At a press event yesterday, Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg shared his views on the water bond, saying it needed to be ‘meaner and leaner.’ He also discussed how the BDCP and water bond are linked and shared his vision for how the state could move forward with both.
The questions on the water bond began by asking Senator Steinberg when there would be some movement or progress on the water bond.
He answered, “I was the leader of the 2009 package on the legislative side, and part of that agreement was not just a water bond but was an approach for how to deal with the issues around the Delta. Specifically that legislation called for the implementation of a series of public policies that would achieve the co-equal goals of delta ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability.”
“I know, the Metropolitan Water District, who we worked very closely with on the 2009 legislation, has now sued – I don’t know who the actual defendant is but they’ve sued saying that they don’t like now the plan that came out of the legislation that they supported. Even though the water bond and the BDCP are functionally separate, in many respects, I think, they have to go together. In part, because … any bond has to provide money for the delta ecosystem, and I want to see some real progress and a resolution on the BDCP side.”
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”I think the discussion or the debate ought to be had now on enforceable operation conditions for the next 50 years. Let the size of the tunnel issue trail what the conditions are going to be as opposed to the size going first, then the conditions going later. And, if there’s progress on that front, I think it will make the development in the Legislature of an amended water bond and the passage of an amended water bond easier.”[/pullquote]
“I gave a speech a couple months ago for ACWA that received a little bit of attention where I said that there’s so much focus and debate on the size of the tunnels and … the Administration and others say we’ll deal with the operations of the permit over the next decades. Well, nobody trusts that. Certainly not the people in my backyard. Certainly, not the delta stakeholders.”
“I think the discussion or the debate ought to be had now on enforceable operation conditions for the next 50 years. Let the size of the tunnel issue trail what the conditions are going to be as opposed to the size going first, then the conditions going later. And, if there’s progress on that front, I think it will make the development in the Legislature of an amended water bond and the passage of an amended water bond easier. Without there being some resolution on the BDCP side, I find it hard to see a real path to doing a water bond in 2014, because the tenets of the 2009 deal were about the co-equal goals, and that focus needs to be maintained.”
(Q – Admin doing enforceable conditions?)
“Well, it’s the Administration, it’s the water contractors, it’s the Met, it’s the…it’s not legislation. The odd thing about the BDCP, as you know, is that … the Legislature does not have direct purview over the BDCP. Where we do have authority and responsibility is how we invest public dollars. The BDCP is being paid for by the contractors, not by the state taxpayer. But, the water bond is an area we do have jurisdiction. It’s not a traditional leverage thing. The two really go together in many respects.”
(Q – not supporting water bond?)
“I support changing the water bond. It has to be changed. It has to be smaller. It has to be meaner and leaner. It has to maintain to central elements of the 2009 bond, including real investment for delta ecosystem restoration.”
“The question I just answered, it gives me a chance to clarify, is what an amended water bond getting through the Legislature is. And, then, obviously its prospects for passage in 2014. And, I’m saying, though event the BDCP issue is functionally separate from the water bond, they’re really not separate. And, there needs to some break-through, some progress, some confidence, some assurance on the BDCP side for me to feel comfortable as leader here to really grind, as I did in 2009, to get to an amended water bond.”
“And, in commenting separately on the BDCP and what I think the problem is, there’s a lack of trust because there’s no guarantees about the way that such a project would be operated for the next 50 years. Instead the focus is on the size of the project, the operational conditions to come later. And, I’m suggesting, one way to turn that around is to focus on the operational conditions up front in a way that are enforceable, and how you make them enforceable, there are a lot of different ways you could do that. But, I think that’s what really needs to happen to be some break-through. Otherwise, there’s gonna be a big cloud over bond negotiation.”
(Q – leverage over water bond, not BDCP)
“Leverage is one of these crass political terms … it’s fair I guess, but I really don’t look at it that way. It’s not like they’re two unrelated things. They’re related. The BDCP is premised on – and this is what the law says, this isn’t what I say – is premised on upholding the coequal goals of water supply reliability and delta ecosystem restoration. This project, the BDCP, would affect the delta in significant ways. I think the environmental community and others have gotten behind the notion of smaller tunnels but what I’m suggesting is, while size in the end matters, that it is taking up all the oxygen, when an even bigger issue is that this is going to be a 50 year project that, certainly the folks in Northern California and around the Delta, have no assurance or confidence that it’s going to be operated in the way that is promised up front over the course of those 50 years. The bond itself is essential to upholding the co-equal goals in the delta plan because that’s where a significant part of the investment goes, even if there continues to be a fiction that they’re unrelated.”
Listen to the full press event here: DS 7.10 Press Avail audio #4