I want to write about the Little Hoover Commission’s report on the structure of California water governance, but there’s so much in there that I’m overwhelmed. Soon. In the meantime, a couple rough thoughts about Dudley Ridge’s response to the Kern County Grand Jury report.
Dear Hanford Sentinel,
Would it kill you to give a link to the source materials, so I don’t have to rely only on your reporting? It took me long minutes to track it down on the County website, which is the kind of strenuous reporting that bloggers don’t like to do. (There you go, gentle readers. The Grand Jury report is on pages 6-11; Dudley Ridge’s response is on pages 12-13.) That would be great!
The Grand Jury’s report called for stricter oversight by the county and DWR, so that transfers that permanently sell away a noticeable chunk of water don’t happen by surprise.
While short term water exchanges are acceptable and common, permanent transfers need more forceful oversight on the part of county officials and local public agencies.
Dudley Ridge’s response:
Response to Recommendation 3
We disagree that “more forceful oversight” is necessary. The District and the County are sister agencies, and each is an independent political subdivision of the state. Neither has authority over the other, and each is charged with specific responsibilities. The District, like the County is bound to follow certain statutory mandates. It did so in connection with the subject transfer, and it rigorously attempts to do so in all cases. If the Grand Jury believes the District (or any other party complying with the law) should act in a different manner, it should take those issues up with the Legislature in an effort to change the relevant requirements.
I kinda like that for the big “Fuck you, Grand Jury. Take it up with the Legislature.” I’m also in doubt, because I do think that counties have authority over districts, but honestly don’t know and shouldn’t opine on that issue. But mostly, the thing that always strikes me about Dudley Ridge is that unlike anywhere else I know of, there is no District identity. The “District” can’t disagree with anyone, because there is nothing that would ordinarily make up a “District.” No one lives in Dudley Ridge, unless maybe there are some laborer camps. So there is no “public” to go to district board meetings, issue comment and run for the Board if they don’t like the direction the district is going. The owners of the land, and therefore the Board Members, are corporations like Vidovich in San Jose. They don’t have staff. They have one “Engineer-Manager”, but so far as I can tell, he’s a hired consultant from Provost and Pritchard (page 26). You know how easy it would be for them to replace him if he ever got to having opinions? I am sure that CH2MHill could have someone in there in a week.
Dudley Ridge is unusual in this (which is probably also why they were able to do something as unusual as permanently transfer water rights). I’m not describing a state of affairs that shows how corrupt all SJV water is. I’m only boggling that none of the usual checks of local democracy apply at all in Dudley Ridge’s case. They’ll do what they like, which presumably is whatever is profitable for those companies. If you don’t like it, take it up with the Legislature.