Delta Stewardship Council to Remain an Independent Agency as Resources Agency Secretary John Laird has announced that the Delta Stewardship Council (Council) will not be folded into the Natural Resources Agency as was proposed in Governor Brown's Reorganization Plan submitted to the Little Hoover Commission in March 2012.
Secretary Laird announced the change during a meeting of the Assembly Special Committee on the Governor's Reorganization Plan. "The Council agrees with the Administration," said Phil Isenberg, Chair of the Council. "The decision will allow the Council to remain an independent body as is stated in the Delta Reform Act of 2009. We appreciate this decision by the Governor." Section 85200(a) of the Reform Act establishes the Council as an independent agency of the state. As part of a streamlining effort, however, the Reorganization Plan proposed that the Council become an entity within the Natural Resources Agency.
Created by the legislature in 2009, the Delta Stewardship Council is composed of members who represent different parts of the state and offer diverse expertise in fields such as agriculture, science, the environment, and public service. Of the seven, four are appointed by the Governor, one each by the Senate and Assembly, and the seventh is the Chair of the Delta Protection Commission.
An independent council with at least some veto power over a peripheral canal or tunnel would be consumed by the same agency that wants to build one under a little-noticed element of a reorganization plan by canal supporter Gov. Jerry Brown.
Critics say such a change would strip the council of its role as impartial evaluator of the estimated $13 billion aqueduct, which would cross the Delta west of Stockton.
Brown's plan, released March 30, goes far beyond California's water bureaucracy. It calls for replacing five state agencies with three, and eliminating or consolidating a number of boards and commissions in order to streamline state government.
Buried in the proposal, however, was a plan to place the newly created Delta Stewardship Council under the umbrella of the state Resources Agency.
That's the agency working on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which may include a canal or tunnel to divert the Sacramento River past the Delta on the way to cities and farms from the Bay Area to San Diego. The plan is widely opposed in the Stockton area.
"Now, the agency that was supposed to be the independent auditor is being pulled inside the Resources Agency. What does that do to independent review of the canal?" says Tom Zuckerman, a Delta landowner who closely follows state water policy.
The Delta Stewardship Council has not yet taken a position, council spokesman Eric Alvarez says. It is reviewing the plan, including any possible "adjustment" in the council's autonomy, Alvarez says.