Questionable alliances (1)

This past week, Restore the Delta learned that Laura King Moon, Assistant General Manager of the State Water Contractors, is on loan to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to assist with communications regarding the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

Said Natural Resources Secretary John Laird in a letter to Jared Huffman, Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee, “ Ms. Moon’s history with the project, as well as her experience working with the many stakeholders concerned with the BDCP, will be a significant asset to DWR in achieving timely completion of this critical effort.”

We cried “Foul!”

Someone responding to a publication of our comments on the subject thought we were being silly.  After all, the writer commented, it made sense for DWR to find out what the customers wanted from the BDCP by having a representative of the customers on staff.

That’s one way of framing the situation: Water is a commodity, the State of California is a purveyor of that commodity, and the water contractors are customers.

But there’s another way to frame the situation.  Water is a public trust resource.  The State of California is a steward of that resource.  And the water contractors are just some of the many users who have a right to the state’s waters.

Furthermore, the BDCP is neither the best nor the only way to address the challenges of the Delta.  It is just the way with the most powerful backing.

DWR employees who work most closely with the water contractors seem to get myopic about this.  For example, last week we wrote about two reports generated for DWR officials that emphasized the importance of Delta levees in protecting state assets.  But it appears that some people at DWR don’t want these findings to get into the EIR for the Delta Plan because they might undermine the argument for the BDCP as the best “fix.”

We’ve seen the arrogance of DWR employees trying to get entry to private property in the Delta to do investigations in support of a canal or tunnel.  They insist they have statutory authority to do just about anything they want for the benefit of the State Water Project.

Never mind that much of the water intended for the State Water Project was never developed and will never be. Never mind that the Water Board has issued water rights permits and licenses in the Delta watershed that exceed the average annual flow by a factor of 8.4 times.  Never mind that conveyance in the Delta has neither final approval nor guaranteed funding.  In short, never mind that the State should be backpedaling as fast as it can from this last, unfinished phase of the State Water Project, this 20th century solution to a 21st century problem.

There’s a faction at DWR that is determined to midwife this delivery.

Last week, an analyst from the Legislative Analyst’s Office described the relationship between the State Water Contractors and DWR as “collaborative.”  We’d call it way too cozy.  The “loan” of the assistant general manager of the State Water Contractors to DWR to work on the BDCP there is just the most recent example of the inappropriate influence exercised by water contractors on the State of California.

For decades, California’s water has been managed as if what was good for the water contractors was good for us all.

It’s our business to keep reminding DWR that that just isn’t true.

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