Delta canal legislation shelved

SACRAMENTO — An Assembly committee today shelved legislation to build a canal around the suffering Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, telling the bill's author to try again next year.

Two years in the making, Senate Bill 27 tackled a subject so politically charged that author Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, carefully avoided using the "P" word — Peripheral Canal — as he presented the bill as a way to shore up state water supplies without harming the environment.

But with environmentalists, farmers and Delta-area interests all opposed for different reasons, the legislation went the way of so many other water bills — to the shelf to wait for more studies.

“We don’t know what will fix this yet ... so to leap to the conclusion that it is a conveyance facility and to focus attention on that I think truly is premature,” said Assembly Member Lois Wolk, D-Davis, chairwoman of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

“Conveyance” is the other word for canal. SB 27 would have created a new seven-member authority to contract for the design and construction of a new facility to move water from the Delta to pumps that send the water to cities and farms. A $4 billion bond would have been put on the November ballot to help pay for the project, which would also be funded by users.

Urging Simitian to wait for more findings, the committee did not vote on his bill. He plans to scale it back to include only short-term fixes, like beefing up state plans to respond to a Delta earthquake. He vowed to tackle the canal again in a new bill next year, after the release of a much anticipated report from the Gov. Schwarzenegger-appointed Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force.