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Questionable justifications

Of course the real “bosses” here are the State Water Project and the water contractors who use it.  DWR staff are adept at justifying what they are doing for these bosses, although the occasional piece of flawed logic does make its way into the briefings.

For example, staff counsel cited close to 70 years of legislation and quoted the Water Code at length to justify DWR’s attempts to gather information about soils in the Delta.

One of the pieces of legislation cited was the Burns-Porter Act of 1959. Ironically, Burns-Porter reaffirmed the County of Origin and Watershed of Origin acts. But the Burns-Porter Act also contained guarantees that included contracts for firm water supplies that future legislatures could not change and sufficient funds to pay for the facilities to deliver water to Southern California.   This made everybody happy at the time.  It would be several decades before the incompatibility of the two guarantees would become apparent.

This wouldn’t be the only time the Legislature has made a big mistake.

Counsel said the original 1959 general obligation bonds have been mostly repaid by the State Water Contractors. Last week’s two-part article by Lloyd Carter and Patrick Porgans refutes that claim.  You can download a PDF of the Carter/Porgans article, “Billionaires and Bonds,” at   http://www.lloydgcarter.com/

Counsel said that he doesn’t have “absolute final word on funding.” Some is coming directly from billings of State Water Contractors; and 20 of 29 contractors have separate funding agreements.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority are also providing funding. 

(“It should trouble you,” Hartmann told the Commission, “that the funding is all coming from Southern California.  There is not proportionate representation.  DWR is funded by and working for Southern California water interests.”) 

In answer to a question from Commissioner Delfino, counsel told the commission that requiring a resolution of necessity for investigative work, as required by the court decision, is “unprecedented”.  You can tell they are making this up as they go. 

Lots of landowners (about 60%, according to the supervising land agent) have said “No” to test borings.  Commissioners were told that for landowners who agree to let DWR come on their land to do test borings, these are not permanent easements.  But for those who don’t agree voluntarily, the  Court considers it a permanent invasion.  The supervising land agent from DWR talked about negotiating temporary construction easements, and about the right reverting to the landowner, since DWR would rather not acquire permanents rights. 

But overall, this sounded like something out of a gangster movie: Go along nicely and we’ll get this over with and leave you alone, but don’t force us to bring in the CWC and get a permanent easement.

A senior engineering geologist for DWR described the geotechnical investigation proposed: mostly tube samplings, but a few test pits 10-12 feet long, 2 feet wide, 12 feet deep.  DWR is using “conceptual alignments”;  since 2009, they’ve been concentrating on a tunnel alignment rather than on eastern, western, or through-Delta conveyance.   Here’s more evidence that the test borings are not just for general information-gathering about Delta soils.

Chair Saracino kept having to drag the discussion back to the matter of PROCESS.  No one had much of a problem with the process, although both Melinda Terry and reclamation district representative Erik Ringleberg said that 21 days was too short a window for working farmers to submit a written reply under the proposed resolution of necessity process.   Commissioners appeared to agree, but staff pointed out that anything longer than 21 days interferes with the Commission’s meeting schedule.  The Commissioners decided that if they get to a meeting and feel that the landowner hasn’t had enough input, they can put off the decision. 

The motion to approve the resolution of necessity process passed unanimously. 

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