Elected officials from the Lodi area are among those trying to convince authors of a plan that may send Delta waters to the southern San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles Basin to change their minds.
The sticking point is a "memorandum of agreement" to the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan that the U.S. Department of the Interior adopted in September.
State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, says that the memorandum of agreement was made among several water agencies and contractors, not Northern California water interests or Delta property owners who rely on the water for the success of their businesses and agricultural production.
"It's very worrisome," Wolk told the News-Sentinel on Monday afternoon.
Wolk and Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, attended a hearing recently, where they learned that the contractors of the proposed peripheral canal would have pre-approval rights to how water is transported under the memorandum.
That prompted them to draft a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior, California Natural Resources Agency and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, asking them to rescind the memorandum of agreement and to allow greater public participation.
"I have argued all along that we have to be part of the process," Wolk said. "I doesn't appear that's the direction of the (water) contractors."
The outcome of the 50-year Bay-Delta Conservation Plan should be determined by finding out how much the water conveyance to Southern California would cost and if it would harm the Delta, its residents and communities, Wolk said.
"We have to have a clean, healthy Delta," Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, wrote in a separate letter. "Any plan that includes a canal would turn our Delta into a salty marsh, costing the community millions of dollars and countless jobs."
Wolk noted that the plan should address California's $30 billion agricultural economy, the hundreds of species of fish that need Delta waters to survive, people who live behind levees and need flood protection, and provision of drinking water to many cities in the area, Wolk said.
McNerney charged that the memorandum developed by state and federal agencies was developed behind closed doors and gives water export agencies south of the Delta and in Southern California unprecedented influence over California's fresh-water supplies.
Local legislators joining Wolk and Huffman by signing the letter to state and federal agencies include Assembly members Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, and Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento (who's running for a new seat serving the Lodi-Galt area next year). McNerney signed a similar letter from Delta-area members of Congress, as well as writing a separate letter to Bay-Delta agencies.
According to the California Natural Resources Agency, there will be plenty of opportunity for the public to say what they think of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan. A thorough environmental impact report is being prepared, agency spokesman Richard Stapler said. It should be available for public comment sometime next year, he said.
Wolk said she doesn't oppose Southern California and the southern San Joaquin Valley getting some Delta water.
"No one in the Delta is saying we can't share," Wolk said. "We have to figure out first how much water you need in the Delta. The remainder, in good (rainy) years, could be transferred, which is reasonable."
Wolk said she's also concerned that the Legislature will never be able to vote on the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, which will instead be approved by the contractor-dominated agencies.
However, Stapler, from the California Resources Agency, replied that the Legislature voted in 2009 to delegate the plan's approval.
For more information on the plan, visit www.baydeltaconservationplan.com. The Natural Resources Agency's response to Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and other Northern California members of Congress can be found at www.tinyurl.com/cpaw2xv.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.