• Group calls legislative package 'breakthrough' victory for ecosystem protection
SACRAMENTO, CA, Nov. 4, 2009 -- Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the California Legislature for passing historic water legislation in both the Senate and Assembly today. It will now be sent to Governor Schwarzenegger to sign into law.
"This is a major breakthrough that sets a new framework for providing both water supply reliability and protecting our fragile ecosystems," said Laura Harnish, Regional Director of Environmental Defense Fund. "It puts California on course for a smarter water future."
"Future generations will look back at this legislation as the first big step on the path to a sustainable water future for California," said Cynthia Koehler, EDF's senior consulting attorney, who helped to negotiate the environmental safeguards in the legislation. "It is the most progressive package of state water policy reform in the last three decades."
"This package is only the beginning of moving toward a secure water future for the state," said Elgie Holstein, vice-president of EDF's Land, Water and Wildlife programs and a former associate director of Office of Management and Budget for Natural Resources, Energy and Science. "It sets an important standard for other states and the nation, by establishing that protecting and restoring the largest estuary on the West Coast - the irreplaceable Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta ecosystem -- is a goal on par with providing a reliable water supply."
The Environmental Defense Fund worked for more than a year to establish several key environmental safeguards in the legislation. They include new requirements to:
1) Help ensure that sufficient water flows for fish and other wildlife are left in the ecosystem;
2) Reduce reliance on exports of fresh water from the Delta;
3) Require much greater water conservation; and
4) Develop good science on the state of California's underground water reserves.
Disputes over water supply and environmental protections have been at the forefront of vigorous and sometimes emotional debate in California. Drought, economic hardship in farming communities, extended salmon fishery closures and signs of imminent ecological collapse all combined to help convince the California Legislature that it had to act to protect water supply for future generations.
"No one got everything they wanted, but for the sake of our state's environmental and economic future, we all felt that we had an obligation to come together and keep working until we could reach an agreement," concluded Koehler. "That's what we have done."
About the Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 700,000 supporters. Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. Web: www.environmentaldefense.org and blogs.edf.org/waterfront/