Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Does Jerry Brown's Water Plan Really Call For a Peripheral Canal?

This AP headline caught my attention this afternoon "Brown calls for delta canal in Calif. water plan".  The article states,
In a plan he released on his website, Brown endorsed building a canal or tunnel around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta... Brown previously has said California needs a better system to more efficiently move water, but the Democrat's water plan is his most explicit support of a canal or tunnel to help to deal with the state's current water troubles...
Oddly, the article includes no quotes from Brown or his campaign that clearly endorses a canal. So I went to his website to read the plan to see what it actually says.  The canal doesn't come up until the 5th bullet under point 5 of the 7 point plan.

5.  Protect and Restore the Delta....
  • Complete scientific, economic and environmental review of alternative conveyance facilities recommended by the Bay Delta Conservation Plan
6. Invest in California's Water Infrastructure including water storage facilities

California desperately needs investment in its water infrastructure, but given the State's financial condition, we must ensure that investments are cost-effective and funded by the appropriate sources. The beneficiaries - or users - of water infrastructure projects should pay their share of the costs of those projects. The state should invest in infrastructure improvements providing benefits to the general public or the environment. The projects must be cost-effective and make long-term sense. As Governor, I will:
  • Support infrastructure investments, including water storage projects, that achieve the multiple goals of increasing water supply reliability, protecting the environment and other public benefits, such as wetlands protection and restoration, and flood protection.
  • Support conveyance and storage investments, such as a peripheral canal or tunnel, that provide a net benefit in ecosystem and water quality conditions and where the beneficiaries pay for the benefits they receive

It doesn't sound like very explicit support to me.  It sounds like he is calling for studies "a scientific, economic and environmental review of the BDCP", and offers conditional support if the canal passes some cost-effectiveness and beneficiary pays tests. 

Maybe I don't know the full story, but it looks to me like AP botched this story and misrepresented Brown's water plan.

Update 10/14: The front page of the Stockton Record ran the AP story today under the bold headline "Brown Supports Building Canal or Tunnel around the Delta."  No doubt that headline just cost him a few votes in Stockton.  I see no press release on the Brown website regarding the release of what the AP says is a "new" water plan.  Hopefully, the Brown campaign will clarify his position so people know exactly where he stands.

Update 2, 10/14:  It seems that most people think this is a clear endorsement.  I guess I don't understand how to read politicians' statements although Brown supposedly has a reputation for speaking clearly.  I still read this as weak conditional support, that could be withdrawn if the costs are too high and environmental benefits and safeguards are weak. 


  1. HEY, WHOA THERE. HEY!!! I thought reading and commenting on candidate's platforms was my gig. I've only been gone a month and you vultures are already circling?

    Well, sharp reading and way to go to the original material. Good to make Brown's position explicit. Also, strong work, collaborating with Dr. Howitt. That's impressive.


  2. No worries. I am not commenting on whether it is a good plan, not to mention the lack of swearing. I'll leave that to you.

    I quite like the idea of the assessment of BDCP (particularly the economic part). I think the cost is the issue most likely to derail the whole thing, a prospect that seems more and more likely as the proper economic assessments and financing plans are delayed. I think that is a possibility no matter who wins the Governor's race.