Rarely has the selection of a major gubernatorial appointee been so public as that of the critical position of chairman of the California Water Resources Control Board. The two finalists had impressive credentials. Stuart Pyle has been engineer-manager of the Kern County Water Agency for the past 13 years. W. Don Maughan of Sacramento served on the Water Resources Control Board from 1973 to 1979--first appointed by Ronald Reagan, and reappointed by Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Both men were acknowledged candidates for the job. Factions lined up behind each. Generally, Pyle had the backing of the agribusiness community and Chairman Ruben Ayala (D-Chino) of the Senate Agriculture and Water Resources Committee and Ayala's conservative Democratic allies. Maughan's support included conservation groups and a bloc of moderate Republicans.
Gov. George Deukmejian made the right choice in choosing Maughan. There is no question of Pyle's qualifications or his ability to serve all Californians. But, considering his long association with the agriculture giants of Kern County, his appointment would have sent the wrong message at a time of changing water needs and philosophies in California.
Maughan played a pivotal role in the California board's establishment of water-quality standards for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in the 1970s. He then went to Arizona, where he won respect for implementing that state's pioneering groundwater management and conservation law for the Arizona Department of Water Resources. He retired from that position last year.
The governor's choice is to be commended, and Maughan's nomination deserves speedy confirmation by the California Senate.