Notwithstanding his penchant for obscure philosophical aphorisms, sometimes delivered in Latin, at his core Jerry Brown is a largely conventional politician.
Therefore, while he repeatedly denies it, as political protocol dictates, he certainly is concerned with the legacy he’ll leave when his record-long, bifurcated governorship ends 18 months hence.
Of course, there will be the paper record of budgets and bills, of executive orders, and of elections won and lost. But politicians instinctively want to leave behind more than yellowing files in dusty boxes – or their electronic equivalents. They want concrete reminders of what they wrought while in office.
For Brown, that means two massive public works projects – twin tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to carry Sacramento River water southward, and a north-south bullet train.
Both are highly controversial, sparking regional and ideological conflict, both face daunting regulatory hurdles and, perhaps most importantly, there are no clear pathways for covering their combined costs approaching $100 billion.
The water tunnels would more or less complete the state water system that was the most visible accomplishment of Brown’s father and gubernatorial predecessor, Pat Brown.
The tunnels got a boost last week when two federal wildlife agencies concluded that they wouldn’t worsen the Delta’s already damage habitat.
However that’s just one of the many regulatory hurdles for WaterFix, as it’s officially dubbed, the most important being an incredibly complex evaluation by the state Water Resources Control Board of its impacts.
Even if the $17 billion project clears all those hurdles, it still faces litigation from environmental groups and other opponents and must receive commitments from San Joaquin Valley agricultural water districts and Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District for construction funds.
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