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Senator Lois Wolk Withdraws Authorship of Delta Conservancy Bill
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Sep 9th, 2009 3:53 PM
In a strongly worded statement, Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) today withdrew her authorship of Senate Bill 458, legislation that would establish a Delta Conservancy, because of her concern than the bill's amended version would serve as a "tool to assist water exporters who are primarily responsible for the Delta's decline."
Senator Wolk withdraws authorship of Delta bill in protest

Groups slam water bill package

by Dan Bacher

In a strongly worded statement, Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) today withdrew her authorship of Senate Bill 458, legislation that would establish a Delta Conservancy, because of her concern that the bill's amended version would serve as a "tool to assist water exporters who are primarily responsible for the Delta's decline."

Wolk took this unusual action after being notified by Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) that her legislation would be amended in a Water 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.

"When I learned that the Conference Committee intended to alter key provisions of the bill, as well as other pieces of the water package, it was clear I could no longer carry this legislation," said Senator Wolk. "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."

Wolk's withdrawal of the legislation authorship comes as a huge, diverse coalition of northern California water agencies, Delta farmers, fishermen, conservationists, environmental justice advocates, California Indian Tribes and others are opposing Steinberg's mad rush to push water legislation through the Capitol by Friday, the last day of the legislative session. They are asking Steinberg and the Committee to delay the legislation, a thinly-veiled road road map to the peripheral canal that greatly undermines the public trust and California water rights law, until next session.

Steinberg, in an effort to push a peripheral canal and water bond that would result in increased water exports out of the imperiled Delta, excluded Wolk, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) and other Delta Legislators from the politically-stacked 14 member Water Conference Committee.

"It is regrettable," said Wolk of the amendments to her bill and the exclusion of Delta legislators and residents from the water bill process. "Without the Delta communities as working partners in this effort it is unlikely to succeed."

The California Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, encompasses five counties, 27 cities and two ports. It provides world class birding, fishing, wind-surfing and hiking—and is home to 500,000 acres of small family farms that produce world class pears, asparagus, wine grapes, and contribute $2 billion to California's economy, according to Wolk.

It provides habitat for 90 percent of California’s chinook salmon, which not only support the West Coast’s $1 billion salmon fishery but are also a critical food source for the southern resident population of killer whales. Unfortunately, record water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California in recent years have resulted in the collapse of Central Valley salmon, green sturgeon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass and other fish populations.

On the same day Wolk withdrew her authorship of SB 458, representatives from Restore the Delta, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, the California Water Impact Network, Friends of the River, Heal the Bay, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, and the Environmental Water Caucus issued a joint statement slamming the "closed-door negotiations masquerading as Joint Water Conference Committee hearings" in the California State Legislature.

“Today’s release of the water bill package just reaffirms what so many of us have become accustomed to when the State Legislature rushes to solve a complex problem," the groups stated. "It was clear from the day Senate President Darrell Steinberg and Speaker Karen Bass appointed the members to the Water Conference committee without including a single member of the State Legislature who represents the heart of the Delta or is committed to protecting the Delta that this committee was just a façade with the sole purpose of producing a public relations ‘win’ for the legislature and the chance to help build the Schwarzenegger legacy, not necessarily to address the real water policy issues that impact all Californians."




The following is the joint statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 9, 2009
Contact: Roger Salazar (for Restore the Delta) (916) 444-8897

Statement from Delta Community, Environment and Fishing Groups on Results of Joint Water Conference Committee Closed-Door Negotiations

Sacramento - Today, representatives from Restore the Delta; the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance; the California Water Impact Network; Friends of the River; Heal the Bay; Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations; the Winnemem Wintu Tribe; and the Environmental Water Caucus issued the following joint statement regarding the closed-door negotiations masquerading as Joint Water Conference Committee hearings in the California State Legislature:

“Today’s release of the water bill package just reaffirms what so many of us have become accustomed to when the State Legislature rushes to solve a complex problem.

“It was clear from the day Senate President Darrell Steinberg and Speaker Karen Bass appointed the members to the Water Conference committee without including a single member of the State Legislature who represents the heart of the Delta or is committed to protecting the Delta that this committee was just a façade with the sole purpose of producing a public relations ‘win’ for the legislature and the chance to help build the Schwarzenegger legacy, not necessarily to address the real water policy issues that impact all Californians.

“Instead of bringing groups together to find common ground on these complex issues the California Legislature has decided to fall back into an all too familiar pattern that includes:

· Making up the rules as they go along without regard to legislative deadlines.
· Writing the legislation in the dark of night without any public input or review.
· Proposing to abdicate their own oversight authority by allowing an unelected body of gubernatorial appointees to make key decisions regarding tens of billions of dollars on water projects, statewide water fees and management of the Delta.

“We agree that water is one of the highest priority issues for our state, but it must be done right and not just right away.

“The last time the Legislature rushed and put water politics over good water policy, the voters responded by overturning the Peripheral Canal via referendum in 1982.

“In the face of recent surveys showing the public would still overwhelmingly reject the legislative water package should it appear before them in 2010 either directly in the form of a bond or indirectly as the result of another referendum, it is astonishing that the Legislature would continue with this charade.” #####