California Water Commission sends letter to Secretary Laird outlining SWP recruitment and retention issues

open_letter_with_arrow_around_it_9212As a follow-up to the story, State Water Project reliability: It’s not just about the Delta, the California Water Commission has sent a letter to Secretary Laird outlining the State Water Project’s significant problems of maintaining qualified personnel to work in state facilities, given the disparity of wages between the public and private sectors.

Wages for State Water Project employees are paid by the agencies receiving project water and not the general fund; the water agencies are willing to pay the extra costs to bring wages up to par, but there are labor issues that need to be resolved at the state level before this can occur.

The letter states that the reduced operational availability of equipment and the use of outside contractors are incurring significant additional costs that are being passed on to consumers and businesses.  The letter also points out that after completing a three- or four-year apprenticeship program at considerable cost to DWR, the apprentices often leave for better paying jobs at private utilities.  The letter says that it is also worth noting that the damage from the Thermalito Pumping Plant fire, unmanned at the time, might have been significantly minimized if staff had been on-site.  And this:

“The discussions at the Commission’s April meeting, in addition to previous concerns that have been presented to us, present a compelling case that the inability to maintain the level of skill required to effectively operate and maintain the SWP has increased the risk of catastrophic infrastructure loss and requires immediate action. Failure to address these challenges will exacerbate a problem already costing water users millions of dollars annually in added costs for energy, water supplies, maintenance and repair, and contracting for services that could be performed by SWP employees.”

Chris Knopp, Executive Officer of the Delta Stewardship Council has sent a letter to the California Water Commission supporting their position:

“We have been following this issue for some time, and have grown increasingly troubled by the issues outlined in your letter.  DWR’s inability to maintain aging SWP facilities, and the resulting backlog of repair work presents an intolerable risk and expense to millions of Californians who rely on this system.  Your letter indicates that Secretary Laird is addressing these concerns, and we appreciate his efforts to resolve the underlying causes of this problem.  Please let me know if the Council can assist in any way.”


  • Click here for the letter from the California Water Commission to Secretary Laird.
  • Click here for the letter from Chris Knopp of the Delta Stewardship Council to the California Water Commission.
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