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Wolk slams business as usual Delta management


by Dan Bacher

March 9, 2010 -- State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) strongly criticized the Department of Water Resources and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Bay Delta Conservation Plan for moving "full speed ahead" on the path to the construction of a peripheral canal even before the Delta Stewardship Council is appointed.
Wolk issued her March 9th statement following a joint hearing of State Assembly and Senate committees on the funding and implementation of the 2009 legislative package on water.
It is business as usual, and discouraging," said Wolk, a member of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, which convened the informational hearing along with the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife. "My worst fears were confirmed today. The train has left the station and is not stopping for anything, including the Delta Stewardship Council."
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, in collaboration with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, rammed the water policy/water bond package through a special session of the Legislature in early November 2009 in face of massive opposition by fishing groups, California Indian Tribes, Delta farmers, northern California water agencies, environmental justice advocates and the vast majority of the state's environmental organizations.
Wolk and other Delta legislators, including Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), Senator Mark Desaunier (D-Concord) and Alyson Huber (D-El Dorado Hills), opposed the legislation because they feared it would only clear the path to the construction of a peripheral canal and the Delta's destruction. Today their fears were completely realized.
The whole thrust of this Delta reform legislation was to ensure that the Delta would have a true steward with independent and transparent decision-making authority to craft a plan for the Delta," said Wolk. "Unfortunately, the testimony given today shows that the Department of Water Resources and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan are moving full speed ahead, executing contracts and making decisions even before the Delta Stewardship Council is appointed. This is a 50-year plan, so it needs to be done right, not rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline."
Wolk also criticized the lack of transparency and lack of cooperation of the administration with the Legislature and others in the implementation of this legislation that was falsely promoted by Schwarzenegger, Bass and Steinberg as an effort to "protect" and "restore" the Delta.
Before the ink has even dried on this legislation, which was supposed to change everything, we are seeing not only a lack of transparency, but a lack of collaboration with the legislature, local government, and the people on the ground," added Wolk. "On its current trajectory, the Delta Stewardship Council, once appointed, will have little ability to exercise its independent authority to develop the Delta Plan. They are being put into a position of doing little more than rubber stamping decisions made by other agencies.
The hearing featured testimony by the same officials that have presided over the collapse of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations - and are supporting the construction of a peripheral canal and new dams. Lester Snow, Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency and Joe Grindstaff, Acting Executive Officer of the Delta Stewardship Council, spoke on the funding for the water package.
Another panel discussed the "progress" towards implementation of the legislative package. This panel included Karen Scarborough, Undersecretary to the California Natural Resources Agency, John McCamman, Director of the Department of Fish and Game, Tom Howard, Chief Deputy Director of State Water Resources Control Board, Mark Cowin, Director of the Department of Water Resources and Linda Fiack, Executive Director of the Delta Protection Commission.
The hearing was another "I told you so" moment for advocates of the Delta and the restoration of imperiled California fish populations. We forecasted that this legislative package would only serve the mad plan by Governor Schwarzenegger and his collaborators in the Legislature, Steinberg and Bass, to destroy the Delta and increase water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California by building peripheral canal and Temperance Flat and Sites reservoirs.
We must now hold accountable those legislators and the several "Big Green" environmental NGOs that backed the water package, since it will likely result in the extinction of collapsing populations of Sacramento River salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales. Not only will the canal facilitated by the water package be environmentally devastating, but it will cost an outlandish $23 billion to $53.8 billion that will indebt Californians for decades to come.
Unfortunately, the "Big Green" NGO's who pushed the water package are among the same ones who support Governor Schwarzenegger's corrupt Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process. Just as the MLPA Initiative serves only to kick fishermen, Indian Tribal members and seaweed harvesters to pave the path for oil drilling, wave energy projects and privatization of the ocean, the water package will only result in the destruction of the Bay-Delta Estuary by building a peripheral canal and more dams.
There is nothing "green" about Schwarzenegger's insane campaign to build a peripheral canal and new dams - and the legislative water policy/water bond package that facilitates his path to environmental destruction - just as there is nothing "green" about the MLPA process. The MLPA and BDCP are the false "green" paths to corporate privatization of OUR public trust resources.