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November 12, 2009

For More Information, Contact:
Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011


SACRAMENTO – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed legislation by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), which aims to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and ensure an adequate supply of water for California in the years ahead. 

Simitian’s Senate Bill 1 (in the Seventh Extraordinary Session) was praised by Governor Schwarzenegger. “For four decades California has been in the midst of a Holy Water War and just last week the legislators came together to approve a comprehensive historic water agreement,” said Schwarzenegger. “Today I am excited to be signing the final bill of package that will leave our children and grandchildren a safe, clean and reliable water supply for the next 40, 50, 60 years and beyond.”

Senate Bill 7X 1 lays out a clear path for governance of the Delta, and establishes the two co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. 

Simitian said that, “While there are many challenges facing the state’s water system, two in particular plague the Delta.  Our systems of governance and water conveyance are undeniably broken,” said Simitian.

Mindful of California’s worsening water crisis and the continued deterioration of the Delta, Simitian has been pursuing a water fix for the past four years.  In presenting his legislation on the floor of the Senate, Simitian noted that, “a long history of benign neglect has not served the Delta or the state well.” 

Simitian also noted that, “from an environmental standpoint, the Delta’s been going to hell-in-a-hand-basket, and the 24 million Californians who rely on the Delta for water are one catastrophe away from a major crisis.”

“If we do nothing, there’s a two out of three chance the Delta will collapse in the next 50 years,” said Simitian.  “That’s 24 million Californians without water, and $40 billion in economic consequences.  The Delta is California’s Katrina waiting to happen.  With this legislation, we are taking significant steps to prevent that from taking place.”

“This is the single biggest advance in water policy the state of California has seen in decades,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who was a joint author on the bill.  “Through hard work and compromise, we have taken a major step toward ensuring that Californians have a reliable water supply while protecting the natural resources that enhance our quality of life,” said Steinberg.

The Delta Stewardship Council established by Simitian’s legislation has the authority and responsibility to tackle the thorny problem of ‘conveyance’ – moving water through, around or under the Delta.  Equally important, Simitian’s legislation requires that before decisions about how to move water through the Delta are made, a determination is made about the amount of water required in the Delta to maintain a healthy ecosystem. 

The development of such a conveyance would require adoption of a natural communities conservation plan – the highest environmental standard in law; and the full cost of any new conveyance (including environmental mitigation) must be paid by the water users who benefit.

“I always hoped we could achieve a win-win-win,” said Simitian. “A win for the environment, a win for the 24 million Californians who rely on Delta water, and a win for those of us in Northern California who want assurances that ‘our’ water won’t be shipped in excess to other parts of the state.  I think we’ve achieved that goal.”

Support for the bill came from a wide range of interests, but Simitian said that he was “particularly pleased that a water bill generated such strong support from the environmental community.”  Among the groups supporting SB 7X 1 were the California League of Conservation Voters, The Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Audubon Society, the Bay Institute, and the Defenders of Wildlife.

“The Delta bill is a huge step forward in saving salmon, and restoring our extraordinary estuary to resilience and health.  We appreciate Senator Simitian’s long term leadership and commitment to this key issue,” said Cynthia Koehler, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Simitian’s measure also earned the support of water agencies throughout the state, including the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD). Beau Goldie, CEO of the SCVWD said, “The Santa Clara Valley Water District applauds Senator Simitian for his tireless efforts to solve the water supply issues facing our state, and his commitment to crafting a long-term Delta solution that meets the needs of all Californians. Silicon Valley relies on the Delta for more than half its water each year and this legislation will help keep that source sustainable. The signing of SB 7X 1 is truly an historic event since this bill establishes a framework to create a long term solution to the Delta crisis.”

Other legislation in the water package included bills dealing with water conservation, groundwater management and water rights enforcement, as well as a bond measure subject to voter approval.

“This was a collaborative effort,” said Simitian. “Bi-cameral and bi-partisan, with a lot of different folks rolling up their sleeves to get the job done, including the Governor.”  Simitian said he was, “gratified by the Governor’s signature today.” Simitian credited Schwarzenegger with, “incredible tenacity in pursuing a genuinely comprehensive package of water reforms.” 

Simitian’s SB 7X 1 won bipartisan support in the State Senate.  The 29-5 vote in favor of the bill included two-thirds majorities of both Democrats and Republicans. 

For more information on SB 7X 1, see the attached summary, timeline and press contacts, or visit