Delta Canal Follow Up

A very interesting development that bears watching.

By Hank Shaw
February 27, 2008
Capitol Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO – A state Senate panel ripped Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s secretary for resources Tuesday in the wake of a Record story revealing that the governor may jump-start work on a peripheral canal around the Delta without the Legislature’s approval.

Lawmakers also are questioning whether the administration has the legal power to ultimately build a canal without them.

The idea of a peripheral canal shunting water from the Sacramento River around the Delta to the giant pumps near Tracy has been anathema to San Joaquin County officials since before voters soundly defeated a similar proposal in 1982.

They fear a canal would shut off their part of the estuary’s source of fresh water, turning it into a backwater. Supporters say the estuary is so fragile the state must find a stable way to get water from Northern California to Southern California.

Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman faced an angry Sen. Michael Machado on Tuesday morning during a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Machado, a Linden Democrat who represents much of the Delta, suggested that issuing an executive order starting environmental analysis of potential canal routes was tantamount to a declaration of war against the Legislature.

Chrisman declined to comment on the possibility that Schwarzenegger could issue such an order, which was first reported in The Record on Tuesday.

“I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals,” Chrisman said.

…”The governor can do what he wants in this particular area.”

That is debatable. No one disputes Schwarzenegger’s power to begin analysis of a peripheral canal; whether he can build it without the Legislature may be a question answered in the courts.

Both sides are leaning on a 1984 advisory opinion from then-Attorney General John Van de Kamp.

Van de Kamp’s opinion was that the state Department of Water Resources could build a canal “across” the Delta, even if it included a short portion of a newly dug canal south of Hood, known as “Duke’s Ditch” for then-Gov. George Deukmejian.

But Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Chairwoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, questions whether the state could unilaterally build a canal “around” the Delta.

DWR Chief Lester Snow thinks he can. He responded in a letter back to Wolk that he interprets Van de Kamp’s opinion to mean that he can indeed build a canal around the Delta. Snow also cited favorable opinions in 1981 and 1982 by the Legislature’s counsel and its analyst.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.