Environment & Science

Senate, Assembly committees to hear water bills

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A pair of Senate and Assembly committees will meet as one Tuesday to hear about a package of bills on water conservation and the Sacramento Delta. The bills set out plans to manage the runoff from the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

KPCC’s Nick Roman says they’ve also let loose a flood of opposition.

The bills seek to establish statewide water conservation guidelines, and to set up a new board that would manage the water in the Sacramento Delta.

But environmentalists and some farmers say that what the bills really do is clear the way for a “peripheral canal” to send water around the Delta to Central and Southern California. Voters turned down a similar proposal 27 years ago. But the state's population is much bigger now, and so is the environmental damage to the Delta.

The governor and many lawmakers say the network of levees now in place in the Sacramento Delta can’t maintain its natural habitat, and can’t withstand damage in a big quake or a flood. They say California needs a reliable way to move water to where it’s needed.

Some Delta farmers say if that means a “peripheral canal,” it also means more salt water from San Francisco Bay that will destroy their farms. Many environmentalists say a “peripheral canal” wouldn’t save the Delta’s fragile ecosystem.

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water and the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife will open the joint hearing at 9:00 a.m. in the State Capitol. Committee aides expect the hearing will last all day.