The attempt to legislate a long-term solution to California water problems was doomed before the 1987 session of the Senate and Assembly ever convened last January. In the present political climate in California, consensus and compromise are the only way to make real progress on the water front. Bombast and confrontation were tried in the Legislature and, of course, failed.
Major bills sponsored by the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly water committees sought to force through programs to accelerate the exporting of more Northern California water to the south via the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. About all that these efforts managed to do was to reopen old wounds just at a time when various factions in the state were learning to work together.
Assemblyman Jim Costa (D-Fresno) gave up first after Northern Californians succeeded in amending his bill with changes that were unacceptable to southern water leaders. Costa assured the death of his bill when he took the extra-ordinary step of personally ordering the offending Assembly amendments stripped from the legislation after it finally passed the lower house.
A measure sponsored by Sen. Ruben S. Ayala (D-Chino) got through the Senate, but it was destined to go no further without the San Francisco Bay and delta protection amendments that had been grafted to the Costa bill. When Ayala finally accepted defeat, he said bitterly: "Anyone who thinks they can reach consensus with the north is politically naive." But consensus already has been achieved on a number of critical issues. The only people who believe that consensus is impossible are those who have never tried, or wish not to try. Ayala added that the south should begin working on a voter initiative campaign to force southern demands down the throats of the north. Ayala seems to have forgotten the results of the 1982 election on the Peripheral Canal. There is no sign that the South would do any better now.