Assembly Committee Rejects AB 2000, Approves Two Other Bills on Delta

The Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee today rejected one Delta-related bill but approved two others opposed by ACWA and a coalition of water agencies and other organizations.

Failing passage was AB 2000 by Assembly Member Alyson Huber (D-El Dorado Hills.)  The bill, as amended last week, would have made changes to the composition of the Delta Stewardship Council and required DWR to withdraw from the current Memorandum of Agreement under which the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is being planned and developed. It was strongly opposed by ACWA and the coalition, which said it could significantly delay the planning process currently under way.

“The bill as in print would disrupt efforts by the Delta Stewardship Council to achieve the coequal goals,” ACWA State Legislative Director Cindy Tuck told lawmakers. “We don’t think it makes sense to come in and change the process mid-course.”

Assembly Member Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), chair of the committee, voiced concern that the BDCP process could be headed for failure, but said AB 2000 was not the answer.

“I don’t think we should step in and hard-wire things into that process,” Huffman said. “The flaws and failings of the BDCP, if not corrected, will manifest in the failure of the process. There are red flags waving, but I don’t think this is the fix.”

Clearing the committee were two bills by Assembly Member Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton), AB 2421 and AB 2422. Opponents of the bills, led by ACWA and members including Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said the measures could result in delays and unnecessary requirements for the BDCP.

AB 2421 would require an independent third party to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for any project proposed by the BDCP for incorporation into the Delta Plan, currently under development by the Delta Stewardship Council.

 “This is something that is not necessary. The analysis required is already under way,” Roger Patterson, MWD assistant general manager, told lawmakers. In order to be successful, he said, the BDCP will have to meet the most rigorous requirements for infrastructure projects in the nation. In addition, the State Water Resources Control Board will have to consider appropriate flow criteria for operation of any conveyance facility based on a science-based adaptive management program.

“The Delta Reform Act (of 2009) laid out an extensive path for BDCP. And that is under way,” Patterson said.

Also clearing the committee was AB 2422, which would require the Department of Water Resources to expedite an evaluation and feasibility study of the Western Delta Intakes Concept, despite the fact that 15 Delta conveyance alternatives and one “no-action” alternative already are being fully analyzed under the BDCP. The coalition also opposed that bill on the grounds that it would divert attention and limited resources from the current BDCP process.

Both bills now go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Two other Delta-related bills that ACWA and other organizations had opposed were pulled from the hearing agenda by the author prior to the hearing. The first, AB 1813 by Assembly Member Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon), would have set new requirements regarding Delta water diversion data collection and flow criteria. The second, AB 1884 (Buchanan), would have excluded various programs from the definition of “covered actions” for purposes of the Delta Stewardship Council’s process. These bills will not make the April 27 policy committee deadline.