The continuing fight for Sacramento Delta water

1,300 miles of ancient, earthen levees protect and encircle the Sacramento Delta.  Some say this leaves the area, and its crucial water supply vulnerable to an earthquake. Others opine that the levees are sturdy enough. That something seemingly as simple as agreement over the safety of levees can’t be reached is a telling indication of how politically contentious the Delta is. It’s been this way for decades too.

It’s all about the water, and who will control it and where will it go. Delta residents and environmentalists have somewhat overlapping interests. They want most of the water to stay in the Delta so the wildlife, fish, and birds will be protected and the area remains a natural resource. In opposition to them, but hardly allies, are farming interests in the Central Valley and the Los Angeles / San Diego water-devouring monsters to the South.  Everyone wants that water, and more than a few of the players are politically connected with major financial resources. Add to that a multiplicity of federal, state, and local agencies with regulatory power over the Delta and you get a rather complicated game indeed, and one which is played using brass knuckles. The politics of water in California has always been a barely disguised street fight.

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Rewiring DWP: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa must reform the city’s utility

THE Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is more than a utility – it’s an institution. More than a century ago, the DWP and its first superintendent, William Mulholland, secured the water that would eventually allow Los Angeles to grow into the nation’s second-largest city. Without the DWP, we would never have had the citrus groves and orchards that once stretched across the San Fernando Valley, nor the suburban developments that later replaced the farms.

True, the DWP’s story has always been one of landmark accomplishment, coupled with scandal and political meddling. But the last few years have been a particularly dark period for the utility.

Mass power outages in 2006 and rampant water line breaks in 2009 revealed how the utility had failed to maintain its aging infrastructure. Rich raises for DWP employees awarded during a recession, coupled with rapidly increasing rates antagonized customers.

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The DWP is a ripe candidate for privatization.