Former Westland Staffer Appointed to California Water Commission

By Dan Bacher | August 23, 2013 | UPDATED | The revolving door between corporate interests and California government continues wi...

By Dan Bacher | August 23, 2013 | UPDATED |

The revolving door between corporate interests and California government continues with the announcement of the appointment of a former Westlands Water District staffer to the California Water Commission. 

Governor Jerry Brown appointed David Orth, 55, of Clovis, to the Commission on August 21. Orth has been general manager of the Kings River Conservation District since 2002. 

He was vice president of resource management at California Valley Land Company Inc. from 2000 to 2002 and held multiple positions at Westlands Water District from 1986 to 2000, including general manager and director of finance. 

Orth was deputy treasurer and principal accountant at the Fresno County Auditor-Controller and Treasurer’s Office from 1982 to 1986. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Orth is a Republican. 

Orth's former employer, the Westlands Water District, is known as the "Darth Vader" of California water politics. Westlands recently sued the federal government to block increased releases of water on the Trinity River to stop a fish kill on the lower Klamath River. Fortunately, a federal judge Thursday lifted a temporary restraining order blocking the releases, allowing the Bureau of Reclamation to increase the flows. 

The appointment of Orth continues a long tradition of the domination of California politics by corporate and "Big Money" interests. These include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's appointment of Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, as chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged "marine protected areas" in Southern California. 

The Governor also appointed Adan Ortega, 50, of Fullerton, a former Metropolitan Water District employee, to the California Water Commission. 

Ortega has been the sole proprietor of Adan Ortega Associated since 2009. He was deputy managing partner at Rose and Kindel from 2005 to 2008 and vice president of external affairs at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California from 1999 to 2005. 

Ortega was chief deputy secretary of state at the Office of the California Secretary of State from 1997 to 1999 and assistant general manager at the West and Central Basin Municipal Water Districts from 1994 to 1997. He was vice president at the Dolphin Group from 1985 to 1993. Ortega is chair of Mujeres de La Tierra and an advisory council member at Southern California Sustainable Conservation. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Ortega is registered decline-to-state. 

The California Water Commission consists of nine members appointed by the Governor and subject to Senate confirmation. Its historical role includes "advising the Director of the Department of Water Resources on matters within the Department's jurisdiction, approving rules and regulations, and monitoring and reporting on the construction of the State Water Project." 

The appointments to the Water Commission were made as Governor Brown is fast-tracking the construction of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels to deliver massive quantities of northern California water to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and to oil companies seeking to expand the environmentally destructive practice of fracking in Kern County and coastal areas. 

The construction of the twin tunnels will not only hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon and steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, but threatens the salmon and steelhead runs of the Klamath and Trinity rivers.

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