By a solid 10-2 majority, Assembly Bill 2421, authored by Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton), passed out of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on Tuesday, encouraging Delta and environmental activists who are seeking protection of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary and its endangered species from the water-wanting interests, primarily in Southern California.
Berryhill’s legislation, if passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor, would require an independent cost-benefit analysis to be included in the state Department of Water Resources’ Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), before committing the public to pay up to $15 billion dollars to build a peripheral canal or tunnel to divert more Delta water. Voters will be asked this year to commit the state to an additional $11.1 billion dollars for mitigation.
The BDCP, while conducted by the DWR, currently allows water-wanting interests from the Metropolitan water district of Southern California to large corporate Agribusiness in the central valley to control not only what diversion options are studied by the DWR, but also what information is released to the public and even to the legislature, worrying environmentalists.
The MWDSC and Westlands water districts strongly opposed AB2421 and promise to lobby hard against it. Asked if the bill can withstand such strong and powerful opposition, Berryhill legislative director Matt Roman said, “We wouldn’t have introduced the bill if we didn’t think we had a good chance of it passing. It’s hard to argue against fiscal responsibility for California taxpayers,” Roman told the Examiner.
Roman noted that the water-wanters are promoting an estimated 127,000 new jobs should Californians see fit to pass the water bond this year. “But they don’t say how many jobs will be lost in the San Joaquin valley if the water is diverted,” said Roman. Many of the jobs that would be created by the project would be temporary, while the jobs lost would be permanent, claimed Roman.
Northern Californians have not been as united in concern about the Delta since the passage of the Burns-Porter Act in 1960, when only Butte County voted in favor of the water conveyance measure.
At the time, the Burns-Porter act was touted as “the permanent solution” to California’s water woes. But developers successfully fought against any effort to manage growth and the sudden abundance of water in a region that once only sustained 100,000 indigenous people now houses 28 million.
Environmentalists claim Delta species like the Chinook salmon, smelt , sturgeon, split tail and other fish and birds whose populations have been decimated by the California aqueduct are in danger of extinction as water interests from Southern California, attempting to replace Colorado River reductions, now contaminated San Fernando Valley groundwater and Owens Valley and Mono lake water resources, are in control of the state’s BDCP environmental impact reports. Such conflict of interest has been the long story of California’s water wars over water rights and environmental wrongs throughout the state’s history.