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April 16, 2019  |  Written by Michelle E. Chester

Assemblymember Frazier’s Bill to Increase Local Representation on Delta Stewardship Council Dies in Committee

On April 9, 2019, Assembly Bill 1194 (AB 1194), aimed at increasing local representation on the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC), died in the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.  A motion for a vote on the bill was made by the committee Vice Chair, Assemblymember Gallagher, but the bill failed to receive a “second” from the other committee members and so is effectively stalled for the 2019 legislative year.  The bill was spearheaded by Assemblymember Frazier and coauthored by Assemblymembers Eggman, Grayson, and McCarty as well as Senators Dodd and Galgiani, all members of the Delta Legislative Caucus.  In an attempt to align the DSC membership with the rules governing two other Delta agencies—the Delta Protection Commission and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy—AB 1194 would have increased the total number of voting council members to eleven, adding four new voting members.

As authorized by legislation in 2009, the DSC currently consists of seven voting members, four of which are appointed by the Governor, one appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules, one appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, and one which is the Chairperson of the Delta Protection Commission.  Wat. Code, § 85200.  Of the four additional voting members imagined under AB 1194, one would be appointed by communities in the “primary zone of the Delta” and one by communities in the “secondary zone of the Delta,” as defined in Public Resources Code sections 29728 and 29731, respectively.  These zones represent areas outside the urban limits of local government general plans but within the boundaries of the Delta.  Wat. Code, § 29728.  The remaining two voting members, a senator and an assemblymember with expertise in Delta-related interests and a primary residence in the Delta, would be appointed by the Boards of Supervisors of Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, and Yolo Counties.

At the hearing held by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on April 9, Assemblymember Frazier, former DSC Councilmember Skip Thomson, and President of the Save the California Delta Alliance Karen Mann spoke in favor of AB 1194, urging to change the “skewed” special interest and southern California representation of the council membership at present.  Representatives for approximately a dozen Southern California entities, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Mesa Water District, and Inland Empire Utilities Agency, spoke in opposition of AB 1194, defending state-wide representation on the council.  Geographically divisive discussions regarding the role and representation of the DSC similarly occurred leading up to the hearings held by the DSC in October of 2018 regarding appeals of the Consistency Certification submitted by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) for California WaterFix.  Prior to the DSC proceedings, three of the seven DSC members recused themselves from considering appeals related to the Delta tunnels project based on their involvement with organizations outside of the council that either submitted bids to work on portions of the project or provided consulting work for project-related matters.  Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla commented at the time that representation of special interests on the DSC could manipulate water deliveries in a way that does not benefit all Californians, and “[t]here should be legislation in place that prevents this from happening . . . .”  Moreover, before calling for a committee vote, Assemblymember Gallagher noted his concern regarding DWR’s unbridled authority over not just California WaterFix, but the entire State Water Project and the need for increased legislative participation in such matters.

Although not the first legislation aimed at changing the membership of the DSC—including bills sponsored by Assemblymember Frazier in 2017 and 2018—AB 1194 is seemingly a response to these expressed concerns.  Assemblymember Frazier and Senator Dodd have stated their intent to cooperate on similar legislation in the future.

The proposed language of AB 1194 is available here.  For additional information please contact Michelle Chester at mchester@somachlaw.com.

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