Brown Administration Official Comments Stir Up Water Debate

Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Wades in too deep

by Brian Leubitz

Anytime you say anything “isn’t worth saving” you know you are going to have a problem in an environmentally sensitive state like California. When it is about the San Francisco Bay Delta, you know trouble is ahead.

And that’s why the recent quote from Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Jerry Meral have been getting so much attention.

Advocates Tom Stokely and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said Meral’s comments were made during a casual conversation with Stokely at an April 15 event.

According to Barrigan-Parrilla, head of Stockton-based Restore the Delta, Meral said that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not about saving the Delta, and that the Delta cannot be saved. She said Friday that she was standing a short distance away when she heard the comments, and wrote them down. Stokely said Friday that her account is correct. …

“We did not put the statement out for publicity gain or just to try to embarrass somebody,” Barrigan-Parrilla said Friday. “The reason we let this statement out was to show the true intent” of the tunnels project, which she believes to be increasing the amount of water shipped to southland farms and cities.(Stockton Record / HuffPo)

Water has always been one of the deepest divisions between the North and South of the state. After Southern California figured out, despite the so-called California Water Wars that there just wasn’t enough water to support the level of development that they were anticipating, eyes in LA and surrounding communities turned north. The seeming abundance of water, especially in the 19th century, was simply too attractive to ignore. And the Delta has always been the focal point of the environmental leaders opposing the mass water transportation projects.

State law already calls for Delta conservation, and Natural Resources Secretary said the comments do not comport with Administration position:

Wolk and other senators grilled top Brown Administration members at a committee hearing Tuesday.  Meral’s boss, Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, said that comment doesn’t reflect the Administration’s position.

Laird says some Delta lawmakers could never agree to any project that takes water from the Delta, so the challenge is “how can we listen to them closely and move as close as we can to their position – even if they can’t agree.” (Capital Radio)

That is a very tough balance to strike. The Delta is the lifeblood of the Pacific Flyway and brings bountiful life and ecological diversity to our state. Giving up on it simply isn’t an option, but agricultural interests are still eyeing the water that flows into the Delta. Mass diversion will probably increase with changing climate conditions, but if we completely let the Delta go, we are losing just as precious of a resource as any we could seek to gain through the water transportation.

Capital Public radio has an interesting quick piece on the controversy. Find it here or over the fold.

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4 thoughts on “Brown Administration Official Comments Stir Up Water Debate”

  1. there are a ton of farmers in the delta as well. it has got some of the best soil in the state.

    the inter-ag conflict here is between junior water rights holding westlands ag imnterests v. senior water rights holding delta farmers.

  2. And the north opposes desalination plants and other ways to get water.  Basicallt they are saying to SoCal. Move out.  How about options instead of being the people of “No”?

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