Bethany Pane, Chief Counsel for the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) sent an email on September 19 to DSC subscribers that three council members have recused themselves from the Delta tunnels appeals proceedings due to potential conflicts of interest.
Specifically, Ms. Pane noted that council member Susan Tatayon’s spouse “works for a firm that has submitted a bid to work on a portion of the WaterFix project,” while council member Maria Mehranian has worked “for a firm that has submitted a bid to work on a portion of the CA WaterFix project.” Ms. Pane concludes the email explaining that council member Ken Weinberg also recused from the Delta tunnels appeals proceedings due to his “consulting work for local water supply projects that are intended to reduce reliance on the Delta.”
With these three council members absent from the tunnels appeals proceedings, that leaves council Chair Randy Fiorini, and council members Skip Thompson, Frank C. Damrell Jr., and Mike Gatto with the responsibility of reaching a decision.
Executive Director of Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla commented,
“While we appreciate that these DSC council members are following proper procedure and honoring the spirit of transparency, this is troublesome news from a Delta perspective. Situations like these that illuminate potential conflicts of interest within the proceeding of a public works megaproject remind us of what could happen if the Delta tunnels morph into a public-private partnership, or P3. Our fear is that if the tunnels become a P3, special water interests will be able to dictate or manipulate water deliveries in a way that does not benefit all Californians, our regional and statewide economies, or our unique ecosystems tied to a healthy Delta. We also wonder if these council members will be in a position to vote on any Delta management matters in the future that will be free of conflict, and if past votes have been conflict free.
“There should be legislation in place that prevents this from happening should the tunnels continue into construction in the event of the project becoming a public-private partnership.”