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A bill to require legislative approval before any new peripheral canal could be built to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to other parts of the state died this week in the California Assembly.

Democratic Assemblywoman Alyson Huber of El Dorado Hills proposed the measure, Assembly Bill 550, which was rejected Tuesday by the Assembly's Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee by a vote of five yes, seven no.

The measure would have barred construction of such a canal if it would impact the Delta or its residents in ways ranging from imposing a financial burden to negatively affecting water rights, quality or supply.

Huber said Friday she will not try to revive AB 550 this year, but she will continue to push a provision calling for an independent analysis of financial feasibility prior to construction of any canal.

The Legislature, as part of a package of water legislation in 2009, created a Delta stewardship to develop a plan for long-term water supply and Delta protection. Four of its seven voting members are appointed by the governor.

Water exporters, business interests and Southern California officials have long supported construction of a new water canal to help stabilize California water supplies.

Huber contends that the stewardship council is moving toward approving such a project and that lawmakers, not appointees, should make the decision on "one of the largest infrastructure projects in California history."

"Ultimately my view lost," she said.

Tackling California's water problems pits powerful interests against each other, sparking political headaches.

"Ultimately, I think that the Legislature is afraid to be involved in decisions involving water," Huber said.

Two Republicans on the Assembly water committee opposed Huber's bill, along with five Democrats, including four from Southern California.

Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, a Fresno Republican who voted against AB 550, said that the Legislature should not renege on the commitment it made in 2009 to form the stewardship council.

"I don't believe in breaking promises," Halderman said Friday.

"In my view, once we start down that road, we create a body that's guaranteed to be dysfunctional," she said.


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