by Dan Bacher
After an all night session, the California Legislature on November 4 passed a water package including an $11.1 billion bond that provides a clear path to the construction of the peripheral canal and more dams. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger then signed the bills that he described as "an historic legislative package to reform and rebuild California's water system" during a series of press conferences and highly choreographed photo opportunities over the past week.
While Schwarzenegger and Darrell Steinberg lauded the package for being an “historic compromise,” Delta legislators, fishermen and Indian Tribes slammed the legislation for leading to the destruction of the Delta, its farms and its fish.
"Water is the lifeblood of everything we do in California," said Schwarzenegger. "Without clean, reliable water, we cannot build, we cannot farm, we cannot grow and we cannot prosper. That is why I am so proud that the legislature, Democrats and Republicans, came together and tackled one of the most complicated issues in our state's history. This comprehensive water package is an historic achievement."
Schwarzenegger praised the efforts of his Democratic collaborator, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, to push the water policy and bond package through the legislature. "He has been a tireless leader, a relentless advocate for the environment and a true statesman,” said Steinberg.
Steinberg claimed the legislation enacts “landmark improvements to the environment and investments in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – the heart of California’s water supply system – to ensure the restoration of the Delta’s fragile ecosystem while enhancing water reliability for all Californians.”
“Over the last several decades, numerous efforts to comprehensively address the state’s water problems have consistently failed,” Steinberg gushed. “But the Senate this week rose to the occasion, overcoming enormous regional, philosophical, and political obstacles to forge an historic, bipartisan compromise.”
On October 11, Schwarzenegger issued a proclamation calling for the legislature to meet in an extraordinary session to address California's water crisis, in effect strong arming the legislature to pass the water package that he wanted.
While the Legislature approved the water policy and bond measures, they killed a bill by Assemblywoman Alsyon Huber that would prohibit the construction of a peripheral canal around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta without a full fiscal analysis and a vote of the state legislature.
“I offered up a simple bill, a common sense approach,” Huber stated. “Unfortunately, my bill was killed without a hearing.” She vowed that she will resubmit this bill so it will have a full debate.
“I opposed the water package because it creates a new layer of bureaucrats who will make decisions on water that will impact the communities I represent, without allowing us to have a voice, “ she emphasized. “I opposed the bond, especially because of the billions in pork for LA. This dead of night pork giveaway is exactly why voters give us low marks.”