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Matthew Hedger
07/24/2014 10:57 AM
Tom Berryhill and Frank Bigelow Photo courtesy to the Amador Ledger Dispatch

First in a two-part series

Water issues, including bonds and legislation proposed by a Bay Area senator affecting their shared jurisdiction, dominated the discussion during an interview with Amador County’s elected representatives, Senator Tom Berryhill, and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, during an impromptu lunchtime interview July 18.

Before they headed off to attend the dedication of the new Amador County Learning Center (see related story on page two) both men sat down in the conference room at the Amador Ledger Dispatch and had a chat.

Amador Ledger Dispatch: What do you think about the latest push to legislate “wild and scenic” status on the Mokelumne River?

Berryhill: Wild and scenic. They’re doing the same thing to us that they did in the original California Valley Project, when they promised Delta residents four million acre-feet of water if they would go along with their project. They bought into it. Right after that, they started naming all these wild and scenic rivers up north. They haven’t got one acre foot of water in storage since that deal and this is just more of the same. This water bond is looming and hopefully we’re going to get to it the first week of August. Here we go again. This, (wild and scenic) allows no flexibility for Amador County ever.

I mean, to get something done down the road (if this passes), will take an act of God. So, it’s a bad deal for this county. I tell you, when Loni (Senator Hancock, D-Berkeley) came to me and said, ‘Do you want to be a co-author?’ (on Senate Bill 1199), I said, “Well, let me make a few phone calls.’ And I did make a few phone calls, and I couldn’t find anybody that backed it. We got a supervisor or two that reluctantly backed it, and I’m not sure how dedicated they are to it.

ALD: I’m not sure there are any supervisors who back it on this side of the river.

Bigelow: Well there’s nobody on this side, but it was a unanimous vote by the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors. It was a 5-0 vote. Chris Wright is the one who started that whole process. He started it. He got it on the agenda and got it going. After he had gotten hooked up with Loni, then he called me, and that’s when I think he called you (indicating Berryhill) and kind of gave us a brief description of what it was, an ‘I’ll get back to you.’ kind of thing. Next thing you know, Hancock’s got it, running with it, and it’s growing some legs. And now it’s serious. I mean, I think, the only hope that we have of stopping it will be a governor’s veto, and I don’t know that he’ll veto it.

ALD: You expect it to sail right through the remainder of the legislative process then.

Berryhill: We can’t stop it.

Bigelow: There’s not enough votes (to stop it.) It only takes a simple majority for it to be approved and they have a simple majority. They have that many votes.

Berryhill: That’s not to say the governor won’t veto this. To run a bill like this, while we’re in the middle of the biggest drought we’ve seen in our lifetime … we don’t know if it’s going to rain next year. God help us if it doesn’t. But what this bill does is, it leaves no flexibility for Amador County moving forward.

I mean, I don’t get it. And for a Bay area legislator to come in here, into my territory, and run a bill, and her answer when I mentioned it to her on the phone was, ‘Well, we’re doing what’s best for all of California,’ wasn’t a good enough answer for me. And it shouldn’t have been a good enough answer for the people who live here in Amador County.

ALD: Is it unusual for another senator to go into someone else’s district and promote legislation?

Berryhill: Yes, it is.

Bigelow: It is.

ALD: It’s not something that is normally done?

Berryhill: No. I don’t think she’s going to appreciate it when I run a bill right in the middle of Berkeley next year (he laughs.) We’re not going to get mad, we’re going to get even on this one. That was just wrong. But that’s the same pattern they used back in the day, when they were building other water storage.

Next week: water bond discussions.

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