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Public Statements

Governor's Remarks At The Signing Of Legislative Bill SBX71 To Rebuild California's Water System

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Location: Unknown

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Thank you, Joel, thank you very much. And I want to thank everyone else that is here today; Senator Steinberg, Assemblyman Huffman and Anthony Saracino with the Nature Conservancy and then Jose Mejia at the State Council for Laborers and Tom Birmingham from the Westlands Water District and then Senator Dave Cogdill. Thank you very much.

And there's one person I have to sadly say is not here with us today because he passed away this morning and that's Tom Graff. The reason why I wanted to mention him is because he was a great environmentalist, someone that was very heavily working for 30 years on preservation, conservation and protecting the environment, protecting the Delta and who was very instrumental to get us where we are here today. So we want to just say our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family and his friends.

Now, Mark Twain once said that whiskey is for drinking and water is worth fighting over and I think that he must have been talking about California, because California has been fighting about water and over water for the last few decades. And everyone was fighting everybody, if it is environmentalists with farmers, if it's labor with businesses, if it is the southern Californians versus the northern Californians, Democrats versus Republicans and so on.

And because of that nothing was really done, because everyone was dug in. And the result was nothing got done and we stopped building and the water infrastructure, that was once considered the number one plumbing system in the world, is now aged and old. And, of course, today's system is built for 18 million people and it's buckling under the pressure of 38 million people.

Now, what we see here is evidence of that. The Delta is the hub of our water system. It provides water for more than 25 million Californians, it provides habitat for more than 700 plants and animal species. But today the Delta and its ecosystem is dying. Fish and wildlife is imperiled, federal judges have ordered us to turn off the pumps. And experts warn that a major earthquake could crumble this levee system here and we have seen what happens with Katrina, when we wait too long rebuilding the infrastructure.

Last week, though, the legislature had a huge breakthrough and did something that was historic and extraordinary and very daring, I have to say. They came to a comprehensive agreement, which is, I think, the best water deal that we have seen in decades and is the biggest infrastructure package that we have seen in California's history.

And in a few moments I will be signing one of those bills. As a matter of fact, one of those pieces of the package is Senate Bill X7 1. This legislation creates the Delta Stewardship Council and the council will develop and coordinate a plan to achieve two co-equal goals, Delta restoration and water supply reliability. What we will do is, we will rebuild the levees, we will create new habitat, we will finally fix the Delta and restore its ecosystem. In fact, along with the Florida Everglades, this will be the largest environmental restoration project in America.

And none of this would, of course, have been possible if it wouldn't have been for extraordinary leadership on so many different levels here. We have, for instance, Senator Steinberg, who has been an extraordinary partner in this. And I want to tell you that 10 months ago Senator Steinberg looked me in the eyes and he said, "We're going to get water done this year," and I saw his passion behind this. And he worked from that point on tirelessly, with all of the different people, with all the organizations, Democrats and Republicans, everyone alike. He brought everyone together and did an extraordinary job so I want to say thank you, Senator, for your great, great work that you have done.

But, of course, it's again not just one person, there's a lot of people and you see them standing right here, all of them. David Cogdill, Senator Cogdill, did an extraordinary job negotiating and bringing everybody together. I want to thank him also.

Then, of course, Assemblyman Huffman, who is standing right here with us. And let me tell you something, it's great when you have someone that is such an expert in the subject. He's a lawyer, he knows the language well, he knows all the various different complications. And he brought also everybody together and worked on that and felt very passionate, so we want to thank him also for his outstanding work.

And then Speaker Bass, Assemblyman Blakeslee, they all worked together. And the various different organizations, environmental organizations and water districts and so on, so I want to say thank you to all of them that are here today.

And I want to thank also the hardhats, because you're the guys that are going to build all this stuff that we are planning to build here. So without you there would be nothing, so we want to say thank you to all of you for your hard, hard work.

Now, this legislation is just one piece of a comprehensive package, of course. Earlier this week I signed an $11 billion bond package will be leveraging another $30 billion on federal and local funds. We will build more above and below-the-ground water storage, we will monitor and clean up our groundwater to protect the public's health and restore local supplies. We will crack down on those who illegally take water to the detriment of others. And we will also tackle conservation. We're going to reduce the water consumption by 20 percent per capita by the year 2020, a very important piece of this overall package here.

Today we set forth a bold vision for the state of California but it's very clear that this bold vision can only become a reality if we have the people's approval for those bonds. So you will see in the future Democrats and Republicans, environmentalists and business leaders and farmers and everyone, traveling up and down the state holding town hall meetings and talking about and educating the people of California of how important that is.

And I think the people are already aware of, they know that we have a water shortage. We have had droughts for three years in a row. We have seen problems with businesses, they can't go and expand their businesses because they don't have the water rights and don't have a source of water. We have seen development slowing down because of a lack of water. We have seen the problems that we see in farming, that we have seen unemployment rates up to 40 percent in the Central Valley and farmers cannot grow their crops.

So all of those are self-inflicted wounds. We've got to get rid of those problems and move forward and this is why this water infrastructure package is so important, so that we can provide safe, clean and reliable water for the future of California and I'm talking about 30, 40, 50, 60 years down the line.

So with that I want to say thank you very much to everyone again for working together and I want to bring up now our next speaker, Senator Steinberg, to say a few words about that. Thank you. (Applause)

SENATOR STEINBERG:

Thank you. Thank you very much, Governor, for your vision and your extraordinary leadership and your partnership in helping us achieve this historic breakthrough.

I'm glad that you mentioned that conversation we had some months ago. It was actually around December 1st, because I gave a speech my first day as pro Tem and committed to getting water done within 120 days. Well, I went back and reread the speech and there was a little typo; I actually meant 11 months. But still not bad, not bad, to get this done before the end of 2009.

In addition to thanking you, of course, Governor, I want to thank my colleagues who have been so instrumental in this effort. Senator Cogdill, of course, who has been a tremendous partner. Assemblymember Huffman, who I really think did a heroic job throughout this whole process. And though he's not here today, I know his staff is here, Senator Joe Simitian, who sort of had the guts to step out on these issues a number of years ago and this bill bears his name.

I want to thank the environmental community, the leaders who stood with us throughout some very difficult negotiations; the Nature Conservancy, the EDF, the NRDC, the CLCV, the Audubon Society. The contractors, Mr. Birmingham and others, organized labor -- this was a true partnership.

Let me just make the following comments about what I believe this represents. This legislation represents the most comprehensive effort in decades to save and restore California's Delta. This is not north/south, it is not urban/AG, it is not contractors versus the environmental community. In short, this is not 1982.

These bills are the lynchpin to the comprehensive water package that we passed and that the Governor has been signing throughout the week. These bills are the lynchpin for one very important reason; the Delta and its precious ecosystem is broken. The status quo is unacceptable. The Delta is governed by over 200 agencies. There is little authority and little accountability.

The new Delta Stewardship Council and the Delta Conservancy will ensure that however California achieves water supply reliability -- and we must, for both northern and southern California -- that restoring the Delta is a co-equal requirement. The bills provide and the bill provides, the Delta Stewardship Council with the ability to fairly review the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to assure that that restoration is, in fact, achieved. It mandates the highest level of environmental review for all water supply options. And maybe most important, this bill requires that the first priority is to identify the flows, the water that the Delta itself needs to recover.

When you combine these fundamental changes with $2.25 billion in the bond that the Governor signed earlier this week, plus and additional $200 million from the existing Proposition 1E to fix the levees, the struggling Delta now has a real chance.

The term 'historic' should not be used lightly. But who said that the legislature and the Governor could not work together to solve a problem that others could not solve for decades? This is, in fact, historic and I'm very proud to be a part of it.

Let me introduce, again, a gentleman who was a real warrior and helped us get here, Assemblymember Jared Huffman. (Applause)

ASSEMBLYMEMBER HUFFMAN:

Thank you, Senator Steinberg. And I do want to start by thanking Senator Steinberg. I've had the privilege of working closely with him over the last several months on what surely is the most complex and thankless issue you'll find anywhere and I just can't say enough about the character and commitment of this man, not just in solving California's water crisis but doing it in a way that saves this critical estuary behind us and in doing it in a way that works and does right by the people and the communities of the Delta. I believe that history will show that, thanks to his leadership, we made the right choice at this critical crossroad, that we stepped up and we took the heat and we started making tough decisions to save the Delta and to responsibly and efficiently manage our limited water resources going forward for this generation and in future generations.

I also want to commend Governor Schwarzenegger for the passion and determination he's brought to this issue and for supporting the far-reaching policy and governance reforms that make this truly a comprehensive water package. And I also want to thank him for honoring the memory of Tom Graff in his opening comments. The loss of Tom Graff, who over the last several decades has fought more than just about anybody to protect this Delta estuary, is truly a loss to all of us.

The bill that Governor Schwarzenegger is signing today I believe is the centerpiece of the work that we accomplished last week, because it goes to the heart of our crisis. How we manage the Delta, the most important estuary on the west coast of the Americas and of course the water supply for 23 million Californians?

And for the past several years the Delta has been on a terrible trajectory. Without a governance structure to coordinate the work of the 200-plus agencies that are involved in the Delta, the management of this critical resource has been a circular firing squad of conflicting policies, piecemeal plans and endless lawsuits. Without a comprehensive plan to ensure a healthy dynamic ecosystem we've seen a decade -- many decades, actually -- of species-by-species, permit-by-permit decisions that have put the Delta into an environmental death spiral and brought us to the point where our $.25 billion commercial salmon industry is closed for the unprecedented second consecutive year.

Without a statewide water supply plan that emphasizes reduced dependence on this fragile estuary and greater use of water use efficiency, water reuse, regional self-reliance, we saw Delta exports rise to unsustainable levels over the last decade. And we've paid the price. We've paid the price with fishery crashes and with abrupt federal court interventions. And without a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan, we had no coherent strategy for repairing the Delta's 1,100 miles of fragile levees and preventing a Katrina-like disaster.

Today we're setting a new and very hopeful course for the Delta and for the rest of California. The new Delta Stewardship Council and the comprehensive plan it will develop will provide a unifying planning and governance framework for the many agencies that work in the Delta. It will increase accountably, transparency and independent science.

It also marks a fundamentally new approach to ecosystem planning and this is very important, because it'll be based on the recovery of key species and not just fending off extinction fish by fish. This is important whether you're an environmentalist or a water district that relies on the Delta, because the reality is in the long term, bringing environmental stability to the Delta is the only way we will stabilize the Delta as a water supply for millions of Californians.

The water supply elements of this plan likewise reflect a new approach, one that's premised on the goal of improving statewide water supply reliability while reducing dependence on this estuary.

I want to talk very specifically about the Delta conveyance issue, because it's important to understand what this legislation does and does not do. I know that many stakeholders hope to build a peripheral canal. They've been very clear about that. At the same time, I and many others remain skeptical that a large canal of that kind is either feasible or desirable. This legislation takes no side in that debate. Let me reiterate. As an environmental attorney who reads the fine print and in this case played a significant role in writing a lot of that fine print, I want to assure you there's nothing in this legislative package that authorizes or funds a peripheral canal.

Instead, it establishes a rigorous new and protective framework for any Delta conveyance. It includes major new protections for the Delta and the environment, starting with the requirement that, before you decide how to export water from the Delta for the next 50 years, experts at the Department of Fish and Game and the state Water Board must first determine how much water the Delta needs to be a healthy estuary. Only water that is surplus to those needs can be considered for export.

The protections for the Delta estuary go even further, by requiring that any Delta conveyance must not only meet the highest environmental standards of the NCCP Act but must also include a comprehensive analysis of alternatives, including alternative sizes, alignments, different operational scenarios including reduced Delta exports and also including through-Delta alternatives and it prohibits construction of any new facility until the State Water Board issues a permit with binding protections for the Delta and its fisheries.

While some characterize this as a path to new conveyance, it's a very rigorous path full of new checks and safeguards and it puts key decisions and approvals in the hands of independent scientists and public trust agencies, which is as it should be. That is a vast improvement over the status quo.

In closing, I want to thank the Governor for choosing this location for the signing of SBX7 1, because it reminds us all what's at stake. We know about the very real hardships being felt in the San Joaquin Valley in this third consecutive drought year.

But I want to remind everyone, as we stand here on the shores of this critical estuary that sustains California's commercial salmon industry, that there are other hardships, hardships being felt by fishermen and fishing communities up and down the north coast because their entire industry is shut down this year, as it was last year and experts warn that without dramatic changes in the way we manage this estuary, our iconic salmon runs will spiral into extinction. For me, that's a huge part of what's at stake. It's why this bill is so timely, so historic and why I'm proud to be here to see it signed into law.

And with that, it's my pleasure to introduce Anthony Saracino from the Nature Conservancy. (Applause)

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GOVERNOR: Are there any questions about any of this? You have all the environmental experts here, you have the people have written the laws, you have the negotiators here, you have Democrats, you have Republicans here. What a candy store. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a question about the bond. I'm wondering, you've said that none of the money will be wasted. I'm wondering how you yourself judge whether there's pork in a package like this and I'm wondering how California voters can be sure that none of the money is going to be wasted.

GOVERNOR: Well, as we have said, that the money will go to restoring the Delta, it will go to restoring its ecosystem, it will make sure that the water goes where it needs to go. We want to make sure that we monitor the groundwater, that we build the infrastructure and upgrade the system that once was a great system but now is outdated. We have now 38 million people and we're going to build for 50 million people, not for 38.

And what is also important is that the conservation piece is part of this, because people in California are very good with conservation. We have seen it with energy, when we set a goal to conserve energy. Now we are the most energy efficient state in the union, with 40 percent more energy efficiency than the rest of the states in the United States. We will do the same thing with water.

So all of this is being -- you know, there's $11 billion that will be leveraged for another $30 billion, so the whole thing is kind of a $40 billion project. And when you hear about pork, what is for some people pork is for us cleaning up the groundwater. I think it is very important. Like in the end of the negotiations, for instance, there is a certain amount of money, a billion dollars extra put in there, because I insisted that this money goes to the local communities and to the cities all over the state of California to clean the groundwater, because we have a major problem with our groundwater. We could not go ahead and do water infrastructure and rebuild our water system without also promising the people that we're going to clean the groundwater and get rid of some of those chemicals. So that's where some of this money went.

And I'm sure that the people will understand all of this, because the people of California have a high interest in rebuilding our infrastructure. We have just seen it in 2006 when they have approved all the infrastructure bonds for transportation, for housing, for schools and for the levees. We have seen it again just last year in the middle of the financial crisis when they approved the children's hospital and also the high-speed rail. People want to rebuild the state of California.

Yes?

QUESTION: It's true that this legislation doesn't authorize a canal but do you believe it sets the state on a path towards building one, one day, a canal around the Delta?

GOVERNOR: Well, I think that the experts have made those recommendations, as you know. Phil Eisenberg and the Delta Vision Taskforce, they have recommended the conveyance around the Delta. And so the experts are going to go into that and are going to make those decisions.

QUESTION: Governor?

GOVERNOR: Yes, please.

QUESTION: I'm assuming you may be familiar with the recent Pew Study that was released that sort of touts California as an example to other states of what not to do. Today we're here, you're signing off on an $11 billion new debt for this state. You're talking about leaving and making a trip to Iraq. Why are you doing all of these things while right now here in California Rome is burning?

GOVERNOR: I like your positive attitude. (Laughter) First of all, I think this was a historic agreement. I think that's something that has not been -- no one was able to do, no governor, no legislature, in the last four decades. So I congratulate the legislators, I congratulate the legislative leaders and the environmentalists and farmers and the various different interests, labor, businesses and everyone to come together. So I think that one should celebrate that and that's what we are doing here today, to celebrate that.

And my trip, as far as my trip to Iraq is concerned, you know, we have men and women that have, for the last few hundred years, fought to protect the freedom of this country and its liberty and I as an immigrant appreciate that more than anyone. And I think it's very important that we take care of our veterans, which was yesterday we celebrated Veterans Day and talk about the very important issues that veterans are facing. And also it's very important that we do everything we can to create comfort in some way or the other also for our troops that are serving overseas.

Now, I have been over there in 2003 to visit the troops in Iraq and I'm looking forward to going over there next week again and to entertain them a little bit, work out with them, have breakfast with them, encourage them, bring them some cigars and have some schmoozing sessions with them. You like that schmooze word, huh? Schmoozing session, exactly. (Laughter) So I mean, that's what I do. And so I think this is all positive, it's all good, it's upbeat and we are celebrating.

Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody, thank you. (Applause)


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