Five congressional Democrats have called for the resignation of Jerry Meral, the deputy director of California’s National Resources Agency, for comments he allegedly made about the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Reps. George Miller (D-Martinez), Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton), and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) issued a joint statement condemning Meral for comments he allegedly made to officials that not only was the Bay Delta Conservation Plan never about preserving the delta, but the delta could not be saved.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is an estimated $23 billion initiative by California Governor Jerry Brown to build three pumping stations along the Sacramento River to divert water into two massive tunnels. The tunnels would then send water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California.
According to Gov. Brown, the project would restore the delta while preserving the local ecosystem and improve California’s water infrastructure. He recently called on the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Commerce to quickly release an environmental impact statement and Federal Register notice on the project.
The governor’s goal is to complete the approval process by the end of the year, but there are reports that indicate approval from state and federal agencies may not be finalized until 2014 or 2015.
From the beginning, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan has been immersed in controversy. Many Republicans and Democrats from Central California have spoken out against it, arguing it would risk the water supply in the region to benefit residents in the South. Concerns have also been raised over the large price tag attached to the project and the potential negative impact it could have on the region's environment.
The reason Jerry Meral’s alleged comments are so controversial is because they would contradict statements and efforts made by the governor to get the project moving. It would imply Gov. Brown has willfully lied to state and federal officials, not to mention California residents.
"Director Meral's comments suggest the Brown administration has violated the public trust," Rep. Miller said in the statement. "The administration needs to be forthcoming as to whether they intend to honor their stated goal to restore the region's already struggling habitat or whether this is simply a water grab which will drive the Bay-Delta to ruin."
According to Natural Resources Agency spokesman Richard Stapler, Brown’s administration “remains deeply committed to maintaining a healthy Delta ecosystem,” and said the conservation plan invests $7.5 billion for the restoration and preservation of the region.