The Water Special Session

Following Governor Schwarzenegger’s’ call for a special session on water policy, a joint legislative committee began hearings on Monday to discuss the water bill package that failed to move before the end of the 2009 legislative session. The committee reviewed the policy package and the $9.3 billion bond in separate hearings, obscuring the bond’s inability to fund the policy.

SBX7 1 (Steinberg), introduced in the special session, revises the policy provisions of the package dealing with new Delta governance, conservation, groundwater monitoring and conservation. SBX7 2 (Cogdill) is a $9.3 billion general obligation bond for the 2010 ballot.

Steinberg’s policy bill would create two new state agencies: the Delta Stewardship Council and Delta Protection Conservancy. However, none of the funding provisions in the bond account for the administrative costs or the staff positions that would be required to implement near-term actions and govern Delta water management.

Proponents of the package are asking legislators to support the policy bill even if they cannot support the accompanying bond since it contains $3 billion in funding for destructive and cost-inefficient dams. However, secure funding is necessary to successfully implement the proposed new policy, and the environmental merits of the bill hinge on the proposed agencies’ ability to deliver results. Sound policy, without sound financing, is nothing more than an unfunded mandate.