senate
Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg offered a concession to Republicans who
feared regulators would encroach on private property, writing language into
the final bill that would prohibit regulators from accessing private land
without prior approval.

"It's a fair balance," Steinberg said minutes before the Senate passed the

Elsewhere, many proponents hope the new governing council, with members
appointed by the governor and the Legislature, will be able to cut through
red tape and slow-moving environmental reviews to expand conveyance and
storage facilities. Among the options the council would likely consider once
created is construction of a multibillion-dollar peripheral canal around the
delta to farms and urban users in the south.

Intense debate splits environmentalists

The votes yesterday came after an intense round of lobbying that saw
prominent environmental groups in Sacramento working against each other.

In support of the policy provisions (but not necessarily the bond) were the
Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense
Council and California League of Conservation Voters, among others. Firmly
against it were the Sierra Club, Friends of the River, and Planning and
Conservation League.

To Steve Evans, conservation director of Friends of the River, the backing
of NRDC, in particular, meant implicit support for building a peripheral
canal around the delta. Moreover, Evans took issue with NRDC's claim that it
has no position on the bond, calling it a politically convenient

"NRDC claims that they oppose the bond, but if you pass policy without
funding, it's just a piece of paper," Evans said.

NRDC's Barry Nelson, head of the group's Western Water Project, countered
that his coalition of environmental groups had formed the first "growing
middle" on water legislation in a generation. He noted that the groups had
joined with the Westland Water District, the Orange County Business Council
and others to back Steinberg's package in what amounts to a cease-fire among
common enemies.

"Suffice it to say that NRDC and the Westlands Water District have disagreed
about many things over the years, frequently before a federal judge," Nelson
wrote in a blog post. "But perhaps it is a sign that a truce is possible,
giving us time and breathing room to develop workable solutions."

In a subsequent interview, Nelson said Evans has misrepresented his position
on the bond, for one, and failed to see the big picture in terms of the
environmental restoration provisions that survived into Steinberg's bill.

"This is the most ambitious water reform bill the state has considered in a
quarter-century," Nelson said. "There are a number of new protections for
the delta that we don't have under current law that make this a far stronger

Among those protections is a provision that would require the state to
determine how much water the delta needs to keep fish alive and save the
ecosystem from further destruction. "Environmentalists have been trying to
get that determination made for 23 years," Nelson said. "It's enormously

But Evans said the legislation would drag water lawyers into court for a
decade and result in more infrastructure, more debt and less water for all
parties concerned. He also claims the politically appointed council of seven
would tend to favor throwing money at the problem, to build new
infrastructure instead of advancing aggressive conservation, desalination,
recycling and groundwater management measures.

"A $9 billion bond will cost the taxpayers $576 million a year for 30
years," Evans said. "It's just not feasible, because the state's debt
service on bonds already authorized by the voters will grow to about 10
percent of the state's budget and will contribute to more state funding

Lawmakers were caught in the same debate. A vocal opponent, Sen. Lois Wolk
(D), called the legislation a "litigation haven" that could cost the state
anywhere from $52 billion to $78 billion in new water projects. But
Steinberg, in remarks on the Senate floor, countered that the peripheral
canal was anything but assure, as the council would have to consider all
alternatives and subject its review to the "co-equal" goals of environmental
protection and water supply.

Sullivan, E&E's West Coast bureau chief, is based in San Francisco.

Copyright 2009 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

For more news on energy and the environment, visit www.greenwire.com
<http://www.greenwire.com/> .



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