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Brown Administration Sidesteps Controversial Delta Comments

May 1, 2013

Top Brown Administration officials wait to testify at a State Senate hearing on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. From left: Charlton Bonham (Director, Dept. of Fish & Wildlife), John Laird (Secretary of Natural Resources) & Mark Cowin (Director, Dept. of Water Resources).
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California lawmakers who represent the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region are seething over recent comments from Governor Jerry Brown’s point man on the state’s proposed water delivery tunnel project.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

The comments come from Brown’s Deputy Natural Resources Secretary, Jerry Meral, about the high-stakes Bay Delta Conservation Plan.  It includes ecosystem restoration efforts and two 30-mile-long underground tunnels.  Meral’s been quoted as saying the plan has “never been about saving the Delta,” and that “the Delta cannot be saved.”  That has the region’s elected officials, like State Senator Lois Wolk, calling for an immediate halt to the project.

“The Delta is in crisis.  It is the heart and soul of the California water system.  And unless it is restored, we’ll have a serious problem with the water supply,” says Wolk.

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.  He says some Delta lawmakers could never agree to any project that takes water from the Delta.

“So how can we listen to them closely and move as close as we can to their position – even if they can’t agree,” says Laird.

The project does not require any further legislative or voter approval, but it does face a lengthy environmental review process that could last into early next year.