DUNBAR: Legislators Continue to Work Toward Fair Resolution of Water Disputes

Monday, September 10, 2018

As excerpted from: The Modesto Bee

Currently, the water board acts as prosecutor and judge in any dispute. Staff creates plans (like increasing flows to save salmon) then the board blesses them. If you don’t like the plan, you can appeal – to the board that just blessed it. Seems pointless.

Last year, Assemblyman Adam Gray wrote a bill to create an independent review panel for water disputes. Improbably, Gray’s bill passed but Gov. Brown vetoed it.

This year, Anna Caballero pushed through a similar bill, AB 747, which passed 69-5 and now awaits Gov. Brown’s signature. Though it was similar to his bill, Gray took a knee.

“It didn’t go far enough,” Gray said. The hearing panel would be within the water board structure, not independent.

“I want a separate entity from the water board,” said Gray. “You can’t house the appeals panel within the water board and have it considered trustworthy. The water board has shown us no evidence that it warrants any trust.”

If your livelihood depends on water – and that’s true for most of the 1 million people living in our region, whether they know it or not – this is not happy news. It doesn’t mean we should give up fighting to control our own destiny, and we can’t give up on helping the salmon. But it does mean we’ll have to fight all the harder.