Legislature Will Authorize Council, Try To Bypass Public Input For Canal Construction

Posted on 04 August 2009

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Barbara-Parrilla.jpg By Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla
Campaign Director
Restore the Delta

Restore the Delta has heard that language for water bill legislation will finally at some point. We also understand that rather than authorizing a peripheral canal directly, the proposed legislation will call for the creation of a water council, which will have the authority to implement the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which in turn is calling for the construction of the peripheral canal (also known in politically correct terms as new conveyance).

This proposed water council would then be able to operate without any legislative oversight and without any public input. Theoretically, it could become one of the most powerful political bodies in the State, yet it would not be held accountable for its decisions to voters or their representatives.

While the legislature is working out the details of this legislative shell game, public hearings have been brushed aside, as the bill is slated to move to a conference committee. Traditionally, conference committees are utilized for fiscal matters. However, as reported by John Howard in this week's Capitol Weekly, "There are exceptions, such as the 1990s committees that deregulated California's workers compensation insurance and electricity markets." Not exactly reassuring examples of what conference committees produce for the public good.

This type of legislative process is not transparent, and from what we know today (prior to being able to read any specific bill), this proposed legislation is offering up a governance system that leaves Delta communities and fishery representatives out of future governance decisions.

Meanwhile, Governor Schwarzenegger continues in his leading role as the primary proponent of the peripheral canal - a project that will end up costing $10 to $20 billion dollars before environmental mitigation costs and that will fail to make any more water for California. We are amazed that our knife- wielding Governor can gut education and healthcare for children, while at the same time continuing to push for water projects that the state clearly cannot afford.

This is not a simple case of misguided priorities. Clearly Governor Schwarzenegger is so beholden to his corporate agribusiness supporters on the Westside of the Central Valley that he will use whatever political capital he has left to try to bring about the most expensive water grab in history - whatever the cost to Californians.

Restore the Delta is a grassroots campaign of residents and organizations committed to restoring the California Delta so that its waters are fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable.