Good morning, California.
Brown's Delta Tunnels now are Newsom's
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom will inherit what two prior administrations failed to finish: an ambitious, $20 billion plan to bore twin tunnels from the Sacramento River 30 miles south to the massive pumps near Tracy.
- The question: Will Newsom see the project with the same sense of urgency as Gov. Jerry Brown?
Brown’s Department of Water Resources on Friday withdrew a request to the Delta Stewardship Council, which has authority over the Delta, for a certification necessary to approve the tunnels. Council staff had signaled they needed more information and an upcoming vote on the permit wasn’t likely to go Brown’s way.
- Friday’s move means analysis will continue, but the tunnels—widely viewed as Brown’s “pet project“—won’t be completed under his administration.
- Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager for the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies water to 19 million Southern Californians, said proponents can answer the council’s concerns in early 2019.
Newsom’s “stay tuned,” shortly before the Nov. 6 election: “There are a lot of open-ended questions and a lot of work of being put together.”
Fun fact: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger actually launched the current iteration of the tunnels. But Brown moved the project forward, seeking approvals for the conveyance to transport water from the north end to the southern end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
- Long a tunnel advocate, Brown became even more of a believer as it became clear what climate change and sea level rise could do to the Delta, a key water source to agriculture, fish, wildlife and people in the Bay Area and Southern California.
Brown in 2012: “Analysis paralysis is not why I came back 30 years later to handle some of the same issues. At this stage, as I see many of my friends dying—I went to the funeral of my best friend a couple of weeks ago—I want to get shit done.”
Meanwhile, in another Delta water war
State and San Joaquin River water interests negotiated through the weekend in an attempt to strike voluntary agreements to give up some Delta water rights ahead of a State Water Resources Control Board vote Tuesday that would force the issue.
- This is a big deal for cities in the Bay Area—including San Francisco—that draw from the massive estuary that is California’s most critical water resource. And, of course, thirsty Southern Californians.
The scramble has gone on since last month, when the state announced a mandate that would slash water for cities and farmers during droughts, the better to restore health to the environmentally fragile Delta.
- Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom sent a letter to the water board on election night asking it to delay a vote to give various sides a chance to come to a voluntary agreement. That new vote is set for Tuesday.
If no agreement is reached, the water board could impose restrictions that could significantly reduce water use for individuals, farms and industry, and provide more for the environment and endangered fisheries.
- Also on Tuesday: The 26-member Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is expected to vote to voluntarily curtail use of Colorado River water. A long-term drought in the Colorado River watershed and overuse have led to dramatically decreased levels in Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir but one that hasn’t reached capacity in 35 years.
Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the MWD: “I would hope it is a lesson well taken. We’re all in this together.”
Also Newsom's? Next steps on Obamacare
Covered California has signed up more than 90,000 newly insured this year.
A new study warns that if the state does nothing to counteract the Trump administration’s moves to undermine the Affordable Care Act, up to 1 million more Californians could be without health insurance within the next five years, CALmatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports.
Legislative leaders are mulling how best to keep residents enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, now that the Trump administration canceled the mandate that required everyone be insured or pay a tax penalty.
- Record numbers of Californians have medical coverage, thanks to Obamacare. Keeping them that way will be another inherited challenge for the governor-elect.
Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and a pediatrician: “We are going to do what we can in California to stabilize the insurance market … We are up against a federal administration that is doing the opposite and forcing people to pay higher premiums.”
More than 90,000 newly insured people signed up as of the end of November, says Peter Lee, executive director of the agency offering subsidized Obamacare plans for this state, Covered California. But those projections already were lowered by 10 to 12 percent compared to last year because it was unknown what effect the removal of the penalty would have on sign-ups.
- Covered California is working on a report on how to best bolster the system. One option: Adopt a state-only mandate as a way to shore up the insurance exchanges. Lawmakers also are mulling increased subsidies, lower premiums, or a combination of all of the above.
A Republican shellacking
GOP ex-Reps. Mimi Walters of Orange County, right, and Claudia Tenney in 2017.
Democratic candidates for Congress in California received 7.88 million votes to Republicans’ 4.3 million, and Democrats captured 64.7 percent of the 12.1 million votes cast for congressional races, by my count of final Secretary of State results.
Republicans emerged with just seven of California’s 53 congressional seats, a loss of seven. But even those who remain in California’s congressional delegation saw their vote totals fall by tens of thousands of votes.
- Congressman Devin Nunes of Tulare County, for example, received 117,244 votes, 41,000 fewer than in 2016.
- Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Leader who is about to become House Minority Leader, received 36,000 fewer votes this year than he did in 2016, as did Congressman Tom McClintock of Elk Grove.
- Congressman Duncan Hunter, a San Diego County Republican who faced indictment on charges that he used campaign money for personal expenses, received 45,000 fewer votes than he did in 2016.
The year’s biggest vote-getter: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, in line to become Speaker, at 275,929.
Overall, Republican vote totals dropped by more than 530,000 from 2018 to 2016, even though the GOP failed to field candidates in several congressional races two years ago.
- Democratic vote totals also fell, down from 8.5 million in 2016, a presidential election year when Democrats turn out in greater numbers and when there were several Democrat vs. Democrat races.
Final financial disclosures for 2018 show Democratic congressional candidates raised and spent more than $50 million, $30 million more than the Republicans, McClatchy-DC reports.
Commentary at CALmatters
Greg Lucas, California State Librarian: It has been 132 years since a Democratic governor of California last turned over the keys to the Capitol’s corner office to another Democrat. Social and technological changes have been vast. But some political rhetoric is uncomfortably similar.
Dan Walters, CALmatters: With the state’s big, investor-owned electric utilities on the hot seat for wildfire damages, maybe it’s time to consider making them into fully public entities.
What mattered in 1881
Electric Tower of San Jose, courtesy of the California State Library
Electrical equipment hasn’t always had the rap it’s had since the wildfires.The San Jose Electric Light Tower, for instance, was once an early sign of technological savvy in San Jose.
- The brainstorm of the San Jose Daily Mercury’s owner, James Jerome Owen, the 237-foot tower downtown was dedicated on Dec. 13, 1881.
- It stood until Dec. 3, 1915, when it fell in a storm. A replica stands History Park at Kelly Park. Sources: California State Library, San Jose Library.
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See you tomorrow.