U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein Feinstein discussed the difficulties of crafting water legislation following a meeting with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. She was seeking to build support for her latest big piece of wa Christopher Cadelago The Sacramento Bee
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein Feinstein discussed the difficulties of crafting water legislation following a meeting with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. She was seeking to build support for her latest big piece of wa Christopher Cadelago The Sacramento Bee

Capitol Alert

The go-to source for news on California policy and politics

Capitol Alert

Dianne Feinstein says water wars tougher than assault-weapons ban

By Christopher Cadelago

ccadelago@sacbee.com

March 30, 2016 09:30 AM

Moments before release of a crucial snowpack survey Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein warned against loosening the mandatory water restrictions imposed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“I think it’s premature right now,” the California Democrat said Wednesday afternoon. “I think we need to see what happens in April ... an important month for water.”

Feinstein met with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board to build support for her latest big piece of water legislation. Feinstein, who wants to spend up to $1.3 billion for desalination, recycling, storage and grants, said in long run the objective is to be prepared as the state population grows and the climate changes.

“During this particular drought ... we’ve got to be able to, within environmental laws and biological opinions, maximize water supply,” she told the board. “And this is particularly (the case) this year because of the El Niño.”

Help us deliver journalism that makes a difference in our community.

Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce. If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today.

Feinstein characterized the bill as “tunnel neutral,” saying she hasn’t taken a position on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to build two tunnels to divert water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south.

“I can’t tell you right now because I don’t know enough, candidly,” she said. “I’ve struggled with this. And all of the data isn’t in yet.”

Feinstein returned several times to the idea that as a senator responsible for such a large and diverse state, her primary goal is to look out for the interests of all Californians. “I’ve tried very hard to represent everybody in this state,” she said of the bill, which she said has undergone 26 drafts, 43 amendments in the last version alone. She said working on the sweeping water policy is even more difficult than her successful push for an assault-weapons ban, which was in effect for 10 years before expiring in 2004.

“The House wants stronger language and the environmental community doesn’t want any bill,” she said. “We’re bigger than 25 states and the District of Columbia put together, population-wise. And we have the same water infrastuture from when we were 16 million people. We had better get cracking because it’s only going to get worse. And the point is to find the sweet spot and have a bill that’s balanced. And that’s what we have tried to do.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago