The Senate Rules Committee approved the reappointment of Dorene D’Adamo to the State Water Resources Control Board this week. In the hearing, senators had her respond to outcry from a water board conservation manager who recently resigned in protest, arguing the agency has not been aggressive enough in its drought response.
Max Gomberg blasted Gov. Gavin Newsom for replacing the board chair at the start of his term with Joaquin Esquivel, a more conciliatory board member. Esquivel has been willing to consider voluntary agreements to soften aggressive proposals in the 2018 update to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan. Gomberg decried this as delaying action and siding with defenders of the status quo.
Citing an outdated statistic that agriculture consumes 80% of the state’s water, Gomberg criticized the board for not standing in the way of agriculture's push to grow “as much as they want, where they want, with however much water they want.” He took aim specifically at almonds and grapes.
Gomberg is now a private consultant “supporting advocates and progressive organizations” in the water sector.
During the hearing, D’Adamo defended the board as “the water cop on the street,” enacting emergency curtailments that have been mostly adhered to. This runs counter to the last drought, when the agency was "hamstrung" with having to issue specific notices to each diverter. More improvements can be made, she cautioned, before thanking the Legislature for providing $30 million to upgrade the water rights data system.
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D’Adamo applauded agriculture for stepping up to “use and reuse every drop of water” and for cutting fertilizer use along the way.
The progressive viewpoints of the disgruntled official concerned Republican Senator Shannon Grove of Bakersfield. With just five board members, “the staff is very powerful” at the agency, argued Grove.
D’Adamo responded that she has made strides to get outside her comfort zone and meet with all stakeholders. Water agencies and agricultural interests testifying in support of her confirmation agreed, saying she pushes stakeholders and asks tough questions.
On a scathing state auditor report about drinking water, D’Adamo pointed out the board has connected 650,000 Californians to clean water in just three years. That was “the low-hanging fruit” and the rest “can be very complicated challenges,” but she was hopeful that billions of state and federal dollars funneling through the board for projects will make a significant difference.