Governor Brown makes three pro-BDCP appointments to water policy posts

Written By: Dan Bacher, May 28, 2014

Governor Brown makes three pro-BDCP appointments to water policy posts

Governor Jerry Brown has appointed three people to key water policy positions in his administration in an apparent effort to bolster his efforts to promote the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels. 

He appointed Karla Nemeth, 43, of Sacramento as deputy secretary for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency. "She will serve as the Governor’s senior advisor on water policy," according to a news release from the Governor's Office on May 27.

Nemeth has served as Bay Delta Conservation Plan project manager at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2009. She was environmental and public affairs director at the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Zone 7 from 2005 to 2009 and community affairs manager at Jones and Stokes from 2003 to 2005. 

Nemeth was a legislative assistant at AESOP Enterprises from 2001 to 2003 and held multiple positions for King County, Washington from 1998 to 2000, including legislative assistant and program manager. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Washington. 

This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $150,000. Nemeth is a Democrat.  

The Governor's Office also announced that Kristopher Tjernell, 32, of Sacramento, has been appointed special assistant for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency. Tjernell has been a policy consultant at the Conservation Strategy Group since 2007, in the areas of integrated water management, water supply, ecosystem conflict resolution and public finance. 

The Conservation Strategy Group’s clients include the Nature Conservancy and other corporate environmental groups that support the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, which has funded the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) studies promoting the construction of the tunnels.

This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $114,456. Tjernell is a Democrat.

Susan Tatayon, 55, of Rocklin, who has worked at the pro-BDCP Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources, has been appointed to the Delta Stewardship Council. 

Tatayon has been an associate director at the Nature Conservancy since 2006. She was supervising resource planner at the Schlumberger Water Division from 2001 to 2005 and special assistant to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific regional director from 2000 to 2001.  

Tatayon served in multiple positions at the California Department of Water Resources from 1996 to 2000, including research program specialist and special assistant to the chief deputy director. She is a member of the Floodplain Management Association Board of Directors. 

This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $40,669. Tatayon is registered without party preference.

Delta advocates see the recent appointments as part of Brown's desperate strategy to boost support for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan at a time when opposition to the plan is mushrooming throughout the state. 

“The governor is circling his wagons and appointing proponents of BDCP to every vacant water policy in his administration,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).  

The appointments were made less than three weeks after this reporter exposed a May 6 memorandum sent to Department of Water Resources (DWR) staff from DWR Director Mark Cowin revealing that two new organizations will be established within the agency to implement the Bay Delta Conservation Plan - a DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE) - beginning June 1. (

The DCE will constitute a new joint powers authority overseen by a Program Manager under contract to the Department of Water Resources and staffed by representatives from DWR, the Metropolitan Water District and other water agencies, and private contractors. It will give water contractors who would benefit from the tunnel plan a key role in the construction planning for the project.

The hollowness of Brown administration claims that the BDCP is founded on "science" was also exposed on Monday, May 19 when the Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) criticized the science in its review of the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement. 

"We find, however, that the science in this BDCP effort falls short of what the project requires...Our concerns raise issues that, if not addressed, may undermine the contributions of BDCP to meeting the co-equal goals for the Delta," the Delta ISB scientists wrote. 

That report followed numerous scathing criticisms of the plan's science from an array of federal and independent scientists and scientific panels over the past few years, who have said the construction of the tunnels may hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelta, green sturgeon and other fish species.  

The tunnel project, estimated to cost over $67 billion, would divert Sacramento River water for use by corporate agribusiness interests and Southern California water agencies.  Under the guise of habitat "restoration," it would take vast tracts of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of agricultural production in order to irrigate toxic, drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. For more information, go to: 

To read the Delta ISB review, go to: 

Photo of Karla Namath, just appointed as deputy secretary for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency, courtesy of MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK.

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