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SoCal water agency to vote on support for rider banning Delta Tunnels lawsuits
by Dan Bacher
Saturday Jun 16th, 2018 12:11 PM
Representative Ken Calvert's rider would set a dangerous legal precedent if approved by Congress. “The elimination of judicial review foreshadows a regressive slide from a government controlled by laws to a government controlled by rulers,” summed up Bob Wright, Senior Attorney at Friends of the River.
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The Municipal Water District (MWDOC) of Orange County staff has recommended that its board of directors support a rider to a federal spending bill introduced by Representative Ken Calvert that would ban lawsuits against Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels plan.

The MWDOC Public Affairs & Legislation Committee will vote on a resolution supporting the controversial rider at the committee's meeting on Monday, June 18.

The rider would set a dangerous legal precedent if approved by Congress. “The elimination of judicial review foreshadows a regressive slide from a government controlled by laws to a government controlled by rulers,” summed up Bob Wright, Senior Attorney at Friends of the River. 

MWDOC is a wholesale water supplier and resource planning agency serving the Orange County area — and a vocal proponent of the California WaterFix. It is a member agency of the powerful Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California. 

Both of California’s U.S. Senators,  Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, are opposing Calvert’s rider, while Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Governor Jerry Brown have remained silent on the rider.

“Despite Senator Dianne Feinstein's well-documented opposition to Congressman Ken Calvert’s (R-Corona) rider that would exempt the Delta tunnels (CA WaterFix) project from further judicial review, Metropolitan Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) staff has recommended that its board of directors support the controversial rider with a resolution vote at Monday’s, June 18, 2018 MWDOC board meeting,” according to a press release from RTD. “Separately, Senators Feinstein and Harris have voiced their opposition to the rider, indicating that they will fight the litigation ban when the appropriations bill enters the Senate.”

On May 21, Senator Feinstein wrote a letter to the Chairmen of the Appropriations Committee to register her strong opposition to the rider. “WaterFix should only proceed subject to the full scrutiny of our state and federal laws and our established institutions, including review by independent judges,” wrote Feinstein.

Senator Harris took a public position against the rider in a press email written by her press secretary Tyrone Gayle on Tuesday, June 12, in response to a query by The Press of Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Brentwood and Antioch: https://www.thepress.net/news/controversial-california-waterfix-bill-on-the-table/article_f9252418-6f6e-11e8-99e0-2b701a027fbe.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=user-share

“Senator Harris is opposed to any efforts to subvert California’s rights and waive federal environmental laws through the elimination of judicial review. If this legislation advanced to the Senate, Senator Harris would want that provision stripped before its consideration,” Gayle explained.

Senator Harris’ recent press announcement follows accusations by two public interest groups, Food and Water Watch California and the First Amendment Coalition, that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) violated the Brown Act with a series of closed-door communications preceding their April 10 vote on the California WaterFix.

As a result, MWD will be taking a re-vote on their support for funding for the Delta Tunnels at their meeting on July 10. Read Metropolitan’s response to Food and Water Watch and the First Amendment Coalition here: https://mavensnotebook.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018-06-06_MWD_Response-Letter.pdf

On May 7,  I reported on a Notice of Brown Act Violation and Demand and California Public Records Act Request from Food and Water Watch and the First Amendment Coalition: http://www.dailykos.com/… 

Brett Barber, a MWDOC representative and board director, led the charge to support the tunnels project, as documented in my article and a Voice of San Diego report that details some of the backdoor jockeying efforts that were made to get enough yes votes for the tunnels.   

For example, the Food and Water Watch and First Amendment Coalition cited MWDOC’s April 19th Water Policy Dinner with DWR Director Karla Nemeth, where Brett Barbre explained how Nemeth “worked very closely with MWD and Governor Brown to make phone calls prior to the vote. “

“One of the phone calls he recounts is about the Glendale representative on the MWD board, Zareh Sinanyan, who ‘never shows up at the MWD board anyway for meetings... I had tried calling him, no response. Blois tried calling him, no response. Kightlinger, no response. The only person that was able to get a hold of him was the Governor. And I’m not going to tell you what he did to get a hold of him.”

“It’s worth noting that Barbre and Congressman Calvert share a decades-long political history in addition to their common goal of pushing the tunnels through without proper due process,” RTD stated. 

Then on May 22, 2018, Restore the Delta issued a PRA request including a request for a year’s-worth of communications between Congressman Calvert and Mr. Barbre, but MWD has delayed responding to the PRA, noting that Restore the Delta will receive materials on a ‘rolling basis’ as early as June 28, according to RTD.

Metropolitan Water District and Santa Clara Valley Water District ratepayers are strongly opposed to their districts funding the Delta Tunnels, considered by opponents to be the most environmentally devastating public works project in California history.

The construction of the tunnels would raise water rates without creating one drop of new water, while hastening the extinction of Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, spring-run Chinook salmon, Delta and long fin smelt, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon fisheries. It would destroy San Francisco Bay-Delta and West Coast fisheries, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.