Speaker Toni Atkins and Senate pro Tem-elect Kevin de Leon briefly talk water policy

De Leon, Atkins, BaldassareOn October 6th, the Public Policy Institute of California held an event, “A Conversation with California’s Legislative Leadership.” In this portion of the event, taken from video of the event posted on YouTube, moderator Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the PPIC, talks briefly with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senate President pro Tem-elect Kevin De Leon about what they see happening with water policy in the upcoming legislative session:

Mark Baldassare: Let’s talk about the drought for a moment. We have Prop 1 on the ballot, the water bond that the legislature passed, and the groundwater management bill that passed. What do you see the legislature doing around the drought and water next year, assuming that we continue to have a water shortage in this state? And will we be seeing any legislation around the Delta?

Speaker Toni Atkins: “We feel so good about what we just accomplished. We can’t get too ahead of ourselves; we’ve got work to do between now and in the next month to be sure that people really do support this water bond. It was with a lot of angst and discussion and some degree of hope and trust by members of the legislature who represent real areas where there is great need …  So it’s my hope that we are going to be successful in the water bond.

AtkinsWe still have money that was put out when the emergency was declared by the Governor; we need to monitor how that money is going out to communities and monitor how the money is spent, and that we’re actually getting on-the-ground projects that help communities. In individual communities, we all still have a job to do in terms of educating our communities for conservation. Every area of the state is different. We don’t’ have groundwater in San Diego, and certainly the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valley – they have groundwater water, so we all have to look at those management plans and realize that we have a role to monitor to see how that’s going.”

Will there be other issues related to water? Probably. We still have communities that don’t have safe drinking water, and that’s what some of that money is supposed to do. Now we need to get it out on the ground, so there may be more issues that we have to address around water.”

“Clearly, something related, we’re going to have to figure out what our budget needs to be around wildfires. $70 million more we just had to spend for wildfires that have started sooner and longer so I think associated that we’re going to have to take a look at that and determine what we do there.”

You had a second part of the question … ?

Mr. Baldassare prompts, “The Delta … “

Speaker Atkins then turns to Senate President pro Tem-Elect Kevin De Leon: “There you go … “ [laughter]

Senate President pro Tem-Elect Kevin De Leon [jovially]: “That was very good – I like the way you passed that over. … We had two major accomplishments, obviously – the water bond that’s before us that we had to get passed, and two, we had policy on both sides of the assembly and the senate, with Senator Fran Pavley as well as Assemblymember Roger Dickinson with regards to management of our groundwater. Something that’s historic in nature because it’s been decades, before they found the force, a truce, to figure this one out. The folks in the Central Valley have come along, some of them kicking and screaming, but nonetheless, a deal was forged and I think it was monumental with regards to the management of our groundwater in California.”

De Leon“We have to get this bond passed. We’re entering our fourth or fifth year of drought. It’s 60% of California is under drought conditions, 60%, so obviously that’s over half of California in drought conditions. Are we going to get more water above and beyond what we get right now from Colorado as well as from Shasta, and upwards from Oregon coming down through the Delta – it is going to be a challenge.”

I foresee more legislation and more policy moving forward in this upcoming year 2015 because the management groundwater policy nor the bond in itself are going to be the panacea to the water ills. The bond in and of itself is the creation of a political body in getting the best that you can get at this time and place in terms of the dollar amount and what it is for specifically. I have my doubts on some of the components of the current water bond, but I also understand in real politics, we deal with what’s before us to secure the votes necessary to get something before the voters because it is what it is. Some of it actually comes to fruition, and at the end of the day it’s another thing unto itself.”

With regards to the tunnels, as of today, I have an open mind but I’m not totally convinced that a two tunnel solution is the panacea to have an adequate supply of water coming from the north to the south. I have been open about a one tunnel version. If we have two tunnels, I just don’t’ know where the water is coming from. I’m not thoroughly convinced, but Mr. Isenberg is here, he’s one of the premier Californians with knowledge and wisdom with regards to the Bay Delta as well as the water woes of California. I do have an open mind to be educated and to listen to folks and to learn from folks on all sides. I’m not as of today …

Speaker Atkins adds, “The Delta is incredibly important as a resource, not just for Northern California and the Central Valley; it’s important for all of California. It’s an incredibly beautiful place with resources. Believe it or not, I have a staff member who actually perused the 30,000 page EIR related to the Delta … ”

Mr. Baldassare: “Peruse, that’s the key word … “

Speaker Atkins:She probably read it.  This is why we were incredibly thoughtful on the water bond as it related to the Delta. There were people who said you just need to count the votes and our tact was we’re not leaving any part of California behind; we are one California, every part of our state, the Delta, is in incredibly important. I didn’t mean to just dump the question on Kevin but I did think it was good … ” [laughter]

We’ve got to be very thoughtful about this. There are people in my neck of the woods in San Diego what support the Delta and don’t want to see the tunnels, but they also want to see the alternatives. What we do on the Delta is going to be far reaching for a very long time, and so it makes sense to me that it has taken us so long; it makes sense that we’re going to continue to discussing it, of course. We’re going to continue to have an open dialog.

I didn’t want you to think that I didn’t think it was critically important. I do and I think we’ve got some real work to do there, and of course it’s going to continue to be controversial.”

The conversation then moved on to other things.

Watch the full video here:

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