Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to water managers from throughout the state at the Association of California Water Agencies conference at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif.

Capitol Alert
The go-to source for news on California policy and politics
May 6, 2015
By David Siders and Dale Kasler

Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that critics of his twin tunnels water diversion plan should “shut up” until they spend more time studying it, defending the project and strict water conservation rules as California grapples with a fourth year of drought.

Brown’s remarks prompted laughter at a meeting of water agency officials in Sacramento, and his office said he made them in jest.

But they came amid heightened tension over Brown’s controversial tunnels plan and new statewide conservation requirements.

Brown last week announced major changes to his plan to build two tunnels to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south. The administration, while moving forward with a $15 billion conveyance, dramatically reduced the amount of habitat restoration originally proposed.

“Until you’ve put a million hours into it,” said Brown, estimating the amount of staff time devoted to the project, “shut up.”

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, said in a prepared statement Wednesday that Brown “has his fingers in his ears and will not listen” to criticism.

She said, “We will not go away, and we will not shut up.”

The viability of the project remains uncertain, but the high stakes for Brown are clear. He has made a Delta conveyance a priority of his administration since he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983.

The Democratic governor’s earlier Sacramento River diversion plan, the peripheral canal, was defeated in a referendum in 1982.

Californians for Water Security, a group that includes the California Chamber of Commerce, farm and labor organizations, said this week that it released TV and radio ads supporting the tunnels project. A spokeswoman declined to specify how significant the ad buys were, except to say the group was spending “well into the six figures” on TV, mostly in the Bay Area.

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