Governor Jerry Brown wants federal officials to fast-track a review of his $23-billion plan to remake the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and five California members of Congress from the area want him to fast-track the dismissal of his point man on the project.
A joint statement by Representatives George Miller, Mike Thompson, Jerry McNerney, Doris Matsui and Anna Eshoo demanded the immediate resignation of Jerry Meral, deputy director of the Natural Resources Agency, after he reportedly confided to Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network, “BDCP is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved.”
BDCP is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan that is meant to save the delta from ecological disaster while pumping out more water for shipment to farmers in central California and thirsty residents in the south. The plan envisions two new giant tunnels for diverting water from the Sacramento River past the delta. Brown sent letters to the secretaries of Interior and Commerce last week asking them to review the state’s Delta plan and sign off on it by summer.
Supporters of the plan say it will accomplish the co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration while improving reliability of a key source of water for the rest of the state. They also see the project as a safeguard against catastrophic failure by the series of levees that protect the delta.
Skeptics think it’s a cynically deceptive water grab that will further degrade the delta. They fear the plan being presented will also make for unsustainable agricultural practices near the delta, violate the Clean Air Act, kill recreation around the delta and get rid of incentives to fix levees.
They jumped on Meral’s alleged private statement to Stokely at an April 15 meeting with Northern California's Native American tribes as proof that the Brown administration knows its plan is dishonest.
Representative Miller’s part of the joint statement avers that Meral “acknowledged” that “the Delta can’t be saved,” but in the next sentence wobbles by prefacing the rest of his remarks with the phrase, “if accurately reported.” The other four congressional members offered no equivocation in their denunciation of Meral.
Natural Resources Agency spokesman Richard Stapler told the Los Angeles Times that Meral’s comments were taken out of context and that there were no plans for him to resign.