by Dan Aiello –
Wolk’s action came in response to being notified by Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) that her legislation would be amended in a Conference Committee with provisions Senator Wolk and the five Delta counties opposed. Wolk has been replaced with Senators Steinberg and Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) as the authors of SB 458.
“The package of water bills being jammed through the legislature does not solve our water problems and what’s worse, new and serious issues are being identified each day,” said Yamada in a statement released yesterday announcing her opposition to S.B. 458 as well as all five water bills.
“As an Assemblymember whose district encompasses one of the largest areas of the Delta primary zone, I cannot support legislation written without a strong Delta voice. I understand we need to act quickly to save the Delta, but we also need a better understanding of the short and long-term impacts of our actions. The best way to do that is to hear these bills during the interim in a special session.”
Asked why Senator Wolk, with more than two decades experience dealing with water and conservation issues in the delta would not have been assigned to the senate water resource committee, Steinberg spokesperson Alicia Trost said, “Senator Steinberg represents the Delta on the committee.”
“The people of the Delta cannot support this bill because it exports water at our expense,” said Yamada.
Senator Wolk’s office expressed similar concern about amended language to S.B. 458 that would allow the recipients of the water to avoid paying for the consequences to delta communities that are forced to move pumps and other adjustments should water export proponents get their wish of removing half the delta’s water south.
“We think [this legislative package] treats the delta like a colony where its resources can be shipped off to other parts of the state,” said Friends of the River’s Steve Evans, who is amused by water export proponents claim their goal is to restore the delta. “We wouldn’t need to restore the delta if we weren’t taking half of its water.” Evans told CPR that no other region of California is treated like the Delta, where its water resource is considered a state commodity up for grabs by special interests who are attempting to jam this water legislation through.
Evans claims that the Republicans will attach, most likely authored by Cogdill, a $12 billion dollar bond package in preparation for the canal construction. “That bond will cost Californians $800 million dollars every year for the next 30 years. That’s fiscal insanity,” believes Evans.
“The artificial deadline of having to pass this legislation by the end of the legislative session will make for bad law,” said Evans, who “doesn’t understand why” Steinberg would capitulate to the Governor’s threat to veto all legislation if he doesn’t get the water legislation he wants.
“We need a better understanding of the legislation being considered,” agreed Yamada, who believes a special session is the best way to go.
“What began as a sincere effort to create a state and local partnership to restore the Delta and sustain the Delta communities and economy is becoming, day by day, amendment by amendment, a tool to assist water exporters who are primarily responsible for the Delta’s decline,” stated Wolk. “It is regrettable. Without the Delta communities as working partners in this effort it is unlikely to succeed.”
Friends of the River is urging the California Legislature to reject today’s last minute rush to pass a combined Delta water policy and water bond package.
“It’s likely that whatever will be voted on in the next 24 hours will not even be available in print for review by either individual Legislators or the public. This is no way to conduct the public’s business. A similarly rushed and flawed process resulted in the passage of complex energy deregulation legislation in 1996 that nearly bankrupted the state and caused energy brown-outs nine years ago,” read the organization’s statement.
Dan Aiello is a reporter with the California Progress Report. Article originally appeared there. Used by permission.