University of California Berkeley
REGIONAL ORAL HISTORY OFFICE
Regional Oral History Office University of California
The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California
Ronald B. Robie
THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES 1975-1983
With Introductions by
William E. Warne
Ruben S . Ayala
Interview Conducted by
Underwritten by the Water Resources Center, University of California
Copyright (T) 1989 by The Regents of the University of California
Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing
leading participants in or well -placed witnesses to major events in the
development of Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is
a modern research technique involving an interviewee and an informed
interviewer in spontaneous conversation. The taped record is transcribed,
lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee.
The resulting manuscript is typed in final form, indexed, bound with
photographs and illustrative materials, and placed in The Bancroft Library at
the University of California, Berkeley, and other research collections for
scholarly use. Because it is primary material, oral history is not intended
to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a
spoken account, offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as
such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable.
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal
agreement between the University of California and
Ronald Boyd Robie dated October 28, 1988. The
manuscript is thereby made available for research
purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript,
including the right to publish, are reserved to The
Bancroft Library of the University of California,
Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for
publication without the written permission of the
Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of
Request for permission to quote for publication
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office,
486 Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720,
and should include identification of the specific
passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages,
and identification of the user. The legal agreement
with Ronald Boyd Robie requires that he be notified of
the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as
Ronald Boyd Robie, "The California State
Department of Water Resources, 1975-
1983," an oral history conducted in 1988
by Malca Chall, the Regional Oral
History Office, The Bancroft Library,
University of California, Berkeley, CA
Copy no. '
RONALD B. ROBIE
ROBIE, Ronald B. (b . 1937) Director, California Department of Water
The California State Department of Water Resources. 1975-1983. 1989, xi,
Staff, California Assembly Committee on Water, 1960-1969; State Water
Resources Control Board membership, 1969-1975; director, Department of Water
Resources, 1975-1983: staffing, setting policy, securing independent power
source for State Water Project; drought; strike of operation and maintenance
employees; discusses water quality, supply, rights, conservation; Peripheral
Canal legislation and election campaign; Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Introductions by William E. Warne, director, Department of Water Resources,
1961-1967; State Senator Ruben S. Ayala, chairman, Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Water Resources; and Gerald Meral, deputy director, Department
of Water Resources, 1975-1983.
Interviewed 1988 by Malca Chall, the Regional Oral History Office, The
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
TABLE OF CONTENTS ~ Ronald B. Robie
William E. Warne iv
Ruben S. Ayala viii
Gerald Meral x
INTERVIEW HISTORY xii
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY xiv
I BACKGROUND ON WATER MATTERS LEADING TO APPOINTMENT AS
DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES 1
Concern About Directions of the Department of Water Resources 2
The State Water Resources Control Board: Water Quality 2
The Appointment as Director 5
Governor Jerry Brown's First Years in Office 6
The California Water Commission 7
The New Melones Dam Decision 11
II DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES:
ADMINISTRATION AND RELATED MATTERS 13
The Staff 14
Setting the Direction 18
Relationship with the California Water Commission 19
Tracking Legislation 21
Financing the California State Water Project 22
Securing Independent Electric Power Sources 24
The Annual Budget Process 31
Coping with the Drought 32
Establishing the Operating Plan 35
The Strike of the Operation and Maintenance Employees 36
The Western States Water Council 39
The Effect on the Administration of Governor Brown's
Presidential Ambitions 39
The California State Interagency Group 40
Speechmaking and Other Contacts 41
The Sierra Club and the Delta Pumps 41
The Wild Rivers Designation 43
III SETTING AND DEVELOPING WATER USE POLICIES AND PROGRAMS:
SOME MAJOR ISSUES 45
The Water Management Policy 45
Integration of Water Quality and Water Supply 46
The Coordinated Water Agreement 48
Water Conservation 49
The Colorado River Board 52
The San Luis Drain 53
The Medfly Crisis 55
Pesticide Control 56
Mono Lake 57
The Pacific Southwest Water Plan 60
Innovative Resource Policies 61
The Renewable Resources Investment Fund 61
The Irrigation Management Information System 62
A Closer Look at Several Federal/State Relationships 63
Auburn Dam 63
Meeting Water Quality Standards 64
Acreage Limitation 66
Non-Reserved Water Rights 67
The Carter and Reagan Administrations Compared 67
The Peripheral Canal Debate: Where Policies Meet Politics 68
The Review Study, 1975-1977 68
Governor Brown's Early Commitment 70
The First Version, SB 346: The Crucial Federal Role,
1977-1978 7 2
Moving SB 346 Through the Legislature 73
Analyzing the Votes on SB 346 74
The Second Version, SB 200, 1979-1982 75
The Delta Protection and Wild Rivers Initiative,
Proposition 8; Peripheral Canal Referendum,
Proposition 9 76
Reviewing the Debate
Robie's Career After the DWR: The Sacramento Judiciary
The Deukmejian Administration and Water Policies 83
Recap of Several Major Policies During Robie's Term
Waste Water Management and Reclamation 87
TAPE GUIDE 89
APPENDIX - Selected Biographical Details 90
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
BERKELEY DAVIS IRVINE LOS ANGELES RIVERSIDE SAN DIEGO SAN FRANCISCO
SANTA BARBARA SANTA CRUZ
OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR
WATER RESOURCES CENTER
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
RIVERSIDE CALIFORNIA 92521
The Water Resources Center of the University of California,
in 1965, established a History of California Water Resources
Development Oral History Series, to be carried out by the oral
history offices at the Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses. The
basic purpose of the program was "to document historical
developments in California's water resources by means of tape
recorded interviews with people who have played a prominent role
in this field." The concern of those who drafted the program was
that while the published material on California water resources
described engineering and economic aspects of specific water
projects, little dealt with concepts, evolution of plans, and
relationships between and among the various interested federal,
state, and local agencies.
To bridge this information gap, the Water Resources Center,
during the past quarter century under the successive direction of
Professors Arthur F. Pillsbury, J. Herbert Snyder, and Henry
Vaux, Jr. , has provided funding in full or in part for interviews
with men who have been observers and participants in significant
aspects of water resources development. Early advisors to the
project on the Berkeley campus were Professors J. W. Johnson and
David K. Todd. Gerald Giefer, librarian of the Water Resources
Center Archives, Berkeley, has maintained an important advisory
role in the project.
Interviewees in the Berkeley series have been pioneers in
western water irrigation, in the planning and development of the
Central Valley and California State Water Projects, in the
administration of the Department of Water Resources, and in the
pioneering work of the field of sanitary engineering. Some have
been active in the formation of the San Francisco Bay
Conservation and Development Commission; others have developed
seminal theories on soil erosion and soil science. But in all
cases, these people have been deeply concerned with water
resources in California.
Their oral histories provide unique background into the
history of water resources development and are valuable assets to
students interested in understanding the past and in developing
theories for future use of this essential, controversial, and
threatened commodity water.
Henry J. Vaux, Jr., Director
Water Resources Center
3 October 1989
University of California
Riverside, CA 92521
REGIONAL ORAL HISTORY OFFICE
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY
The following interviews have been funded in whole or in part by
The Water Resources Center, University of California
Banks, Harvey (b. 1910)
California Water Project. 1955-1961. 1967 82 pp.
Gianelli, William R. (b. 1919)
The California State Department of Water Resources. 1967-1973.
1985, 86 pp.
Gillespie, Chester G. (1884-1971)
Origins and Early Years of the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering.
1971, 39 pp.
Harding, Sidney T. (1883-1969)
A Life in Western Water Development. 1967, 524 pp.
Jenny, Hans (b. 1899)
Soil Scientist. Teacher, and Scholar. 1989, 364 pp.
Langelier, Wilfred F. (1886-1981)
Teaching. Research, and Consultation in Water Purification and Sewage
Treatment. University of California at Berkeley. 1916-1955.
1982, 81 pp.
Leedom, Sam R. (1896-1971)
California Water Development. 1930-1955. 1967, 83 pp.
Lowdermilk, Walter Clay (1888-1974)
Soil. Forest, and Water Conservation and Reclamation in China. Israel.
Africa, and The United States. 1969, 704 pp. (Two volumes)
McGaughey, Percy H. (1904-1975)
The Sanitary Engineering Research Laboratory: Administration. Research,
and Consultation. 1950-1972. 1974, 259 pp.
Robie, Ronald B. (b. 1937)
The California State Department of Water Resources. 1975-1983.
1989, 97 pp.
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. 1964-1973.
Interviews with Joseph E. Bodovitz, Melvin Lane, and E. Clement Shute .
1986, 98 pp.
For other California water-related interviews see California Water Resources
INTRODUCTION by William E. Warne
Ronald B. Robie did a fine job in all three posts in the state
government at which I was in a position to observe his performance: staff
consultant to Assemblyman Carley V. Porter, chair of the Water Committee,
member of the Water Resources Control Board during its early and formative
period, and director of the Department of Water Resources, a post that he
held for eight years, a longer tenure than that of any of the five of the
rest of us who have served in that key position.
I first met Ronald B. Robie, as I remember it, in the office of Chair
Carley Porter at about the time that I became director of Water Resources
in January 1961. I previously had known Carley, who also was a member of
the Assembly Fish and Game Committee to which I reported in 1959 as
director fo the Department of Fish and Game, but I do not think that I
knew Ron until after I moved through the Department of Agriculture to
I sized up Ron, a fresh-faced young man, as intelligent and eager;
one who was careful to keep his boss up front; quiet, soft-spoken and
somewhat self-effacing, but not lacking in self-confidence. I soon found
that Ron and I had similar backgrounds. We both graduated from UC
Berkeley, though in different eras, and we both had journalistic training
in college. He was going to night school studying law at McGeorge, so his
degree in journalism was not going to be used extensively in his career.
I had put mine aside after about eight years of newspapering, pursuing a
career in water resources development in the federal and state
Now, in looking back on the more-than- twenty-five years that we have
been friends, I see that Ron and I have had some other experiences in
common. Ron Robie and I are the only Democrats (at least by public party
identification) among the six who have served as directors of Water
Resources since the post was established in 1956. I served under Governor
Edmund G. BrOwn, and he under Edmund G. Brown, Jr. Ron Robie and I also
are the only directors among the six who were not engineers.
Ronald B. Robie was an effective operator while he was the principal
staff person for the late Carley Porter. In going between Carley and the
water community, in which the chairman was a towering figure, and between
Carley and other members of the legislature, in which Chair Porter was a
respected and powerful leader, Ron was adept at facilitating Carley 's
legislative objectives. My departmental staff worked with Ron, but
usually my contacts were directly with the chair, though frequently Ron
was a quiet presence at our meetings.
I discussed the outlines of a bill that many months later became the
Porter-Cologne Act with Carley Porter while I was director. I have always
given credit to Ron Robie for perfecting that legislation for Carley. He
also created the Water Resources Control Board early in the Reagan
administration, but after I had left the state government. Ron, however,
typical of a good staffer, to this day denigrates his part in the
successful enactment of this landmark bill, which stands with the
Burns-Porter Act, funding the State Water Project, at the pinnacle of
Mr. Porter's many legislative achievements.
When the Water Resources Control Board began functioning, shortly
before Carley Porter's untimely death while on an official trip to
Washington, D. C., Robie became a member of the board. He was its most
influential member. Environmental! sm was on the rise, and its emergence
as an influence on water resources development and the construction of the
State Water Project, the initial features of which were then still
unfinished, was troublesome and aggravating to William G. (Bill) Gianelli,
who had succeeded me as director of Water Resources with the advent of the
Reagan administration. Robie sought compromise, and avenues of
cooperation. Gianelli saw the movement as "Chicken Little." Robie saw it
as a movement whose time had come, one that had to be reckoned with.
These differing points of view caused tensions between their holders,
tensions that were not released after Robie became director of Water
Resources, succeeding John Teerink, who finished the last two years of
Gianelli 's term. When Jerry Brown was elected governor, he moved Robie
from the board to the Department of Water Resources as director.
Many in the water community were skeptical of Robie' s appointment, but
I viewed it as a very good one. I thought that Ron would be able to bring
the environmental movement into harmony with the objectives of the water
resources development advocates and enable the department to complete the
State Water Project, which Gianelli had not been able to do.
Ron at once set up an informal advisory council, of which Gianelli and
I were members together with Tom Graff and others who were leaders in the
environmental movement. Ron brought key members of his new staff to the
meetings of the council. At the time, I thought the purpose was to
educate the staff and Robie, himself, regarding key problems confronting
the department and the State Water Project. I found that these meetings,
which were held about once a month, were effective in bringing factions
closer together. After a time, several months, Bill Gianelli began
widening a breech between himself and Robie. The issues were complex, but
seemed to revolve about the Peripheral Canal, which Bill had postponed and
never succeeded in getting Governor Reagan to endorse. I thought that Ron
was bringing the group together on a pattern that might gain the approval
of the Jerry Brown administration for the construction of the Peripheral
Canal. Gianelli quit coming to the meetings, and after the passage of a
few more months, the meetings were abandoned. I thought that this was
appropriate, since it was clear to me by that time that Ron Robie had full
command of the department and knew what he wanted to do with the State
Water Project. He no longer needed the group's advice, and the council
had served its purpose, so far as it could be expected to do, of bringing
factions to a common understanding of water development problems.
Ron Robie did eventually gain the support of Jerry Brown for
Senator Ayala's SB 3*46, and later SB 200, calling for construction of the
Peripheral Canal, which was then recognized by the State Water
Contractors as the next logical step in completion of the SWP the
essential first step beyond the initial facilities that I had started
under the Burns-Porter Act, and which had been completed by Gianelli.
SB 200 was defeated in the referendum election June 8, 1982, at the
conclusion of a bitter north-south contest. Opposition was marshalled by
certain environmental groups, who were financed in major part by renegade
agicultural interests in the San Joaquin Valley, which, I believe, had as
their principal objective the defeat of a constitutional amendment tying
up north coastal rivers for conservation purposes and strengthening the
state's Area of Origin commitment. The amendment had a self-destruct
provision in it, which was to be triggered by the failure of SB 200 to
become effective. I considered the referendum's success to have been a
Pyrrhic victory for the environmental advocates, who seemed to me to have
lost more with the defeat of the amendment than they gained by stymying
The outcome of the election was a great disappointment to Ron Robie.
The water community surlily blamed Jerry Brown for what it characterized
as too little support, too late. The failure, however, was not the
governor's, nor Robie's. It might better have been laid on southern
California water leaders, who were unable regionally to rally large
majorities to support the canal. Voting was conspicuously light in
southern counties on election day. Supporters of the canal were
overwhelmed by large turn-outs in the north, where opposition votes were
in the 90 percent range. The result served to polarize the north-south
division on water issues, a polarization that is still very much in
evidence in 1989.
Inadequate note has been taken of an outstanding achievement of Ron
Robie's directorship. He carried through a program of developing the
power for the State Water Project necessary to make the project
self-sufficient. The gigantic pumps necessary to move water over
mountains through the H^-mile aqueduct system require energy in amounts
that would tax the capabilities of any existing electric utility,
including the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, the nation's largest. I had
negotiated a power supply contract in which all four of California's large
utilitites participated, with a fifteen-year term and a window through
which the state might insert its own generators to supply the project's
pumps. Except for the hydropower generated at the Oroville Dam complex,
one-half the recovered energy at the San Luis off-stream reservoir, and
power recovery plants at drops in the Governor Edmund G. Brown California
Aqueduct, nothing more was done to supply the project's power
independently until Robie became director. I had made an unsuccessful
attempt to build a seed-and-blanket nuclear generator in cooperation with
Admiral H. G. Rickover and the support of Governor Pat Brown, but when
Rickover found his technology unready for application on the schedule
adopted for execution of our federal-state cooperative venture, the plan
was dropped in 1965, too late for the development of an alternative during
Ron Robie, however, with the full support of Governor Jerry Brown, set
about putting the SWP on an energy self-sustaining basis. He succeeded in
withdrawing the Oroville power for SWP use; gaining wheeling agreements
with the utilities for it and the power generated at the state's power
drops on the aqueduct; in building a hydro plant at the federal Pine Flat
Dam; in constructing geothermal facilities in The Geysers; and he bought
into a giant coal-fired generating facility in Nevada. This program has
saved the water service contractors tens of millions of dollars annually.
The SWP so far is using only half of the capacity of its pumps at the
Tehachapi crossing, because the SWP diversions from the Delta are limited
and additional upstream conservation facilities have not been provided.
Some critics have contended that Robie overbuilt the power facilities for
the project, which then was expected to increase its diversions more
rapidly than in fact it has. The project water users, however, are
benefitting, and their water needs continue to grow. The additional
facilities may be built in time; they are needed today. The energy will
then be available for the pumps to deliver more water as the water service
contracts planned that they should.
The coalition of water users and conservation interests that Ron put
together, however briefly it was held in place, represented an important
achievement in governance of California's vital water resources. It
stands as a challenge before his successors.
Since Ron Robie has become a judge, his attention has been turned away
from the water issues and controversies that continue to excite the water
resources community. He is absorbed in his work on the bench, and is seen
only infrequently at water conferences. The water community is poorer
because of this, for Robie' s quick intelligence and grasp of trends that
affect water resources development in California continue to be needed.
In dynamic California, new problems outdate old solutions seemingly
every decade. Ron Robie 's directorship of the California Department of
Water Resources was the fulcrum on which the state's water resources
programs tipped toward environmental- protection and away from development
as their dominant consideration. Ron Robie had the valuable background as
a staffer in the assembly where he supported and studied under one of this
century's most effective legislators in the field of water and related
resources development. As a member of the Water Resources Control Board,
which was a fledgling at the time, his breadth of knowledge of the water
rights and water quality interfaces made him especially effective in
setting the course of the agency, which has steadily increased in power
and stature. His experience made him the right man in the right place
when the governor placed him at the head of the Department of Water
William E. Warne, Director,
Department of Water Resources,
23 May 1989
INTRODUCTION by Senator Ruben S. Ayala
I first met Ron Robie in early 1977 when I introduced three pieces of
legislation to complete the State Water Project. Ron was then the
director of the Department of Water Resources. Prior to that he had been
vice chairman of the State Water Resources Control Board and principal
consultant to the Assembly Water Committee. He was a great appointee and
a credit to any administraiton.
The centerpiece of my legislative effort during the 1977-78
legislative session was SB 3^6. SB 3^6 identified the Peripheral Canal as
the Delta Facility feature of the State Water Project. That measure
cleared both the senate and the assembly. The senate chose not to concur
in either the assembly amendments or the Conference Committee report on
SB 3^6' s life history can be written in the above three sentences.
Yet, for those sentences to be written, several men, of which Ron was the
principal one, devoted hundreds and hundreds of hours to negotiation and
discussion on the measure. It was Ron who forged the consensus between
water interests, agricultural interests, and environmental organizations.
His efforts on behalf of the millions of people within our state were,
without doubt, magnificent.
During the 1979-80 session of the legislature, I introduced SB 200
with the same objectives as SB 3^6 identify the Delta Facility in law,
and get on with completing the State Water Project. Again Robie forged
the compromise. Ron and I had gotten a lot smarter over the past two
years. We laid out both the tactics and process that would place the
measure on the governor's desk.
With Ron Robie defending the administration's compromise with great
ability, SB 200 cleared the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Water
Resources six to five.
The next step in the process was the Senate Finance Committee. With
Robie spending untold hours before that committee, the measure was
rejected initially. Reconsideration was granted. Finally, after months
of effort, SB 200 cleared the second time around. It then cleared the
floor of the senate with relative ease.
At this stage of the legislative process, with Robie spending myriads
of hours before committee, it was decided to go for broke and gamble we
could take the measure through the assembly unamended. We did not wish to
fall into the same trap as the past session and lose the measure on
SB 200 did clear the Assembly Water Committee, the Assembly Ways and
Means Committee, and the floor of the assembly without change. Governor
Brown did sign it. Giant agribusiness, concerned over the high level of
San Francisco Bay protection in the measure, funded a referendum on the
measure. The referendum was successful. Back to square one.
The voice of the electorate is supreme in a democracy. There are
always outstanding men on both sides of major issues. Ron stood above
them all. Ron is now a superior court judge. A judge I would have voted
for if the opportunity had presented itself.
Since 1980, no administration has been able to forge the political
coalitions of support necessary to proceed. Ron Robie did not once, but
twice. Most likely, no such compromise will recur for many years.
We can all posture. We can all criticize. The question that must be
asked is: can we produce when called upon? Do we have that inner
vitality that inner drive that desire to achieve? I can say with no
qualifications, Ron Robie possesses those attributes. I wish him nothing
but the best in his future endeavors.
Senator Ruben S. Ayala, Chairman
Senate Committee on Agriculture
and Water Resources
3 May 1989
INTRODUCTION by Gerald G. Meral
Ron Robie is a pivotal figure in the history of California water
quality and development. He is a transitional figure: he worked for one
of the "fathers" of the State Water Project (Carley Porter), and wrote
California's first modern water quality act (Porter-Cologne Act), and
tried to move the Department of Water Resources from a water development
to a water management philosophy.
Like many transitional figures, his water career has been
controversial, and his efforts to move in the triple directions of water
development, water quality improvement, and water conservation and
management sometimes seemed to please none of the competing factions in
California water. Yet we can easily see today that the efforts he made in
the 1960s and 1970s are being justified as we approach the 1990s.
As the consultant to the Assembly Water Committee he gained the
confidence of the water development community, since he worked for
Assemblyman Carley Porter, one of the key figures in the history of the
State Water Project. But the era of the late 1960s was one of increasing
awareness of environmental problems, and the direction of water management
was towards improving quality. Robie succeeded in drafting and helping to
pass the Porter-Cologne water quality act, and still was able to maintain
the confidence of the powerful water development community.
As a result, he was appointed to the State Water Resources Control
Board by Governor Reagan. But despite the support of the water
developers, it was apparent that he was more than sympathetic to the
concerns of conservationists who wished to preserve the fisheries and
recreational values of California's water resources. In a major shock to
his water development supporters, he developed water rights decision
D-1400 which provided protection to the Lower American River from
diversion by the Bureau of Reclamation.
But this was simply an extension of existing state policy: provide
some environmental amenities while still moving forward on water
development. A bigger shock to the developers was D-T422, which ordered
that the New Melones Dam (a $300,000,000 Corps of Engineers project on the
Stanislaus River) not be filled in order to protect the river
environment. Similarly, D-1379, an earlier decision dealing with the
effects of water development in the Delta, apeared to the developers to
come down clearly on the side of protecting the environment at the expense
of water development.
The election of Jerry Brown as governor resulted in Robie' s
appointment as director of Water Resources, a position which had been held
only by the most enthusiastic of water developers. His appointment was
not opposed by the water development community, in part because of their
obvious inability to stop it, and also because he still showed some
obvious sympathy with their cause.
But his credibility with the conservation community became apparent
when the Sierra Club and Planning and Conservation League were willing to
support the Peripheral Canal as part of a package of protection for the
Bay and Delta, as well as continued development of the State Water
Project. This package marked a transition point in the history of
California water development. It included massive new dams and canals,
but also made it possible that those facilities would be used largely to
protect the fisheries of the Bay and Delta.
The package reflected Robie's own career in water: development
coupled with environmental protection. Its ultimate rejection by the
voters was a result of the not entirely unjustified paranoia by northern
California of the results of continued water development. Since the
rejection of that package in 1982, nothing substantial has happened to
either continue water development or protect the aquatic environment.
Ron Robie brought two important assets to his work: incredible energy
and incisive intelligence. He was willing to try everything: instream
water protection, water conservation, huge water projects, and creative
management techniques. If he had a failing, it was not moving quickly
enough with the times. But considering the wrenching changes he brought
to the Department of Water Resources and the water community in general,
that was hardly their complaint.
The current lack of progress in either protecting the Bay and Delta,
or in meeting the needs of the State Water Project may yet bring the time
when even his old water industry opponents yearn for someone like him to
start moving forward again.
Gerald H. Meral, Deputy Director
Department of Water Resources,
11 June 1989
Until Superior Court Judge Ronald B. Robie was appointed to the
Sacramento Municipal Court by outgoing Governor Jerry Brown in January
1983, his entire career (1960-1983) had been devoted to California water
policy. From 1960-1969 he served as staff director to the Assembly
Committee on Water. Its chairman, Carley Porter, whose name became
synonymous with water policy, is remembered for many landmark water bills,
particularly the Burns-Porter/State Water Project Act (1959), the
Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act (1969), and the State Water Resources
Control Board Act (1967), the latter two largely drafted by Robie.
Attending McGeorge School of Law at night, Robie earned a law degree
in 1967, and in 1969 Governor Ronald Reagan appointed him the lawyer
member of the Water Resources Control Board. During the five years Robie
served on that precedent-setting board, it handed down a number of major
and controversial decisions affecting the San Francisco Bay Delta, the New
Melones Dam, and the American River, decisions which still affect the
trend of water related development in California.
When Jerry Brown was elected governor in 197 1 *, the search was on for a
director of the Department of Water Resources. Robie, stimulated by his
work on the Water Resources Control Board, was not interested in the
director's post, only concerned that the incoming director support the
board. But when offered the directorship he considered briefly and
decided, "Hmm, maybe so," and accepted.
Ron Robie' s eight years as director of the Department of Water
Resources (1975-1983) are the focus of this oral history. He discusses
his view of his mandate as director, his relationships with his staff,
with the legislature, with the California Water Commission, the Water
Resources Control Board, with Governor Jerry Brown, with representatives
of the federal government, with the courts, and with conservation, water,
and agricultural interests.
As director he was confronted with the usual water department issues:
completion of the State Water Project, irrigation, drainage, groundwater
recharge, water rights, waste water reclamation, financing the department
and the SWP, meeting with congressmen in Washington, litigation, pesticide
control, and outside speaking engagements. To those were added the
unexpected problems like the 1976-1977 drought, and the eleven-day strike
of operation and maintenance employees.
To each of these concerns he combined careful scrutiny with his own
sense of mission. With respect to the State Water Project he succeeded in
putting electrical power requirements on a self-sustaining basis, but he
was unsuccessful in reaching his goal to complete the project by way of
the Peripheral Canal. He pushed an integrated water management policy,
directing the Department of Water Resources to consider conservation and
water quality along with development in the management of water
resources. Experience helped him realize that conservation, while not as
simple a solution as it was thought to be, remains the best hope for
helping to meet future water needs. The water management concepts he
promoted are today in the forefront in the development of water policies.
The four-hour interview session was held on Friday, October 18, 1988,
in the courtroom of Department 27, an annex of the Sacramento Superior
Court. Previously, Robie had culled details of his eight years as
director from his reports to the California Water Commission, arranging
them by topics so that he was thoroughly prepared to discuss all items on
either his agenda or mine. Characteristically, he spoke clearly,
articulately, and rapidly, and was able, thereby, to cover in four hours
what the average speaker can manage in five. He clarified a few passages
while reviewing his lightly edited transcript; otherwise it remains
substantially as recorded. At noon, half-way through the session, I was
invited to share a potluck lunch with a lively group of annex judges and
their staffs bidding farewell to one of their colleagues preparing to take
a few months' paternity leave.
Robie chose William E. Warne, former director of the Department of
Water Resources (1961-1967), State Senator Ruben Ayala, chairman of the
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources, and Gerald Meral,
deputy director of the Department of Water Resources during Robie 's term
as director, to write introductions to his oral history. Highly
informative individually, collectively they offer a well-rounded analysis
of Robie 1 s background, his vision as director of the Department of Water
Resources, and the legacy of his direction during those trend-setting
eight years. They enrich the oral history which, itself, adds another
resource to California's steadily growing water history.
This interview was underwritten by a grant from the Water Resources
Center, University of California at Riverside. Since 1961 the Center has
provided funds to the Regional Oral History Office for water-related oral
Malca Chall, Senior Editor
Water Resources and Land Use
27 June 1989
Regional Oral History Office
Regional Oral History Office
Room 486 The Bancroft Library
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720
(Please write clearly. Use black ink.)
/Ro >J Pr<~ T> 13d YD /2-c
Date of birth
3 ~ I 3 ~ 37
Father's full name
Mother's full name
(-^U V\ \A
Birthplace M * & <, ~ ,
Your children Tp rf d , f 1 ^ 6
Where did you grow up?
/ Q H-l 6 1
Areas of expertise
Other interests or activities
Organisations ip which you are active_
I BACKGROUND IN WATER MATTERS LEADING TO APPOINTMENT AS
DIRECTOR OF DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES
[Date of interview: 28 October 1988 ]*#
Chall: We're going to start right from the beginning, with your
appointment as the director [Department of Water Resources]. At
the time that Jerry [Edmund G., Jr.] Brown was running for office,
had you been working on his campaign at all? Were you interested
in him as governor?
Robie: I didn't work on his campaign, but I was interested in him as
governor. My connection with him was through Tom Quinn, who was a
friend of Dave Epstein, who had been my intern years before when I
worked for the assembly. The only contact I had with the governor
during the campaign was when he called me during the summer at
home and asked me about the New Melones [dam] situation. Since I
had been on the water board I was on the water board [Water
Resources Control Board], I responded to him at great length on
the phone, and told him that I was going to Europe for five weeks
later in the summer and that I wouldn't be around. I did go to
Europe, and he called while I was gone. My aunt was staying at my
house, and he was very upset that I was gone. Years later he told
me I let him down during the summer when I wasn't there,
Chall What did he want? Do you have any idea?
Robie: I don't remember the conversation, but I can remember I was
working in the yard when he called. He was trying to formulate a
position on New Melones is why he called, which was a big issue
during the election. I think it was mainly the environmental
groups who had his ear who got me appointed, along with Tom Quinn.
Chall: After he'd been elected you didn't make some kind of application
or nose it around that you were interested?
##This symbol indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes, see page 89.
Concern about Directions of the Department of Water Resources
Robie: What happened was that I was really concerned about what would be
the direction of the Department of Water Resources. Because
during the time I was on the water board and we issued the major
decisions, like the Delta Decision 1379 and the new American River
Decision 1UOO some very significant, and you could call them
environmentally-oriented decisions Director [William] Gianelli
got very upset and really took on the board. He had a close
relationship with Win Adams, the chairman of the board.
I felt that the department and the board should really be
independent and the department should be more supportive of the
board, in the sense that they were both obeying the same law in
theory. I was very concerned about who would lead the department,
because I wanted it to be more responsive; the board sort of had
to beat on the department to get it to do things.
The State Water Resources Control Board; Water Quality
Chall: The board was taking the lead then? Well, it was supposed to, in
terms of quality control.
Robie: My situation with the board it's interesting, I recently wrote
this article about the board, which I'll give you.* I was with
the legislature [consultant with Assembly Water Committee] when
the board was created, and it was my idea to create the board. So
I wrote this bill [AB 163], which came out as a staff report
originally. I worked for Assemblyman [Carley] Porter, and Mr.
Porter was worried that the idea might not fly, so he asked me to
write a staff report. So I wrote a staff report which came out
and basically trial-ballooned the idea of combining the Water
Quality Board and the Water Rights board. And it flew, and it
passed in 1967.**
Ronald B. Robie, "The Delta Decisions the Quiet Revolution in
California Water Rights," Pacific Law Journal (Vol. 19, No. 4,
July 1988): 11 1-1 42.
See interview with Paul R. Bonderson, , "Executive Officer,
Regional and State Water Quality Control Boards, 1950-1966," in
California Water Issues, 1950-1966, an oral history interview
conducted 1980, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft
Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1981, pp. 55-61.
Robie: The motivation for that which is discussed in this article was
because the water quality in the Delta had not been adequately
treated by the Water Rights Board. The Water Rights Board was
sort of in bed, in effect, with the water agencies, and it had
never considered the Bureau of Reclamation and the department's
permits in the same proceeding. So it was a shell game: by not
getting the two together you could never force the two to
cooperate on things.
The background was that the creation of the water board was
primarily to remedy problems of water quality and water rights in
the Delta. I became a member of the water board in '69, barely
two years after it was organized. During that time [1967-19691
the Porter-Cologne Act had passed. After the board had been
created I then decided that we needed a new law to really improve
our water quality program. Because the legislature really
couldn't do something as monumental as revising the law, Mr.
Porter wrote a letter to the water board and said, "We suggest
that you set up a panel of experts to revise the law."
The board, being brand new and enthusiastic, and wanting to
do something exciting, set up the study project. My idea was that
you had to co-opt anybody who didn't want changes by bringing them
in, so they appointed very prominent people as the heads of the
five study groups: Harvey Banks was the head of one; Jerry
Gilbert was the head of another; Bert Gindler, who was deputy
attorney general for a long time on the Colorado River, was
another one. It was a very prominent panel. They met, and
analyzed portions of the Water Quality Act for about two years and
revised them totally. I participated in all of these panels and
was behind the scenes.
The report went to the water board and it went to the
legislature, and it [Porter-Cologne Act, AB H13] passed
Chall: Passed the legislature unanimously?
Robie: Yes. I was very proud of that, because I felt somewhat
responsible. I had a wonderful boss, and Mr. [Gordon] Cologne was
a great senator. The two of them had great legislative abilities,
but I felt that my job was to grease the skids for his [Mr.
Porter's] bills. My role as a staff member was to make sure my
boss's bills didn't get him in trouble, and the bigger the vote
The study panel really co-opted a lot of people, and it came
up with what was at the time the toughest water quality act in the
country, and I still think it is. But it had some specific
provisions in it to go after water projects, too.
Robie: The Porter-Cologne Act passed in 1969, right before EPA
[Environmental Protection Agency] was created in 1970, right
before the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in 1972, right
before the Clean Air Act in 1970, a few months before the National
Environmental Policy Act. So the context of the Porter-Cologne
Act was really something. We had come a long way in the ten years
up to 1970, because the Water Quality Act had been really in the
doldrums. There were several efforts in the mid-sixties to
improve it. It was finally felt that the only way to do it
because of industry opposition was to just go whole hog and do the
whole Act over.
There were a couple of compromises made at the time. It was
interesting; we picked basically the things that the main
opponents wanted, and we decided that many of them didn't make any
difference and granted them.
Chall: Like what?
Robie: For example, one provision of the Water Quality Act historically
had been that the boards couldn't tell you how to treat your
waste. In other words, they had to tell you the quality that came
out the end of the pipe; the boards couldn't tell you that you had
to put the following patented IBM gadget on your waste. The
industries were just paranoid about telling them what to do. They
had no problem, really, with your telling them that they couldn't
put bad stuff out, but they didn't want you tinkering with them;
it was sort of proprietary. It was just obsessive. So they left
it in the law.
A lot of environmentalists thought this was a sellout. But
it turned out that it didn't make any difference I mean, as long
as you've got them at the end of the pipe. Then, of course, the
federal law came through and specified techniques, so it wiped out
all the industry objections and made the whole issue moot.
There were some issues like that which were really helpful in
getting the unanimity. So the bill passed, and everybody loved
it. And it had in it a lot of seeds of some really good
Anyway, coming out of that I then went onto the water board
and started using the new law. I got slightly diverted from water
rights, even though we did the Delta decision and the American
River decision. But then we got involved in developing the
Federal Water Pollution Control Act. I didn't write it, but I
participated with the staff of the [United States] Senate
committee and gave them advice and suggestions, along with other
people from California.
Robie: Leading up to '7U, when I was finishing my term at the water
board, I was really excited about the potential for water quality,
water rights, the new laws, and the board which had been well
received. It was in Governor [Ronald] Reagan's administration
that the water board was well received in the environmental
community. I was really excited about the next step, which was
Governor Brown's administration moving in a positive direction.
This is a very long answer to your question. But I was very
interested in getting a good director. I didn't have any initial
thoughts of being the director. I had passed the bar in 1967; in
'69 when I was appointed to the water board I was the lawyer
member, and I was happy with the thought that I was working as a
lawyer. I enjoyed the lawyer part of being on the water board.
We tried to make its decisions look more like court opinions
because we wanted to be more judicial. So I wasn't that excited
about being an administrator, and I really wasn't too excited
about water projects, although I knew the stakes were real high in
making sure the water projects were well done.
The Appointment as Director
Tom Graff of the Environmental Defense Fund was the
governor's liaison. Governor Brown had about five liaison people
from different areas who were responsible for setting up his new
administration. Graff was a good friend of mine, and he was the
environmental liaison. I had a number of talks with him. He'd
call up and say, "Who do you want as director?" I kept saying how
important it was to have a good guy there. We actually talked
about Dave Kennedy, who is now the director, and we talked about
others. Tom at some point said, "How about you?" I thought,
hmmm, maybe so. I don't know what went on in my head, but I
finally said yes. It went through rather quickly, actually, and I
was appointed in the first week of March. That was only two
months into the administration; I was one of the first directors
Chall: Did that have to sift through Claire Dedrick or any other people?
Had they already been appointed?
Robie: Yes. Claire Dedrick and the secretaries, as I recall, were all
appointed before the administration took office. Claire was sort
of a surprise, in the sense that none of us knew her. She was
active in the Sierra Club, but never was in the water area. Most
of the Bay Area people knew Claire, but the environmental people
that I dealt with didn't know her. She turned out to be a very
fine person and always very supportive of me.
Chall: You didn't have to be screened through her?
Robie: She supported me. I can't even recall the circumstances, but I
know I did have a couple of meetings with the governor, including
one when he kept me from going to Denver to a meeting that I was
I was appointed early, and I don't think there were any other
Governor Jerry Brown's First Years in Office
Chall: How about Governor Brown? What were his concerns, or did he have
any at that time? Did he want you to do anything during your
term, or not do something? Did he have any program or policy?
Robie: Governor Brown offered it in an unusual way, for me. I had been
around and seen at least Governor Reagan and Governor Pat [Edmund
G., Sr.] Brown, to some extent. They tended to have general
policies, and then their departments produced specific things to
do. Jerry Brown really didn't say much specific in his campaign,
and he came in with a very strong environmental bent. I mean,
putting Claire Dedrick, who was the vice-president of the Sierra
Club, in charge of the Resources Agency as its secretary, and
having Tom Graff of the EOF [Environmental Defense Fund] be his
liaison, sent a very strong message. Of course, Claire later had
problems with the timber industry. It was sort of pouring oil on
The governor started out, I think, basically with a feeling
that he wanted to shock the establishment. I think the one thing
that struck me about Governor Brown was that he sounded, before he
was elected, as one who was totally independent of interest groups
(he had been the Proposition 9 person), and he was coming in
without a mandate to follow any particular interest group at
least any of the groups that had been historically identified.*
Actually, during the first years of his administration he thumbed
his nose at everybody. That's one reason why he got into
trouble. Interest groups would want to see him and lobby him on
bills and he wouldn't even talk to them.
And the water industry didn't get anywhere with him. The
late Ralph Brody, who was one of the closest people to Governor
Proposition 9, the political reform initiative, on the June 197M
Robie: Pat Brown Jerry Brown wouldn't even give him a private meeting to
talk about water. In fact, Governor Jerry Brown made him sit in
the waiting room with Berge Bulbulian from the National Land for
People before he got to go in. Then when he had a meeting with
Ralph Brody, he brought me into the meeting and Brody was there
primarily to complain about me.
So Jerry Brown was really independent, and during the first
couple of years of his administration he really energized me,
because I had always felt that interests had too much power. The
problem was that the governor gradually didn't have any friends.
It was really a negative thing.
But getting back to your original question, the governor was
really his own person. He didn't come in with an agenda of all
the people who had helped get him elected who could then call him
up and say, "Now do my thing." During the first six months it was
very loose; we didn't get any instructions at all. His initial
policy was that he had to have his hands on every decision made in
government. One example, the very first thing that came up of
controversy that I had to review with him, was the list of federal
water projects that the California Water Commission went back to
Washington to support.
The California Water Commission
Robie: The way it worked was that the department always made its
recommendations to the commission. They had had this wonderful
system in which the water commission executive officer would go
and meet with the corps [of engineers] and the Bureau of
Reclamation privately. Neither one of them were authorized to
tell the water commission what their budgets included, but they
would informally tell them. And the water commission staff would
come back and put down the proposals that the federal agencies
would want. In other words, it was part of the cynical system of
water project funding that the federal government engaged in.
The president's budget was sacrosanct; no executive could
tell what the president was going to do. But because the main
objective of the federal agencies was to develop sufficient
support for their own budgets, they went out and leaked it to all
the people locally so they were all prepared to lobby.
They would come up with all these proposals, and there would
be controversial things such as New Melones and the San Felipe
project. My question was: am I going to go to the water
commission with the department's recommendations in favor of all
Robie: these projects? The previous administration had supported them
all. Dan Frost, for example, was a member of the water
commission, who was appointed by I'm not sure, but I think he was
originally appointed by Governor Reagan and opposed the projects.
Anyway, there were people who were on the water commission who
didn't necessarily agree with the water projects.
Environmentalists were there, and they were ready to say, "We
want the Brown administration to take a different tack." So the
first thing that I had to do was send some recommendations to the
water commission on these water projects. I got the clear signal
that the governor was not about to read in the paper in the
morning that the Brown administration had taken a position on
something that he didn't know about.
Chall: So did you get to see him?
Robie: Yes. What I did was write a letter to the water commission, which
was the format. I said I wanted to take it over to have the
governor approve it. I went over to the governor's office and
waited around several hours, and then he sat down with me and
started reading it. Dinner time came, and he said, "Why don't we
go to your office." So we came across the street to my office,
sat in my office the secretaries were all overwhelmed to think
that the governor arrived at five o'clock and we sent out to
Frank Fat's for food. We sat around until ten or eleven o'clock
going over this letter. And that's how we did it. Every project
in there it was just him and me. There may have been one of my
Chall: That was the way he worked, I understand.
Robie: That was the way he worked in the beginning.
Chall: He came right down into the offices to find out what was going on?
Robie: Yes, he also visited offices on a couple of occasions, but this
was only during the first year or so. That was the only time he
ever did his work in my office.
We went over this letter word by word. At one point we made
some corrections in it; we went over it again and he corrected his
earlier corrections I mean, he changed it back without realizing
he was correcting himself. The point was that he was hands on.
So the letter that was sent out was the result of our combined
efforts sitting there together. It was a very inefficient way of
doing it, but it was very important because the signal we sent by
that first letter was where the administration was going. It
would have been very negative if we just did the same thing that
the past administration did.
Robie: On the other hand, when you oppose a major water project like San
Felipe, which we initially did, you are facing trouble. The
message there was that we were opposing San Felipe, which is now
built. San Felipe was a project that we ended up going down and
having public hearings on, with hard hats pounding the tables, and
so forth. That's how it was done initially.
Chall: The water commission was primarily made up of Reagan's and some
leftover Pat Brown appointees. How did they accept this new
Robie: Well, that was part of the problem. The governer had, I think,
three appointments in the beginning of '75. The chair had always
been elected, as I recall, in July. So there was going to be a
six months holdover in the chair anyway. And the chair was Jack
Chrisman, who is a very patrician man from Visalia. A very gentle
man, but very much in favor of the water industry's proposals.
I was of the feeling, being one who had spent by that time
fifteen years in politics, that you only had a limited time to get
your job done. So I encouraged the governor to change the water
commission and to remove Jack Chrisman and put in his own
leadership. I thought he was entitled to it.
Chall: Could he remove him before his term was up?
Robie: No. I think what happened was that they arranged a new chairman
when the election came up.
Chall: I understand it took him a long, long time to make appointments.
But these were necessary rather soon.
Robie: He took a long time on the appointments, so we struggled.
Chall: Did you have input to these appointments to the commission?
Robie: Yes. We had input, but basically the governor at this point was
rewarding some of his friends. For example, Scott Franklin was a
labor leader who strongly supported him. Scott Franklin was a
good person; he was very environmentally oriented, and also he was
willing to talk to people and go out and do a lot of work. So he
was a good salesperson, which is something you have to be as
I don't recall the details of when the commission changed,
but during the first year I was basically on my own. I had to
work with a hostile commission. My first water commission meeting
was March [19751.
Chall: I don't have data on all the years. I have 1975, and Chrisman was
still there. In December, 1976, Michael Glazer was the chairman.
Robie: Yes, Mike Glazer became the first chair, and Franklin took his
place as the second Brown chair.
Chall: Who was Mike Glazer?
Robie: He was a very talented lawyer, and he was on the Water and Power
board of the city of Los Angeles. He was a close colleague of
Mayor [Tom] Bradley, and that's where the governor knew him. The
governor personally knew him; he was a friend. He was a very
deliberative kind of guy, being a lawyer, but environmentally
oriented. We arranged to have the Brown votes I mean, we just
said we wanted him in the chair, and we managed to get him.
But the initial struggle was uphill.
Chall: When you first went off to the federal government, was Chrisman
Robie: Yes. Of course, at the time the executive officer was the one who
did that, rather than the director.
The next issue was whether the commission would follow the
governor's recommendations. We agreed that if the commission
disagreed we would relay both positions. I think at one time we
even made two appearances in Washington; the commission made one
appearance and we made the other appearance. It was very
difficult, because Bizz [Harold] Johnson was the chairman of the
committee, and everything was just all pro-California. They said,
"You're really foolish if you don't go back and fight a hundred
percent for everything, because then they'll think you're not
interested and you'll lose out on all your projects."
It was very frustrating that there was no rational way of
dealing with the allocation of water projects. You were either "a
hundred percent for 'em or a hundred percent agin' "em." Because
if you weren't a hundred percent for them, you were just an
outcast. And of course our Senators basically supported the
projects, and of course our congressmen John McFall was the whip
of the House, and he had the New Melones project in his district.
It made it very hard to be negative.
Chall: It took a while, I guess
Robie: I came on board with the reputation of being an environmentalist,
which I really wasn't. But I was on the board during the Delta
decision, which director Gianelli felt was a total disaster to the
State Water Project. I was on the board during the American River
decision, which was very environmental, and I was on the board
during the New Melones decision.
The New Melones Dam Decision
Chall: Were you basing your decisions as an environmentalist, or did they
have some pragmatic and other values?
Robie: I had never been a member of any environmental groups. I mean, I
just had my own feelings. I didn't come from EOF or anything like
that; I came from Oakland, California, and I went to work for the
legislature. But I just had strong feelings that environmental
matters should be considered.
The New Melones decision, which was in '72, I believe the
question there was whether you give a permit to the federal
government for New Melones. As you know, the decision was to give
them the permit but only let them fill it up part way, because
they didn't have use for the water.
I was very conservative in that decision in many ways,
because environmental people of course really wanted the project
not built at all. The federal government plans their projects in
a very inappropriate way, in that they get authorization for
projects without ever selling the water. Then they go around
looking for customers, so that if they never get a customer, you'd
still have a dam. It really puts the cart before the horse. On
the other hand, the state has been criticized for its procedure,
which is to sell the water first and not build the projects until
later. I think that's more prudent, because at least you prove
the need first.
Anyway, the problem with New Melones was turning it down.
Environmentalists wanted to turn it down, and actually the board's
decision ended up being sort of a hollow victory. Because I
couldn't bring myself to say that it was not in the public
interest to approve a project that Congress had authorized that
was my bottom line. I could say that I could put terms and
conditions on it, but I couldn't bring myself to say that I could
make a finding that it's not in the public interest to build this
dam, when Congress had authorized it. Congress has a role in
deciding what the public interest is as to federal projects, and I
felt that even if they were wrong it was their right to make that
decision. Therefore I couldn't vote at the water board to not
build the dam at all, to turn it down.
Chall: At one point I don't know if it was New Melones or another
one you were concerned about the quality of water and put some
kind of a standard on the Bureau of Reclamation, which they were
not about to accept.
Robie: Oh, I felt very strongly about that. The point is that I was
always grounded in feelings about the law and the system. I guess
what I'm saying is that I was more traditional than some people
may have thought. They looked at the outer manifestations. What
happened was that New Melones gradually got filled up. We all
knew, I suppose, that it would be hard to keep it empty forever.
But it seemed to me the only legally defensible position, because
I couldn't turn it down. A lot of people were disappointed and
felt that we didn't do the right thing on New Melones; we should
have just said no to it.
But it seems to me that the state, acting through the
legislature had always supported New Melones and with
congressional authorization, it was pretty hard for the
administrative agency to say it's not in the public interest.
Chall: You probably wouldn't have been able to get very far with it, just
Robie: Denying the permit.
Chall: Somebody would have taken you to court.
Robie: Yes. But the point is that I couldn't bring myself to that. So I
think we were basically in a situation where people had
impressions of me.
Chall: It got pretty exciting when Mark Dubois tied himself to the rock.
Robie: That came a couple of years later, after Huey Johnson was the head
of the Resources Agency. The problem there was that Huey really
was in favor of not having New Melones, and Huey was a very
ideologically oriented person. The governor was over a barrel,
because the water board had already approved the dam, and Huey
really wanted to basically undo all of that.
II DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES: ADMINISTRATION
AND RELATED MATTERS
Chall: I got the impression from reading something in the California
Journal that you were considered Jerry Brown's best professional
appointment. According to John Zierold, your appointment was not
challenged by large water users with whom you'd often been in
conflict because you were known to be tough and fair and had
technical qualifications beyond reproach, and you knew how to get
along with the legislature.* Was there any hostility or negative
activity during the senate hearings on your nomination, do you
Robie: No, actually I don't recall any.
Chall: Governor Brown's cabinet and his choices for department heads who
were considered very good: Claire Dedrick, Quinn, [Paul]
Halvonik, [Marc] Poche, and his other appointments. I wonder if
you all felt that kind of headiness about what you were all
doing? I'm thinking of the way we are told the Kennedy people
felt that they were really in there to do something special.
Robie: Well, I think that we had a feeling that the governor was not tied
to the past and that he would support us if we moved in new
directions. But I particularly had no illusions that new
directions would take a lot of selling to put them across. I hope
I wasn't cocky. In looking back, I don't think I was, because I
really didn't have any reason to be. I think I knew what I was
doing, but I also had a big challenge in running a department of
2, MOO people, and I had never been an administrator.
Chall: I wondered how that felt.
Robie: I engaged in crash programs; I took management training courses
and I had team building efforts, and other things that I
undertook. I have felt that of all the things that I accomplished
"State's Report Card: A in Water, F in Smog Control," California
Journal (Vol. VI, No. 12, December, 1975): 428.
Robie: in eight years as director, my management of the department was
one of my accomplishments. We did well in affirmative action, we
had a happy department, we treated employees well, we had
innovative things with flex time and job sharing and a lot of
things before anybody else did. So I felt when I got done that I
was almost as proud of my management accomplishments as anything
But believe me, when I started
Robie: Well, only one department employee called me up to congratulate me
on my appointment, and that was Robin Reynolds, who was the head
of the central district. So I called him at home before my first
day on the job 1 now was the boss and said, "Would you please
come to the director's office and sit with me and tell me what to
do and be my assistant until I get my feet on the ground." Of
course, I made Robin a deputy. So he came over and helped me; I
wasn't heady that day!
Chall: What about the transition with John Teerink? I understand he was
disappointed not to have been selected as the director. He had
been in the department a long, long time. How did he help you?
Or did he?
Robie: I heard from other people that John was very disappointed. I
guess he felt doubly hurt because I was appointed, because I was a
lawyer and an outsider. I think John was really unhappy about my
appointment. I didn't know, because I wasn't in the
administration in the first two months of the year, but I couldn't
imagine Governor Brown appointing John Teerink; he wasn't a Brown
type. He was sort of the quintessential bureaucrat. He was very
supportive and didn't do anything during the first two months, I'm
told; he was loyal and worked well. But it just seemed to me that
the governor had signaled a change, and it didn't seem likely. I
didn't feel that John should have had such expectations, but
obviously he did.
I tried very hard to be nice to John about it. Out in front
in the lobby we had the pictures of all the former directors,
colored pictures. I don't know if they're still there. We had
one of John, so we had it framed and had a formal ceremony of its
unveiling after I'd been in office a month or so, with punch and
cookies. We invited everybody in to honor him, to try to make him
feel better about being passed over. So I went to that effort.
Robie: Nobody ever hung mine afterwards, but the point is that I went out
of my way to not have any difficulties with John, although he was
very upset. He actually left the payroll about a week later and
we moved him into another office in the building. He stayed there
with his secretary until he left, so we really didn't have any
transition at all.
Chall: So he didn't assist you. The assistance came from Robin Reynolds
primarily. Why do you think that was so? Was Robin interested in
your possible program?
Robie: Oh, Robin is just one of the nicest people you'd ever meet in your
whole life. He is a dear, dear, wonderful man who had been in the
department for years and knew me because he was the principal
witness in the Delta hearings. He just called me up to
congratulate me. He was one of the people I knew was nice and, I
felt, competent. Robin stayed with me for four years. But I
think over the period of time Robin, while intensely loyal, felt
that the Brown administration direction was something that he
wasn't that comfortable with.
He got a wonderful job in the World Bank. He didn't have any
particular desire to be director, and being deputy director for
four years was the culmination of his career; I mean, he was a
career department person. To be a deputy director before you
retire is about as high as you can go. So Robin was a wonderful
member of the team, and then he moved on. I think he felt that he
had done his four years.
Chall: And Mary Anne Mark was appointed in his place. Did you have
anything to do with that appointment?
Robie: Yes. She was my choice for a couple of reasons. Number one, the
water industry and the water business is pretty much a male
institution, and I wanted a woman. Mary Anne was one of the few
women engineers outside the department who I knew. She worked for
the corps of engineers. She was very environmentally oriented and
she was a personal friend of Jerry [Gerald] Meral, my deputy
director. I had put Mary Anne on an advisory committee before she
was appointed deputy, so she had been brought into the department
in an advisory role. I was very sensitive about having an
engineer, because I was a lawyer; Bob James was a lawyer; Chuck
Shoemaker was a lawyer, although he was also an engineer; and
Jerry Meral was a biologist. It was essential to me that we have
an engineer, and I really did try in my eight years to keep the
ties to the engineering business. I know that when Dave Kennedy
became director he put a bunch of engineering symbols in his
office to indicate that now the engineers were back.
Chall: Is he an engineer?
Robie: He is an engineer. So there is always that feeling, and I felt
that engineers were wonderful; but I didn't think that policy
people were bad, either, [chuckles]
Chall: Shoemaker had been in the department?
Robie: No, Chuck had been with the department and then he went to the
water board. He was on the legal staff of the water board. I
brought two people with me from the water board: my secretary,
Glee Valine, and Chuck. Originally I had Jerry Meral from the
Environmental Defense Fund. I wanted him to come because I had a
very close personal relationship with him, and I found him to be
one of the most sensible environmentalists that you could find.
And I would say today that he is still one of the most sensible
environmentalists you can find. It turned out he believed
honestly in the Peripheral Canal, for example, even though he was
very environmental. So I brought Jerry on board early on.
First of all, I wanted to organize the department with people
in charge of different units who had expertise in that area and
who would be advocates for the program. I was the director, and
it was my job to take all these alternatives and to make the
decisions in conjunction with them. I didn't want any one of
these deputy directors to be the chief deputy, so that one side of
the organization felt it had a leg up on the other.
So I created the job of assistant director for Chuck, and I
said that Chuck was going to be the alternate "me." He came
without a portfolio, although he had some management duties; he
was in charge of the business kinds of things. Chuck was going to
be my substitute. When I left the office, (it was a very rigid
office) if the director is out of the office somebody has to be
there to sign things Chuck was always the one who took my place,
on the theory that he wasn't part of any of the organizations. So
that's what Chuck's role was to be my right hand, to be not
directly part of anything.
Jerry was put in charge of planning that's where all the
projects came up and energy. Jerry was to redirect them, to make
them consider water conservation. And we made a symbolic change:
the planning division was always called the Division of Resources
Development DRD, and I said we were going to call it the Division
of Planning. That was a change I made deliberately to say that
the mission was not development, it was planning whatever you
need, conservation or something else. So Jerry was there in
energy, and he was there to be an advocate there.
I needed a deputy for the State Water Project. Bob Jansen
was an old-line engineer who was a very competent, a superb dam
engineer. Bob was uncommunicative; he would never say anything.
Left to right: Catherine Bergren, Assistant Director; Jerry Meral, Deputy
Director; Ronald Robie, Director; Mary Anne Mark, Deputy Director; Bob
James, Deputy Director; Charles Shoemaker, Deputy Director.
Deputy Director Robin Reynolds
Robie: I had a devil of a time talking with him. He was just a very
quiet person, and I wanted somebody who would be active with me
and interact. So I wandered around the building.
Jack Johnston was the civil servant in charge of management
services. I always liked Jack; he's a good friend today. Jack
was a great guy, and he knew everybody in the department. I went
in to him and said, "Jack, I want somebody for deputy director for
the project." I felt like I had to have somebody from the
department, again, so that the outside wouldn't think I was
bringing in a wrecking crew. I wanted somebody in the department
whom I could trust, who would be in charge of the State Water
Project. He said, "Why don't you talk to Bob James?" Bob James
is a lawyer. He was very quiet, and I had always known about
him. Everybody said that if there was one person in the
department who had integrity and everything wonderful, it was Bob
So I walked over to his office one day. I sat down and we
started talking, and it turns out he graduated from the same high
school as I did. He lived right down the street from where I went
to school. I said, "How would you like to be deputy director?"
And he couldn't believe it. It turned out that he was absolutely
wonderful. He was gentle and wonderful; another lawyer, but he
ran the State Water Project for eight years and did a terrific
job. He relied on engineers, like I did. So anyway, that's where
he came from.
Robin had some other assignments, too.
Chall: Where did you put him?
Robie: Well, actually Jerry had energy first and planning later. Robin
initially had the planning divisions, but the objective was to
turn them around. We divided them up I can't remember exactly
how the chart looks now. The water project was one; we had the
safety of dams, design and construction, and that sort of thing.
Chall: How did you work with them? Did you have, like your predecessors,
meetings once a week, or something of that kind, with these four
or five people?
Robie: We had Monday morning staff meetings, starting at 8:30. I guess
they were 8:30; they were early. We met and went over things. I
tried to have collective decision making, in the sense that
anything major was always discussed by the deputies and myself.
Chall: Mr. [Porter] Towner continued to be the legal person; he'd been
there quite a while, too. So now we have your staff.
Setting the Direction
Chall: You had made a speech in 1972 on the Delta decision. It almost
looks as if in that decision you had laid out your program even
though, at that time, you didn't expect to be director of DWR.
This may be what attracted you to Governor Brown. This happened
to be on the Delta decision and about the water board determining
the appropriation of water.
You said, "It is obvious in reviewing California's
mal-distributed water resources that there will not be, in the
future, sufficient unappropriated water from surface sources in
many key areas to meet all future needs in the state unless these
resources are carefully managed. This great task is presently
being undertaken by a blindfolded state government in water rights
matters, since we do not have accurate records of riparian rights,
pre-191 1 * appropriative rights, and ground water rights." Then you
suggested a review of the water rights laws. You claimed that
water resources management is "a coordinated effort to utilize all
possible sources in the manner that maximizes long-range public
benefits. Economics cannot be the sole criterion...." 1 That
pretty well laid down where you might be going as director.
Robie: I think I basically followed that in my term.
Chall: That's right. It really laid the course of action. When Gianelli
left he had an idea that he floated, that perhaps now the water
project was really a public utility and it should be managed like
a public utility. All other aspects of it, like planning and so
forth, he suggested, could be then handled by other
departments.** That never went anywhere.
But in terms of adminstering the department can we think of
it in terms of the utility management aspect, and then the
policy aspect, which is what I'd like to do [in the interview].
Robie: I disagreed with his plan. It was talked about many times after
Ronald Robie, "The Delta Decision: Water Rights in a New Era,"
Speech to the Water and Energy Committee, Los Angeles Chamber of
Commerce, February 14, 1972.
interview with William Gianelli, The California State Department
of Water Resources, 1967-1973, an oral history interview conducted
1985, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library,
University of California at Berkeley, 1986, p. 70.
Relationship with the California Water Commission
Chall: We've already talked a bit about the water commission. I noticed
you mentioned a couple of times in your reports those individuals
who gave you particular help and support. Over the years did the
entire commission give you support? How did you look at the
commission in terms of your needs as director?
Robie: I wanted to make the commission more significant, to the extent
that I could. It basically went around and just took field trips
and looked at everybody's projects every month. And it had its
hearings, which were usually informational. They only had a few
really substantive duties, which were approving condemnations and
a couple of other things. It met once a month. I wanted it to be
a sounding board and to run interference for me for ideas, for
example. I wanted to use it creatively. I at times had to lobby
it because I didn't want it to go against the administration's
positions, which it occasionally did. So it's always a dilemma,
to want an agency to be truly independent and at the same time to
want it to support your policies. It had the staff of only an
executive director and a part time lawyer and engineer, so it
didn't have the staff to do anything in great detail. It was
really the public's way of getting in to the department, a
sounding board. It never had a terribly significant role. But it
did have the authority, under the law, to go back to Washington
every year and speak on projects.
Chall: That was about it?
Robie: That was the main one it could really do, which was strictly
policy; I mean, which was way out front.
Chall: Your reports to the commission were very complete, with tables and
appendices and so forth. How did you get all that written once a
Robie: It was written by a series of people who were very talented,
fortunately. Melissa Blanton
Chall: Was she your secretary?
Robie: No, she was at the water board. Miss Blanton was the original
author of them, as I recall, and various others. What they
basically did was sit down with material that they had developed
in the department. They regularly solicited all the division
chiefs and asked them for items for the commission, and they
scoured through every document. They would come up a couple of
weeks before the commission with a list of topics, and a person
would sit down with me and ask me what I wanted to say about these
issues. Then they would go back and come up with a draft.
Chall: I see. Did you write anything in them yourself? I noticed that
occasionally they showed a touch of your concern about an issue.
When you were angry, maybe with [Leo] Krulitz or somebody else,
you never hesitated to indicate this. So I wasn't sure whether
you had an input, as it were whether they came sort of bland and
you changed them, or whether the writers knew how you felt.
Robie: Melissa really knew me pretty well, and she also drafted some of
my speeches. I would tell her what I wanted to say and she would
write it. So they didn't really come bland; they would usually
come with my thoughts. The final words were always mine, but she
was pretty good at guessing what I wanted to say. I think later
on in my time at the department the people didn't know me as well
and they tended to get a little more quiet, I suppose.
Chall: There was a great deal of legislation mentioned in your reports.
A lot of it came in the last few years. How did you keep track of
all that legislation? Who on your staff did it for you?
Robie: Oh, the legal staff did that. I might say that one purpose of the
water commission statement I indicated that I had read the
water commission statements when I was not in the department,
during Director Gianelli's time and before, and I always felt it
was a marvelous way of knowing what was going on. So I used it as
a way of meeting the public, because it went out to several
Chall: There were quite a number of people who attended those meetings,
Robie: Right. Originally I read them to the commission word-for-word.
As time went on, and we started putting in more complicated tables
and charts, they were really to become a public record of what was
Chall: And they are.
Robie: As a result of that I didn't read them. Finally I just said,
"Here's my statement. If you have any thoughts, I'll answer
Chall: So how did those meetings go, then? Did the commissioners
actually see your report prior to the meetings?
Robie: They got it the day before.
Chall: How many of them do you think really noticed it?
Robie: Oh, they usually read it. That was their way of finding out what
was going on at the department, too. I was the first item on the
Robie: agenda; I think the director still is the director's report. You
tell them what's going on and answer questions. I used the
director's report to make announcements that I hadn't previously
announced and so forth, so it was definitely a tool of the
Chall: And it helped them to follow the legislation, too keep track of
Robie: That's one reason the legislation is in there. It was to let the
commission keep track, because they were supposed to give us their
thoughts on that to go across the street to the governor's
office. And also it was in there to keep the public advised. I
had one eye on the commission and one eye on the public that was
Chall: You indicated from time to time that you were opposed, or
supportive, or made no comment one way or the other on some of
this legislation. I'm interested in how you made decisions about
whether to support, oppose, or just wait and watch the
Robie: The administration had a strong procedure, as all administrations
do. Our recommendations went over on bill analyses, which were
prepared initially by the staff of the department that was
affected. Then they would go to the legal staff where they would
be revised. Then they would be signed by me and sent to the
Resources Agency. They would have to concur, and then it would go
to the governor's office. I couldn't take a public position on
any legislation until the governor's office approved it. So what
you saw in there in terms of policy had all been approved; I
wouldn't have spoken about something that I hadn't permission to.
Chall: In your own office did you discuss this with only the legal staff?
Robie: All the deputies.
Chall: So that would be something that you would have to go over with
Robie: We went over all those kinds of things that were important. Chuck
was my chief legislative spokesman.
Chall: With whom did you work in the Resources Agency? If you really
wanted or didn't want something, would you go over to the
Resources Agency and lobby your point of view?
Robie: Yes, but we really didn't have any problem. We were very
fortunate in that Secretary Dedrick, who had Larry Moss as her
deputy, and Rich Hammond, and Secretary Huey Johnson were
generally supportive. The only time we ever had any
disagreements, perhaps, was on maybe a conflict between Fish and
Game and DWR. But on the things that came up we had wonderful
support. We hardly ever got anything turned down. We were all on
the same wave length, which was important.
Chall: What about relationships with Marc Poche or Paul Halvonik in the
Robie: We didn't see them very much. Marc and Paul were there during the
early years, and our major legislative push of any substance was
the Peripheral Canal legislation, and we did it ourselves.
Financing the California State Water Project
Chall: I'm going to get to that later, because I think it brings
everything to a focus. What about financing? About the only
thing I ever read about financing was SB78, when you needed to
transfer $25 million from the tidelands oil funds and put the
money into the Central Valley Project Construction Fund during the
drought year. That tidelands oil fund gets used in one way or
another from time to time.
Robie: I'm fuzzy about the details. One of the things that happened was
that the tidelands oil money was made available in $25 million a
year plus $5 million.
Chall: Plus $5 million?
Robie: It was actually $30 million $5 million for recreation and $25
million for everything else. It was made available by the
legislation that I worked on, in fact, with Mr. Porter. It went
on forever, and it was gradually building up at some point to be
more money than the department needed. It was really a nice
little cushion for the department to have. The Department of
Finance always knew the money was there, and they knew the law
said that the legislature at any time could appropriate it for
other purposes. In other words, the statute said that the
legislature could take this money out. It came to the fund
[California Water Fund] automatically from the tidelands, but once
it got to the fund it was subject to appropriation by the
Chall: And it had been from time to time.
Robie: Well, once in a great while.
Chall: In Governor [Pat] Brown's administration.
Robie: I know. We had this horrible battle with the Department of
Finance continually throughout my administration, in which they
wanted to steal I called it stealing money out of the California
Water Fund. We had some knock-down, drag-outs toward the end with
Mary Ann Graves the last director of finance. We took her around
the State Water Project in an airplane and showed her things so
she'd understand why we needed the money. In the last few weeks
of the administration, in fact coming up to the election in '82,
we had more raids on it, attempted raids. They finally resolved
it with a permanent raid, basically, after I left.
Chall: Oh, really? Governor Deukmajian
Robie: It was finally resolved as to how much it would be. But the point
was that it was one of the things I had to fight all the time, to
make sure we had enough money to do all these things that we were
Chall: I was always under the impression that that $25 million was
so-called "set aside" money that was supposed to stay in the
California Water Fund and be used someday to finance the future
projects, like the north coast
Robie: Yes, but the set aside was limited to $180 million or something;
it had a fixed amount.
Chall: I see. But you could build up?
Robie: I mean, that was all. The law said that for every dollar you
spend from the Water Fund on initial project facilities, you set
aside a bond, and then when you've used all the bonds there was no
more to set aside; it no longer had a set aside.
Chall: But you hadn't used up all the bonds.
Robie: Well, yes we had, so $180 million was set aside.
Chall: That's always sort of an elusive concept to me.
Robie: I think the GO [government obligation] bond amount was set; it was
Securing Independent Electric Power Sources
Chall: In your first report to the commission on April 4, 1975, you said
that "my most serious concern about the project, and my number one
priority for it is power." You were concerned about obtaining
future sources after the contracts expired in 1983. Prior to
that, in January of 197M, John Teerink had spoken to the Water
Service Contractors Council [January 16, 197^4], and he had
mentioned problems with power, too. He talked about the need for
water for power plant cooling, and discussed the San Joaquin
Nuclear Feasibility Project which was scheduled for completion in
the summer of 1974.
Chall: He talked about the need to reassess hydroelectric potential, to
explore revenue bond financing with Dillon Reed. He urged those
water users to redouble their efforts to conserve water, hence
energy. He said there was much energy required to pump water to
southern California, so he talked about conservation through waste
water treatment, and care irrigating the land. So I guess power
was important. What made you consider it to be your number one
priority at that point?
Robie: I guess there were two things. The things that you said John
Teerink mentioned were my concerns, too, because they came from
the staff and they were concerned. What happened was that in '83
the three mill power would end.* We had two basic contracts: one
to sell power to the utilities and one to buy from them. They
were both low cost. The three mill contract was the purchase
contract. Three mill was really out of whack in terms of modern
energy costs; it was very, very low. The department was moving in
a nuclear direction, which would not change, really, for a period
My concern was that I saw the department as a utility, the
largest single user of power in the whole state of California with
a statewide network of facilities. I wanted it to be independent,
and I guess I had strong public power feelings of my own. I saw
the department as sort of a serf of PG&E [Pacific Gas and
Electric], under the agreements that we had. We couldn't wheel
power. If we had surplus power we had to sell it to PG&E; we
couldn't sell it to anybody else. We couldn't wheel power to
other people; we were not independent. I saw the department as a
sleeping giant, and I saw the termination of the contracts as not
meaning just renegotiating them with the utilities, but making the
Three mill can be stated as .3 cents per kwh.
Robie: department a utility with its own system, its own operations, and
calling its own shots in Qrder to maximize the benefit of its
resources. That was my goal, and I accomplished it.
Chall: You did accomplish it?
Robie: Oh, yes.
Chall: How did you accomplish it? What did you do?
Robie: The first thing we did was to make the decision five years before
'83 to cancel the '83 contract.
Chall: That was the '83 contract with PG&E?
Robie: Right, and with the other utilities. We indicated that we were
going to start from scratch.
Chall: That's the Thennalito
Robie: The Oroville contract. We cancelled the sales contract. We went
out and we proceeded with a new hydro Cottonwood, which is now
called Alamo, and we continued to develop hydro facilities. We
then proceeded to build the William Warne plant, which was the
Pyramid power plant. So we proceeded to build new hydro
facilities of our own. Then we expanded to get new facilities of
other kinds. Geothermal was one of the things we did. The
department has at least one operating geothermal plant, and one in
storage still. We went out and built the Reid Gardner coal plant
in Nevada, jointly with the Nevada Power Company.
The first thing we did which was really significant was we
outbid PG&E for power from the Pine Flat power plant. That was
the first decision we made. The Kings River Conservation District
owned the water behind Pine Flat Dam, which is a corps of
engineers dam. After many years they were going to put a power
plant in, and PG&E was the certain buyer. DWR bid, and we called
in a consultant Bill Warne consulted with us. We were determined
that we were going to outbid them, and we did. We got the
contract for Kings River, and it startled the devil out of PG&E,
because they thought it was theirs and they didn't want the
department going out and buying sources of its own which we did.
We filed a series of anti-trust actions against the PG&E,
initially related to the Stanislaus nuclear plant. Our objective
was to break their stranglehold on our transmission. We did a
Robie: whole bunch of things, but one of the things we did was that prior
to 1983, when we had terminated our contract with PG&E, we re-sold
the first set of power to Southern California Edison. That caused
great consternation at PG&E. PG&E was sure that we were going to
do everything they wanted us to do. The Sacramento Municipal
Utilitity District is a serf of PG&E to this day; they haven't got
their umbilical cord cut.
We negotiated with both PG&E and Edison, and we decided that
Edison would give us a better deal. Edison, of course, was
anxious to crack the northern California market. So we sold the
first increment of power from Oroville we divided it into
increments; we didn't sell it all at once and we announced a
contract with Edison, which really knocked peoples' socks off.
One of the things about it was that we didn't have any
transmission capability of getting the power to Edison, but my
feeling was that we would find a way, which we of course did.
Chall: Where did you put it?
Robie: We ended up putting it over the same transmission facilities we
always used. We just broke the ability of PG&E to prevent us from
using it. And we also brought the power in from Reid Gardner,
which is near Las Vegas, to the State Water Project. So we now
have the ability to transmit all over the West, literally, and the
state of California can sell power to Riverside and independent
agencies. We also bought more power from the Pacific Northwest.
We later sold more power to Edison.
It had been a lovey-dovey arrangement between PG&E and the
water project. And when Pat Brown tried to build a nuclear plant
in 1966 (whenever it was) in the Tehachapis, the private power
companies just went out of their minds. They lobbied the
legislature, and actually Carley Porter helped kill it. But it's
a good thing they killed it, because at the time the power plant
that Bill Warne wanted to build was the breeder reactor, and they
still hadn't perfected the technology.*
But in any event, I learned from that lesson that PG&E wasn't
going to run the State Water Project; the project had clients of
its own, the people in the state as well as the contractors. So I
guess I had an agenda to make sure we got independent. And, boy,
See interviews with Edmund G. Brown, Sr.,"The California State
Water Project, 1950-1966," pp. 40-H1 , and William Warne,
"Administration of the Department of Water Resources," pp. 70-7M,
in California Water Issues, 1950-1966.
Robie: we did it with a vengeance. The last thing I did, on the
thirty-first of December, 1982, was to sign the final settlement
of the lawsuit I filed against PG&E. On my last day in office I
settled the final contract with the chairman of the board of PG&E.
Chall: I guess I may have been skimming toward the end of your water
reports, because I didn't see all of that. What I did see,
however, was that at some point the Los Angeles Water and Power
utility had reneged on its contract obligations to remain with
you. I thought that was the reason for your having worked out the
final contract with California Edison. But that had nothing to do
Robie: Oh, no. That was just a minor thing. I don't know if it's ever
been resolved legally. What happened was that the state of
California bought three mill power from Los Angeles, San Diego Gas
and Electric, PG&E, and Edison. It bought from four, it sold to
three; it didn't sell to Los Angeles. We were buying cheap power
from the three private utilities, but they were also getting cheap
power from us. I mean, it worked both ways. So they really
didn't complain about the three mill power.
But L. A. was giving us power for three mill that had cost
them six to generate, so they said that they were really losing
their shirt. And they were a public agency with taxpayers and all
that, so they reneged out of self interest. The three private
utilities would have reneged if they had been in the same
situation, but they weren't. So we went out and banged on L. A.
for breaching its contract. It may have had a legal basis for
breaching it, but we weren't about to admit it. Basically we just
made Los Angeles suffer for their decision by publicly criticizing
Chall: Of course, the cost of power had just gone up tremendously at this
period of time.
Robie: Right. But as I say, because of the trade-off, because of the
purchase and sale, the private utilities didn't fight the three
mill power, because if they had fought us we would have broken our
sales contract to them. So that's the only reason Los Angeles did
its thing. The private utilities were a little bit uneasy about
the whole thing because they understood what Los Angeles was
doing, but they didn't want to rock the boat.
Some of the things we did. The Metropolitan Water District
in *78 came up with small hydro on its project, along the
aqueducts in Los Angeles, and we bought their power. We also
bought a bunch of windmills at one stage, and we tried to figure
out what to do with a woodburning power plant, which was never
successful. In '78 we decided to proceed with the Reid Gardner
plant, and we went ahead with two geothermal plants, one of which
Robie: is in operation now. So we made a lot of independent decisions.
We were going to do some co-generation with the state facilities,
and, as I say, we bought windmills and a lot of things.
Chall: Did you do anything about that San Joaquin nuclear project?
Robie: The San Joaquin nuclear project was dropped by the city of Los
Angeles. By that time the governor had really been unsympathetic
to it. To tell you the honest truth, I can't remember how it
finally ended, but it was dropped.
Chall: So there's nothing in the pipeline for nuclear for the project, or
there wasn't while you were director?
Robie: No. We did two things that would probably be interesting. One
was the Sundesert plant. The Sundesert plant had started out with
us prior to '75; it started out with the department as a
participant or partner, initially. The record will show that I
did not proceed with that without the approval of the governor,
and it actually went across the street. There's no written
documentation, but it went through Claire Dedrick. So I, in the
first two years, went ahead with Sundesert. We never got to the
point of ever signing a formal participation contract, but we were
in the feasibility study.
Chall: Sundesert was what?
Robie: The nuclear plant out at Blythe, that was being built by San Diego
Gas and Electric. What happened was that the anti-nuclear program
just became very great, and Governor Brown embraced it. We had a
very difficult situation in which the department was a partner in
Sundesert while the administration was trying to kill Sundesert.
It caused great stress with our water contractors, because they
were much in favor of Sundesert. It turned out that Sundesert was
a real turkey in terms of economics, and basically nobody is
really crying over it now. But at the time it was quite
So I was really on the spot, because a lot of people in the
administration got mad at me because they saw me as being
disloyal, in a way, by having the state be a part of it. Because
the private partners of Sundesert, when they were under siege,
always announced that the state was a party to it. They were very
good at p.r., and they kept reminding the legislature and
everybody else that the state was a part of this. And of course
we couldn't get out because we were in. In other words, we were
in on the initial study, and then we had to exercise an option to
go into the project itself. The option hadn't come up, and we
couldn't Just announce the decision in advance, so it was a
difficult period of time.
Robie: What happened was, of course, that the legislature passed the
[Assemblyman Terry] Goggin bills and the plant was eventually
outlawed. They exempted the Edison plants and left Sundesert
under the California nuclear laws, which eventually did it in. As
soon as an opportunity came about I got out of Sundesert. But the
governor definitely, in my opinion, changed his position on
nuclear. He was not anti-nuclear when he started the
administration, but he definitely became anti-nuclear. As a
result, our position switched.
Then we went out and proposed a coal plant, as a result of
the Sundesert thing. The governor was trying to fight Sundesert,
and the only alternate to nuclear, other than conservation, was
coal. The governor said, I want the Department of Water Resources
to build a coal plant." So we embarked on the planning of a coal
plant, which is just a dreadful prospect because nobody really
wants a coal plant, either.
Chall: Where was that going to be?
Robie: It had alternative sites in southern California. We actually
spent quite a bit of money, several hundred thousand dollars, on
studies of the coal plant. The interesting thing about it was
that it turned out to be quite beneficial, because it got all the
utilities upset at the thought that the state would be building a
coal plant. We ended up dropping it, but they all dropped their
stuff and everything stabilized. So we were sort of a stalking
This was the kind of thing that made a lot of the water
contractors mad, because I think they knew that the coal plant was
in part in furtherance of the administration's anti-nuclear
policy, even though it didn't appear to be, necessarily. However,
it helped us get concessions from all these people in other
areas. We ended up with a huge power supply as a result of all
this. It was just another little game.
Chall: The decision to have the Department of Water Resources developing
energy was because it was needed for the project the larger
source of public power needed was for the water project?
Robie: Yes. We had a graph it was in the water commission statements,
if you have the originals that made it very clear that we weren't
trying to become a new utility with a lot of surplus power. We
wanted to be an independent utility on our own, not tied to
anybody, but we didn't want to make so much power that we were
interfering and competing. So we had these charts which we kept
drawing regularly so that we had maybe a 10 percent margin on the
top, in which we kept planning so that we always had a little more
Robie: than our demand but never more and that was always a big
struggle than a reasonable additional amount. We also had on our
charts potential projects which might not go, so you had to keep
planning. We basically tried to develop as many alternatives as
possible. What ended up was that we have a surplus of power right
Chall: Did you develop a coal plant actually, so that you could study the
economic effects, as you did with Sundesert?
Robie: We made studies economic and environmental studies of the
location and things, yes. We went quite a ways.
Chall: I noticed that in 1978 you had a tour of the Lake County geysers
and PG&E's Sonoma geothermal plant, and that the governor and
Secretary Huey Johnson, Tom Quinn, Priscilla Grew, Robie, and
maybe others, went along on this tour. At another time the
governor went on a tour of the San Joaquin Valley farms and saw
the salt build-ups, the reverse osmosis plant at Firebaugh, and
windpower. Tell me a little bit about how the governor operated,
going on tours of this kind.
Robie: Geothermal became one of our priorities because it was a good
resource and PG&E had been using it. One aside on that, if I may,
is that Union Oil had been the primary supplier of steam to PG&E,
and they wouldn't sell to us. They wouldn't sell to anybody else,
in fact. So all the other people who developed geothermal steam
had to buy from somebody else. We ended up buying from Geo
Products, for one, which went belly up; the lawsuit was just
settled last week on that. We also bid on a federal lease and won
it. That was another thing that was fairly bold. The federal
government had a lease over there of a field that was geothermal,
and the state of California Department of Water Resources bid on
it and won it. So it had the rights to develop a steam field of
We also engaged a third steam field for the South Geysers
plant, which turned out to not have sufficient steam. The people
we bought it from didn't produce, so the plant's never been
completed. The problem was that we were frozen out by PG&E,
because they wouldn't let Union Oil contract with us, in my
Anyway, we decided to go full tilt in geothermal. We
talked to the governor and he said he wanted to see it. He said,
"Let's go," so we took a tour. In the San Joaquin Valley he was
very upset about drainage and he wanted us to do desalting and
things. So we took them on a tour. He was a very hands-on kind
of guy. Huey said, "Governor, you've got to see that stuff; it's
really exciting," so the governor went on his way.
Chall: Did it help that the governor really knew what you were all
Robie: Oh, yes. He always knew what we were doing. He read everything
that we did, and he knew what was going on.
The Annual Budget Process
Chall: Now budgets. You have Proposition 13.* From that time until
certainly the end of your term, the governor's term, there was
always a problem with your budget. Right after Prop 13 in 1978
you had a 5 percent reduction; I think you said it was about three
and a half million dollars. And you claimed that Merrill Goodall,
who was on the water commission at that time, attended program
conferences where many difficult decisions were made. I have two
questions about that. How did you manage to reduce your budget;
and what was the assistance, if any, of Merrill Goodall and other
Robie: Well, one of the water commission's duties was to give a report
every year on our budget. The other thing was that the water
contractors gave a report on our budget. There is a basic tension
built into the system, because the State Water Project had money
which was available to it from income and from bonds and things,
and it could spend it without legislative approval. So the water
project part of the budget was never approved by the legislature,
although it was sent to the legislature.
What we had was the general fund and the project funds. The
general fund is where all the cuts came. The water contractors to
this day think that the state spends too much money on water
project studies that should be spent by the general fund. So we
tried very hard to keep honest books, but we did allocate part of
the various studies to the project. In other words, if we made a
Delta study it would be beneficial to everybody using the Delta,
but the State Water Project is the biggest water user out of the
Delta. So we would charge the water project a portion of the
cost. The water commission was ever mindful of the water
contractors' concerns, so it sort of served as a buffer.
Proposition 13, a constitutional amendment, established a limit
on local property taxation and changed requirements for increases
in other sources of government revenues. June 1978.
Robie: The water contractors would review our budget and have Arthur
Young and Company, and various companies, submit us detailed
reports and tell us what they thought was right or wrong. I spent
all eight years trying to make sure that the water contractors
were not too unhappy with us. Because their bottom line was that
they didn't want us to spend anything. They had a single
interest; they wanted the smallest bill they could get.
That's one reason why I always opposed director Gianelli's
proposal to have an independent department. The department has to
be run by the state of California, the governor, and the
policymakers. Because if you just let them [the water
contractors] do it, they wouldn't do anything. They would cut off
their noses to spite themselves, and then when they would run out
of power or something, they would say, "Well, how come there isn't
So they squabbled over the budget a lot. I think overall we
kept a pretty good peace, most of the time. We just took cuts in
our general fund budget; we cut out things that we didn't think
were important, and we changed priorities. We put money in water
conservation and we took it out of other things. We didn't make
the land use surveys as frequently as we did before. There were a
lot of things we did to cut. So that was one way we exercised our
policy concepts through the department.
Coping with the Drought
Chall: During the year 1976 and into '77, there was drought. That was
followed by very heavy rains and flooding, and in 1980 the storm
around the Delta was quite damaging. It must have taken a heavy
toll of time and energy just keeping up with the problems, which
you certainly hadn't anticipated when the project was built.
Robie: Yes. The drought was extraordinary because we had two roles. We
had to operate the project properly and make the most of it, and
we also were the state water department. In '76 we started out
with a dry year report the first of the year. We looked back to
61 when they had a dry year and we began to repeat the same
strategy. We started cutting back as early as March of '76. We
cut back on surplus water, and we pushed some other things. For
example, installation of low flush toilets was being legislated.
By May of '76 we had set up task forces and put out a series of
reports on how to cope with the drought, specifically listing a
bunch of actions.
Robie: Then when we got into the fall, we really got concerned. Over the
period of the fall through '77 we made extraordinary efforts, and
of course the governor started working on the drought himself. He
personally wrote a letter to every water agency in the state.
That's the second time he sat in my office, and we wrote a letter
[laughs]. I have the original somewhere in my files. It was a
telegram, actually. He sent a telegram to everybody, asking them
to do the following things and report back to him on what they
Chall: Every agency in the state?
Robie: Every water agency in the state. I was really proud of what we
did. We documented everything. We had a tremendous struggle with
the state water contractors because they wanted more water.
People told me, "Let next year take care of itself; we'll take
care of now." And I just wouldn't let them do it.
In March, 1977, the governor appointed a task force headed by
Frank Schober, who was the head of the National Guard, the
adjutant general, for which we were the primary operators. We had
a conference in Los Angeles, and then we did all sorts of things.
We developed the pipeline over to Marin County across the bridge;
we put rock dams in the Delta and various places; we pumped water
out of the Delta into East Bay MUD's [Municipal Utilitity
We took water to San Francisco, which was symbolic. San
Francisco actually bought water from the State Water Project in
the drought. I took great pride in that, because San Francisco
people hated the State Water Project more than anything else, but
in time of need we were there to help them. And we did. We
delivered water to them in April of '77.
We distributed thousands of water saving kits throughout the
state. We developed a very extensive program and distributed all
sorts of stuff. We just did everything under the sun and put out
a whole series of reports documenting it. I felt that of anything
I did during my time with the department, I was most proud of
operating in the drought and succeeding in the drought, keeping
the state going and working out a lot of unusual physical
solutions. Considering that there hadn't been a serious drought
for thirty years, I think we responded effectively with a minimum
Chall: Regarding the surplus water you were utilizing in assisting some
of the other districts, I noticed that at the end of 1976 the
Salyer Land Company filed a claim against the department with the
state Board of Control. It claimed that the landowners within the
Tulare Lake basin water storage district had a crop damage of $3.7
Chall: million due to inadequate irrigation, damage to crops, et cetera.
They felt that you had violated Decision 1379 that was the Delta
decision. You said that you had distributed surplus water, that
Tulare and the contractors got their entitlements, and that you
had considered water quality standards for the Delta. You also
claimed that the Bureau of Reclamation didn't take any Delta
standards into account.
With all that you were doing, were you still jeopardizing
Robie: No. The Salyer Land Company never liked me, and they are one of
the most reactionary and negative organizations in the state.
What happened was interesting. A number of things happened.
First of all, when I came to the department and this is something
that has never been published, so I'll tell you I had been on the
water board. There was a stay of the water board's Decision 1379,
which was in 1971, by the court because there were suits on it.
When I came to the department I told the department operators that
I wanted them to operate in accordance with D 1379. I said, "I
want you to meet its standards."
The Salyer Land Company threatened to sue me for violating
the court order. In fact they were going to take my deposition.
They sent me interrogatories, and I took the Fifth Amendment for
the only time in my life, actually, on the advice of the attorney
The legal authority of the department was that I had the
right to determine the operating criteria of the State Water
Project. As the director I had that authority, and if I wanted to
use 1379 I could and I did. What that meant was that we had to
protect the Delta more than we would have without 1379. So when
the drought came we did two things: we operated under 1379, and
the Bureau of Reclamation didn't. So, on the days that the bureau
didn't operate, I released state water to make up for the bureau's
Chall: So you were monitering the Delta ?
Robie: I was protecting the Delta with our water when the bureau wasn't.
As a result, that's why they sued us. They said two things: that
we shouldn't have followed 1379, and we shouldn't have made up the
bureau's share. They were wrong. I did it, and they got very
unhappy. The legal thing was that they had contracts that they
wrote to give them, basically, surplus water. The surplus water
contracts were really intended to give them a lower price for
water, not to give them surplus water. In other words, they
called it surplus water because legally it was. But it was really
a gimmick, back in the '60s, to get them a break on the cost of
Robie: The real reason for surplus water being in the contract was so you
could call some of the water surplus. Because in theory they
needed the water, therefore why would you call it surplus? They
called it surplus because they could give it a lower rate, and
that was a way of giving them a lower price, and the municipal
contractors agreed. What it amounted to in the early years was
that the state didn't get as much revenue.
I just called their bluff. In '77 I said this was legally
surplus water, and that it was not guaranteed. They knew that,
but they had gotten so used to it. They didn't have a legal right
to it, and they had been getting it cheap all those years. It was
not subject to the shortage requirements of the contract.
Chall: I think in a speech Mr. Towner gave to some organization he did
say to them that they had been considering surplus waters as part
of their entitlement, where it wasn't. So at that point and I
think it was before you took over; I'm not sure he determined
that so-called surplus water was going into groundwater
Robie: Yes. They were supposed to use surplus water for certain
purposes. It really was just a gimmick to enable them to have
more water, and as long as everybody the other
contractors agreed to it, that was fine. But when the crunch
came, MWD had firm water mostly, and the contractors in the Valley
were taking advantage of surplus water. So we cut them back.
Establishing the Operating Plan
Robie: One other thing of interest: when the drought came along in '76,
I asked the department if we had an operating plan. They said,
"Oh, no." The engineers in the department didn't have any plan to
decide how much water they had to deliver. Up until then the
contractors put in their orders every year, and the department
just delivered it because we had it. The demand was low and there
was plenty of water. I said, "We've got to have an operating
plan." So from that year on we've always had an operating plan.
They still have one today.
It was a formula, in which you had various criteria: for
example, how much water you must have in storage in each of the
reservoirs; if you don't have that certain storage you can't
deliver. We devised a chart with a big graph, or bar on it so you
could tell every year: if you had eight million acre feet of
water, you'd have this much to deliver; if you had six million,
you'd get this much. In other words, it was a mechanical formula
for allocating the water so you'd have enough for next year.
I was flabbergasted when the staff told me they didn't have
an operating plan. We developed one, and of course every year now
they have an argument over what the plan is. But every year the
department adopts it, so it knows what it's doing. Because right
now, particularly in 1988, the demand is high and the amount is
low, and it's much more close to being in balance. In the early
years it was like using gasoline if there was no OPEC you'd just
use whatever you needed, and you didn't worry about whether you
had some for next year.
That was a reform I made in the department indirectly,
the drought came we didn't even think about how to operate.
Some of those companies, maybe the ones in Tulare, when they
couldn't get all the water they thought they were entitled
to that was the surplus began to go into the ground. There was
considerable depletion of their groundwater. Had you taken that
into account, or was it just one of those problems you felt they
had to face themselves?
Robie: One of the longstanding goals that I had, which was not
successful, which has never been successful, was getting ground-
water management legislation. We will probably talk about that
later. They had the legal authority to do what they wanted, and I
had to deal with the project properly. It meant to some extent
that they overdrafted ground water.
The Strike of the Operation and Maintenance Employees
Chall: What happened with the strike at the operation of maintenance
employees on June 13, 1979? When you reported to the California
Water Commission on June 22, that was still going on, ten or
eleven days later. You said that the governor had issued pay
increase proposals for all state employees.
I don't know when that strike ended maybe it was shortly
after that but what was the effect on the administration in terms
of the action you had to take, and any of the bitterness or fear
for the project that might have developed?
Robie: The strike was interesting. There had been one previous strike
when Bill Gianelli was director. The reason was, in part, that
two unions were struggling over who would be the ultimate
Robie: representative, because we didn't have collective bargaining. It
was a power struggle between the unions. I strongly supported
collective bargaining for state employees, as did the governor.
The big problem we had in the department was that we were
operating under a civil service system. In other words, the job
descriptions for hydro-electric plant operators were what some
personnel board drafted. They couldn't make the job
specifications the kind that you had in private industry, yet our
people were competing directly with them. The same unions that
were representing our employees were representing PG&E employees.
As an example, one of the perks industry frequently gives the
employees is taking the pickup [truck] home at night. Well,
taking a state pickup home at night violated all sorts of rules.
Also our pay was significantly lower than that in the private
sector. In fact, we had a wonderful training program. We trained
these hydro-electric operators, and then they all went to work for
Collective bargaining corrected most of those problems by
letting them bargain their own terms. So today the wage schedule,
the perks, all these things are not governed by personnel board
rules that apply to the Department of Forestry or somebody else;
they're able to fashion them to meet DWR.
The basic underlying problem of the strike was that there was
nothing we could do to meet their needs. We couldn't give them
enough money, and we couldn't give them other things because the
system didn't permit it. So they went on strike. Bob James was
put in charge of the strike because he was the one who took care
of all difficult problems, and he negotiated the settlement. It
did go past the five days absent without leave period, where
everybody got technically fired. We gave them amnesty when they
During the strike I traveled all over the state and visited
all of the facilities. All the management employees were out in
the middle of the desert running the project, and I visited all
the management employees. On the weekend I chartered a plane and
flew all over to boost their spirits while they were sitting out
in the middle of the desert in the hot sun.
It was just an interesting experience. I think we managed it
as well as we could. The project was sabotaged initially in
Oroville when the strike began; they pushed a couple of buttons
and the project went off line. But we got it back on line and
everything running, and it ran fine until the strike was over.
Chall: How long was that strike? Do you have that data?
Robie: No. I think it was ten or eleven days or something like that.
[checking through water commission reports] I just found that the
strike lasted nine days. It was from the thirteenth through the
Chall: It probably ended soon after you met with the water commission.
Robie: I thought we managed it as well as you can manage strikes. We had
a few minor incidents of violence, and somebody threw a rock
through a state police car window.
They did two things that were funny to me, that might be sort
of amusing. Before the strike I had been a hands-on kind of
person with the staff. I met with all the employees once a year
at their place of work. I'd travel all over the state, and I'd
have meetings with them and I walked around the job sites, shook
hands with people at their lathes and so forth. The labor
relations people in the department told me I couldn't do that
forever because when collective bargaining came there was a more
clear demarcation between management and labor, supervisory and
non-supervisory. But I really liked getting to meet with the
In 1979, right before the strike, I had my annual visits.
The first thing I did was go to Oroville. We were having a
meeting in the operations center at Oroville, and at a specific
time all the labor people got up and walked out of the meeting;
the clock struck eleven, and they all got up and walked out and
left me sitting there with my managers in an empty room. This was
pre-strike. My managers said, "Robie, they're flexing their
muscles and you no longer can meet with them as employees like you
The final thing for this was when we got to Bakersfield. We
used to meet at the water project in Windgap, but it was a ways
south of Bakersfield, so we decided to meet instead at the Kern
County Water Agency office. By that time we no longer met with
all the employees; we just brought the supervisors over. So the
supervisors all came over to the Kern County Water Agency office.
The head of the project in that area picked me up in his car and
drove us from the airport to the Kern County Water Agency, and we
went in. We had our meeting, and when we came out we discovered
that somebody had called a tow truck and towed away the car; they
towed away the director's car while he was having this meeting as
a means of protest. So the head of the department in that area
found out where it was and got in another car and drove over, and
just took it back without paying for it. [laughs]
That was the little preliminary to the strike. Now, of
course, labor is labor and management is management, and
everything is hunky-dory.
Chall: Did you solve the problems ?
Robie: Well, collective bargaining didn't really solve the problem until
after I left, because they were beginning their negotiations. One
union ultimately got the representation. There was a struggle
because you had no exclusive representation, and yet unions were
vying for the hearts and minds of the employees. I'm convinced
that a structured labor-management relations system is much better
than an unstructured one.
Chall: Was there difficulty with the personnel department over this kind
of thing? They had to change their
Robie: The personnel board basically was left out of a lot of decisions
after collective bargaining.
The Western States Water Council
Chall: All the directors have taken part in the meetings of the Western
States Water Council meetings. How did you view that council, as
a value to you, or the department, or the state of California?
Robie: I was around at the first meeting of the council in '65, when I
worked for the legislature, and my boss was an advisory member of
the council. I liked it. I thought that the western states
should work together. California was sort of the odd entity,
compared to the other states; our laws were more progressive, we
had more water quality concerns. At the meetings of the council,
we tended to be radical on the council. I was in favor of water
conservation, and I didn't knee jerk some of the traditional water
development attitudes of the other western states that I
considered to be way behind California in that regard.
I was the chairman of the legal committee for a number of
years, although I never became chair, which Bill Gianelli was. I
wasn't one of the boys. I felt it was very important that
California be represented.
The Effect on the Administration of Governor Brown's Presidential
Robie: Governor Brown never went to any governors' meetings; he never
went to any of those interstate meetings. Finally, when he was
running for other offices, he started going to national governors'
meetings. I went to Washington one time with him to a national
Robie: governors' conference meeting, and he was the only person that
anybody had the cameras on. I mean, there were important
governors standing around, and people were saying, "Who are
they?" And he was just an instant media star. So he went later
to some of the national governors' meetings, but he generally
didn't participate in anything else.
I wanted California to be there, so I went regularly and
tried to buffer against Governor Brown. A lot of people all over
the West and other places objected to Brown not being one of them
and not regularly attending things. I was there to try to
rehabilitate him as much as I could.
Chall: That wasn't just the Western States Water Council, because he
wouldn't have normally
Robie: No. I mean the Western Governors' Conference.
Chall: As a digression, what about the effect of the governor's running
twice for the presidency during his term of office? Did that have
any effect on your administration, or the general state
administration at that time that you could see?
Robie: It had two effects. He was gone and we didn't have him to go over
matters of importance to us. And the more he ran the more the
original concept of being independent of everybody disappeared.
The governor asked Rich Rominger, who was the director of food and
agtriculture] , and myself, "Why don't the fanners like me?" Well,
we had a lot of policies that they didn't like.
The governor really wanted to have a broader base, and that's
the whole dilemma. If you keep everybody happy you are sort of
bland, but they come and love you. If you are independent you're
anti-nuclear, you do things that rub people the wrong way then
they don't come and love you when you run for office. It hurt us
because the water contractors and others felt the governor wasn't
paying attention to things. They thought that (we're going to
talk later about the Peripheral Canal) at times he didn't give his
full attention to our legislative program, and things like that.
So it did have a fallout.
The California State Interagency Group
Chall: How about the California State Interagency Group?
Robie: Oh, it was worthless and it didn't do anything. It was sort of a
debating society. A bunch of agencies got together. I don't
think I went very often, because it wasn't important enough.
Speechmaking and Other Contacts
Chall: You did a lot of speechmaking, and making contacts. In one of the
appendices to the California Water Commission minutes you have a
whole list of speeches, or members of your staff, made to the
California Association of Water Agencies, Tulare Lake basin
people, Audubon, Friends of the Earth, League of Women Voters,
Sierra Club, et cetera, et cetera. Did you enjoy going out and
making these speeches?
Robie: Yes, I did. In fact, I guess being a lawyer I enjoyed going into
the den with the lion. I used to go down to Kern County and talk
to them. I would always give them a good dose of what I thought
they should do differently, but I also let them know that I was
still running the State Water Project and I had their interests in
mind. I felt it was important for the department and the director
to be out there representing the department, and to the extent
that I could cajole them into doing things differently, to do so.
I did a lot of that, and I liked it.
[break for lunch]
The Sierra Club and the Delta Pumps
Chall: I want to take up with you, to the extent that I know it, the
subject of litigation. It isn't a great deal. You will
undoubtedly know more. At one time in '77 you were speaking
before the ACWA [Association of California Water Agencies], and
you said to them, among other things, that when you came in you
had seen no action since 1969 to provide the remaining water
supply needed to complete the SWP, no progress on the Peripheral
Canal, and more litigation than legislation.
Litigation seemed to be one of your concerns; at least it was
what you talked about from time to time. In my research I picked
up just a couple of cases. One was this long-standing one from
'71 to '80 or '82 with the Sierra Club regarding the pumps in the
Delta. That finally went to the Supreme Court and then came back
to the district court, and ultimately ended up in your favor so
that you could proceed to place additional pumps if you needed
them. How did you deal with the Sierra Club on that?
Robie: That was interesting. That suit was filed before I became
director, and I was told that a number of Sierra Club people were
sitting around one day talking about how they could go after the
Peripheral Canal. As a result of that concern they filed that
lawsuit. It was interesting, because when I came on board the
question was what will be our legal position. I didn't think the
Sierra Club was correct on the Delta issue involving the pumps,
but one of the issues of the lawsuit was whether they had the
right to bring the lawsuit whether they had standing to bring the
lawsuit at all. On that position I supported the Sierra Club, and
the water contractors didn't. That was one of the areas in which
my orientation toward the thing was different from others, so we
did not contest the issue of the Sierra Club's right to bring the
suit. We did contest the substantive issue, as to whether we
needed a permit.
The interesting thing was that when it went to the Supreme
Court, the Sierra Club lost on the issue of whether they had the
right to bring the suit, and we won on everything else. The net
result of the Sierra Club's sort of whimsical challenge to the
Peripheral Canal is that they no longer have the right to bring
those suits. So they lost more than they ever thought of losing.
I knew that was a critical issue, and that's why we supported them
on it. But it was their lawsuit. They made their bed, and now
they'll have to sleep in it. That's the net result.
Chall: I think there were some other cases, or maybe it was as a result
of the decision, where large groups of people, organizations,
weren't allowed to have standing in court. The Supreme Court
through some decision gave them no standing it may have been one
of those Land for People things.
Robie: I wasn't too precise in my language. The Sierra Club suit
involved standing in a general way, but it really involved whether
there was a private right of action under the Rivers and Harbors
Act. It's the same as standing, because if there's no private
right of action you don't have standing, either. So they lost on
the private right of action issue.
Chall: We've talked about the Salyer suit. Is there anything else in the
way of litigation that you would want to cover?
Robie: I've already mentioned the power litigation, which was the most
important that we brought. The only other litigation was that we
filed a lot of briefs in support of other peoples' law suits. We
supported lawsuits that we believed in, more so than the
department did before. We were involved in a number of things,
but we also had the famous 1978 case in California v U.S., in
which the federal government had to comply with state water laws.
We supported that.
The Wild Rivers Designation
Robie: The other litigation we got involved in was the federal wild
rivers litigation, at the end of the administration when
Governor Brown requested Secretary [Cecil] Andrus to place the
wild rivers in the wild river system. In many respects, that to
me is one of my major accomplishments as director to get the
federal wild rivers protection.
Chall: What was the litigation? I know what Andrus did; I didn't realize
it went into litigation.
Robie: It was part of the Peripheral Canal package, and the governor
signed the bill in August, 1980. It was in the last six months of
the Carter administration, and the governor wanted to buffer the
signing of the Peripheral Canal bill with a tying in of the wild
rivers. Under the law you had to ask the secretary. The
secretary agreed that he would put them in, but you had to do an
Environmental Impact Report [EIR] and an Environmental Impact
We set up a special office in Sacramento of federal and state
people in a crash program, because we knew we had to get it done
before the end of the Carter administration. We worked for six
months and came up an EIR in December. All along there was
litigation brought by the water users to prevent it. There was a
stay on it for some of the time. The EIS was finally finished in
mid-December, and there was a court stay saying that they [federal
government] couldn't act. On the nineteenth of January, the day
before the inauguration, the stay was lifted by the ninth circuit.
Secretary Andrus was at a farewell party at the White House
for President Carter, and he got a phone call saying that the stay
had been lifted. Secretary Andrus then signed the wild rivers
designation on the nineteenth of January. They actually sent me
back to Washington; I was back there on the day after the
inauguration to make sure that the new administration [of Ronald
Reagan] didn't do anything to undo it.
The litigation went on after that. The state of California
actually withdrew from the litigation, and the Environmental
Defense Fund kept it going. We had supported it during the time
we were there. In '82 when we left the litigation was going on;
the new governor [George Deukmejian] didn't support it. But it
nevertheless went to the court of appeals the ninth circuit,
which upheld the wild rivers designation, the Supreme Court denied
review and it was all over.
Chall: That was a very exciting last-minute activity!
Robie: Right. And there was a lawsuit brought against myself and others
on the ground that we used money illegally to set up the
environmental impact report. Some of the water users were mad
because we were trying so hard to get the wild rivers. We did use
money from various state departments' budgets, by appropriate
transfers to the Department of Finance, to fund the cost of doing
the EIR. The governor just announced in August, "I would like to
do this." It wasn't planned in the budget or anything. The
lawsuits were all resolved favorably to us.
Chall: I've never understood an EIR or an EIS on projects which are not
going to be developed. When you're not going to do it, how can
you file anything like an EIR or an EIS that makes any sense,
because they are really there for development purposes. At least
that's why I thought they were set up originally.
Robie: I think you're generally right. When you have a wild river you
can't do any development on it, so there were arguments that if
you can't mine in the wild river area, then you'll have to develop
alternate sources of whatever you're mining, and that will have an
environmental impact. By preventing something from occurring you
will cause another impact. By not cutting timber you will require
something else. So it's the more attenuated aspects of it.
Indeed, the mere fact of the wild river designation had a positive
environmental impact itself on the river.
Chall: Well, that was a last-minute bit of excitement, wasn't it?
Robie: That was a last-minute bit of excitement.
Chall: That's locked in now?
Robie: Yes, that's in. It's a very interesting provision of the federal
law, that the governor can ask the federal government to place
rivers that are already in the state system into the federal
system. They can go in by executive order, but they can only come
out by congressional law. Nobody has seriously challenged them
anymore. I believed in it as a symbolic thing. The truth is that
most of the people in the water industry who knew what was going
on knew that the likelihood of building any Eel River dams or
anything was so low that it was just a dead issue. But it was
kept alive by people who saw it as a symbol on their side. I saw
it as a symbol of our management policy of being environmentally
sensitive, so we considered it important to be in the federal
system. In many respects it would have been no different either
way, I suppose.
III SETTING AND DEVELOPING WATER USE POLICIES AND PROGRAMS:
SOME MAJOR ISSUES
The Water Management Policy
Chall: In May and June of 1975, at various times and before different
water-interest groups, you outlined your developing water
management policy. 8 You talked about alternate sources of supply,
including water exchanges, conjunctive use of surface and ground-
water supplies, storage capacity, including planned, temporary
overdrafting of groundwater, reuse of water to the maximum extent
possible, instream uses, pricing for conservation, more efficient
use of irrigation water, and more.
You said, "...the objective must be to provide a balanced
program utilizing all available sources in a logical manner to
maximize environmental and social benefits and minimize
You mentioned that you had some forty people reviewing a
draft study plan [for water use], and that you were going to set
up an advisory body with three former DWR directors and others in
the administration, plus public representatives to consider how to
integrate the water quality element into the department's supply
So, given all that background, let's talk now about your
water management policy.
Robie: You mentioned earlier reading my 1972 speech. In May of 1975 we
announced a water management policy. That basically tracked with
the '72 ideas, and that guided us for the whole eight years. If
anything was our agenda, it was the water management policy of May
"Of Dinosaurs and Edsels," speech before the Association of
California Water Agencies, May 9, 1975.
Fobie: Looking back on it now, sometime later, it still seems to me to be
progessive and incorporate all of the things that people are
talking about today as being the most important. Use the
already-developed supplies before you build new ones was directed
toward the Bureau of Reclamation, which was hell bent on building
new projects without using all of its existing supplies. Water
exchanges and water transfers are still sort of "the thing" in the
water business. I don't know how much they're being used, but
it's still the innovative and creative idea of choice today.
Chall: Did you work that out first?
Robie: We weren't the ones who invented it, but we certainly supported
it. The idea of using groundwater storage right now in Kern
County the department is embarking on a very important ground-
water storage program for State Water Project water. We did a
whole series of bulletins on pilot programs in order to get
groundwater storage going. I mean, we spent a lot of time on
that. I just think that says it all, as far as I'm concerned.
Everything we did was consistent with the policy and an attempt to
carry it out.
Integration of Water Quality and Water Supply
Chall: With the water quality element, you certainly were successful in
dealing with that, I suppose.
Robie: There was a funny thing. The California Water Plan was something
that was passed by the legislature in 1957, and it was based upon
Bulletin 3, which was a great big, thick bulletin that talked
about development all over the state. It was the California Water
Plan. And it wasn't really a plan, because it didn't have a lot
of pipe and things on it. It was a lot of stuff, but it was all
development. When the Porter-Cologne Act was enacted and the law
was amended, all of the water quality policies became a part of
the California Water Plan. So that's where we got this water
I talked about the water supply element and the water quality
element, because all the water people were still talking in terms
of the water plan being the development side. Everybody ignored
the fact that all the water quality laws and all their regulations
and all the water board's policies became part of the water plan.
Nobody made any effort to recognize that one half didn't have any
more authority than the other half. That's when I talked about
Robie: the part that I had control over, which was the water supply part,
had to be done consistent with the water quality part, which to me
was really significant.
To this day there hasn't been any real success in integrating
the two. The only thing we were able to do was to release
Bulletin 1. That was a bulletin that I released it finally came
out in the last year of our administration. It was designed to be
a policy document put out by the water board and the department
together, and to incorporate the water quality and the water
supply elements of the water plan and basically give it a modern
update. The bulletin was violently opposed by members of the
legislature, who thought that it was anti-development. We never
submitted it to them formally to become part of the water plan
because of that opposition. But we released it and publicly
published it, and it's available or was available.
Chall: You say it was opposed by the legislature are you talking about a
Robie: Individual members of the legislature had been lobbied by water
people, and they were threatening to pass a law that said it
wasn't their policy. So rather than do that It looks pretty
mild when you see it today we did not make it formally a part of
the water plan. It basically is this policy of 1975 plus the
water quality policies. It's a wonderful little document, telling
you what really should be done in water. But it was still too hot
to handle for the legislature which, like the Congress, knee-jerks
anybody who wants a project. As I say, we finally released it,
and we selected the number Bulletin H because it was, to us, the
successor to Bulletin 3.
Chall: What about water rights law? You had a commission to review
that. That's a really tough one, and it seems to me that it goes
down to what happened to the Peripheral Canal and all kinds of
things. It seems to me that it affected more the groundwater
issue than almost anything else, or am I wrong?
Robie: Two things. It was interesting, because you mentioned earlier
that in 1972 or some early date I called for a review of laws.
When I was at the water board I had put in an application for a
federal grant to make a study of water laws. It was killed in
Washington by Congressman [John] McFall and riparian users in San
Joaquin County, who were concerned that we might come up with
something that would hurt riparian rights. So it was killed
Robie: behind the scenes. I kept that in the back of my head I guess I
store more things there than I thought and I made up my mind that
if they killed our study, we would get one someday.
So in the middle of the drought we prevailed upon Governor
Brown to have the Water Rights Review Commission. He created a
very fine commission, headed by Chief Justice [Donald] Wright, who
had written a major water decision and otherwise had not been
involved in water. He was a marvelous man, and a great lawyer and
judge. Chief Justice Wright headed the commission, and ground-
water seemed to be the lightning rod. It was the one subject area
that people got offended by most. Some of the commission's
recommendations have been gradually adopted not the groundwater
ones, but the water transfer ones and some of the others.
The volumes of materials that were developed to assist the
commission its staff reports are still some of the leading
documents on the subject. The commission's report is a good
report. It was before its time; the legislature still wasn't
ready to implement it. I think we will look back some years from
now and see all of it in the law. But it was a chance to at least
attempt to make some progress in revising the laws. Just like the
groundwater storage that's going on now in Kern County would have
been a no-no when that commission was meeting. So times are
The Coordinated Water Agreement
Chall: Water exchanges. We've already been touching on that. In 1982
apparently you began discussion to exchange Bureau of Reclamation
and Department of Water Resources water. I think I read something
in the material for 1986 that actually the Deukmajian
administration had been able to effect some kind of real
conclusion to this exchange between the bureau and the department.
Robie: Oh, the Coordinated Operating Agreement. Maybe that's what you
are talking about. It was signed in 1983, I think, or '84.
Chall: That may be. I have something in 1986.
Robie: The Coordinated Operating Agreement was the agreement to
coordinate the two water projects. The critical issue in it was
whether the bureau would meet the water quality standards in the
Chall: You had a lot of communication over that.
Robie: We really negotiated it, and the EIR was done. Chuck Shoemaker
was the negotiator on that. That was done in '82. Because of the
new administration in Washington, the Bureau of Reclamation in
Sacramento wanted to reconsider it, so they negotiated it for
another two years. The final agreement was signed I was there
when it was signed, and I can't remember when it was; it may have
been '86, in November.
When the Coordinated Operating Agreement was finally signed,
it was basically the same agreement that we had. It hadn't been
changed significantly. Even though we had gotten it down to the
wire, it still took another several years to get done, mainly
because the new regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation
wanted to reconsider it all. He ended up coming to the same
conclusions. They basically agreed to meet water quality
requirements of the state.
Chall: Is there a water exchange policy? Given the engineering works and
all that, is it legally possible now to exchange water from the
Central Valley Project that might be considered surplus to it at
the moment ?
Robie: Yes, I think so, most of the time it can be done without specific
orders from the water board. But what the Coordinated Operating
Agreement does is to allow the two projects to work together, pool
their water. They keep accounting of it so they don't have to
worry about whose water is whose, and they each have obligations
to meet the standards. So instead of, like during the drought tof
1976] when they refused to release it and we had to release ours,
everything is all one operation. It's very nice.
Chall: Is that major exchange and release done in the Delta?
Robie: It's done by pumping and by releasing, and not storing. In other
words, if you don't store water in the reservoirs and just let it
come down the river, that's one way of effecting it. You can turn
off your pumps or slow down your pumps, and that's another way of
doing it. So it's a combination of those things, and the two
projects work in tandem.
Chall: Let's go into water conservation. The quesion that I have is what
and how do you conserve? There is talk about irrevocable losses,
and how some conservation measures can actually cause soil
damage. In some cases, it is reported that if you save water you
would use less water from the SWP and it might cause a drop in
Chall: contract payments. There's the problem of use of surplus water
and groundwater replenishment. It's full of technical as well as
legal problems, it seems to me. I just wondered what your
concerns were about water conservation?
Robie: Water conservation is another one of those wonderful issues. The
whole water field is one of smoke and mirrors. Unfortunately
there are groups of people who have such divergent views that they
use a lot of other things to be their arguing device, just as we
talked about groundwater and other things. Basically, water
conservation to me is a code word for doing a better job of
managing your resources, and just trying to make sure you don't
waste it. It's not a panacea.
Unfortunately, a lot of environmental people think that
conservation will solve everything. They tended to add up all the
numbers of potential savings and say, "See, you don't need any
more dams." The water industry, on the other hand, pointed out
all the problems that you mentioned, which are legitimate, and
said, "It doesn't serve any purpose at all."
My_ purpose in the whole thing was neither of those, but was
just to force people to think, "careful use of water." So we used
it more initially as a policy issue, just saying, "Think before
you use water; think before you build the next project to make
sure you're using the existing supplies." We agreed with the
For example, the Tulare Lake basin is an enclosed basin; none
of the rivers of the Tulare Lake basin flow to the sea. So if you
use water once, it goes into the ground or evaporates; it doesn't
go to the sea. If you use it twice, it doesn't go anywhere
either. In other words, you aren't saving anything. So it's 95
percent efficient. Of course, those people said that since it was
95 percent efficient, "everything we were doing is wonderful."
But that's not true, either, because if you use less water you
don't pump as much, you save energy, and lots of other things.
Conservation is still important, but it doesn't release any
water. On the other hand, when you save water in Sacramento, what
you save doesn't go out to sea.
The problem is that everybody was so polarized that
conservation became a bad name to some people, and the solution to
everybody's problems to other people. I was always on the spot.
I offended environmentalists with my agreement as to efficiency in
The big savings is in Imperial. The one thing that came out
of our department was a report that found that Imperial Irrigation
District was misusing its water, under the regulations which we
Robie: adopted. When I was director we adopted regulations jointly with
the board on how to implement Water Code Section 275, which is the
waste of water law. The basic regulations say that the department
investigates waste of water and issues reports to the board, and
then the board has hearings and orders them [water users] to do
We issued a report finding that there was a misuse of water
in the Imperial Irrigation District. It was very controversial,
and the people down there hated the report. But it was right, and
the water board then took that report, made a formal finding that
they misused water again, amid tremendous objection and just as
recently as a few days ago issued an order ordering them to save
water down there.
Chall: How are they misusing it?
Robie: Because in the Imperial Irrigation District they have unlined
canals, and the water that is sinking is not usable. And
secondly, they had water that would go right through the ditch
into the Salton Sea without ever being used. They wasted water by
throwing water away without even using it. At least some people
use it and throw it away! They actually had water which they
couldn't use on their farms, and they couldn't turn off the canal,
and so it just went into the Salton Sea. It was just like running
your faucet in the sink all night long, whether you had any dishes
in the sink or not.
So in Imperial, 100,000 acre feet of water wasted is a major
scandal. We blew the whistle on them initially, amid horrible
opposition from people. The MWD was a toothless tiger because
they didn't want to offend their friends in Imperial. Even in the
report which we issued on the subject, Dave Kennedy, who's now the
director, said that water conservation over there was not
feasible. I quoted him in the report because I wanted him to eat
his words later, and I hope he does. Because the department is
now actively working on this subject.
Chall: I thought that you had actually started proceedingsmaybe I'm
looking at material that came afterwards so that the Metropolitan
Water District could use some of that water.
Robie: That's the logical place for it. We had some private meetings
encouraging them to use the water. The Metropolitan Water
District is a very progressive water agency in terms of water
generally, but they're very political and they were not ready to
offend the Imperial Irrigation District which didn't want to do
that. So they really didn't do it. They are now working on it,
and there's a bill in Congress that would make it possible,
Chall: Maybe that's what going on now, requiring them to line their
canals and allowing water that isn't being used to go to
Robie: Yes. Metropolitan is the one that should get it. We had reports
that we issued on a number of occasions that showed MOO, 000 acre
feet could be saved. That's water that everybody agrees can be
saved; I mean, it really can be. The only adverse impact is to
the extent that the water now going into the Salton Sea is keeping
the sea from gettng too salty. One adverse impact is that the sea
will get saltier and the fish in the sea will die. So you will
have an indirect effect. But it seems to me hard to let water go
into an unusable body for that purpose. Although that same issue
is in Mono Lake.
Part of the problem in Imperial was that the Imperial
district and Coachella and MWD were all partners in the Colorado
River, and they weren't about to get into a family feud over
conservation, even though MWD knew and does know that there's an
important source of new supply to them.
There were also people who felt that if we talked about that
it would hurt the Peripheral Canal. Because the conservationists
who opposed the Peripheral Canal during the election argued that
that water was there, and we couldn't deny it. So we were told we
had to suppress it; people told us to suppress it, which we
didn't, of course.
The Colorado River Board
Robie: We stuck our neck out, and the governor supported us on that. I
might say that during the time I was director we reorganized the
Colorado River Board, which was another effort. We got it through
the legislature because the governor helped us. We added three
public members to the Colorado River Board, plus the director of
fish and game and the director of water resources. As soon as we
left office they amended the law partially back to the way it was.
The Colorado River Board was another case of a sort of
special interest agency making state policy. That included the
MWD and the Imperial Irrigation District. They were very thick in
their operations over there. They controlled the Colorado River
as a little fiefdom. Director Gianelli objected to that when he
was director. He said that the Colorado River was a part of
California's resources and the state should be running it, not
Just the users on the river.
The San Luis Drain
Chall: Let's talk about the Drain.
Robie: Oh, yes. We can do that quickly.
Chall: I hadn't seen much of anything, as I was going through your
reports, on the Drain. Suddenly, by 1979, there it wasthere was
considerable activity again.
You were still having the problem of getting the San Joaquin
farmers to commit to partnership in the development of the Drain
with the Bureau of Reclamation. They claimed that they didn't
contribute to the problem, which I guess is so. Still, there was
this major groundwater overdraft. The [San Joaquin Valley]
Inter agency Drainage Program, known as the IDP, was established in
1975 to study the problem. Tell me about all that the modeling
studies and all.
Robie: Prior to becoming director, I watched Director [William] Warne try
to create a drainage district. The problem is as you stated it.
In the Kern County area we did it wrong. The bureau did it right,
we did it wrong. We sold the water and created the project
without providing for the Drain. We had it in the law but we
didn't fund it. At least the Bureau of Reclamation and Westlands
Water District built the Drain into the system. Now, they left
part of it off by not providing an adequate area of disposal, but
at least they put the drainage in with the water at the same time,
which was right. We didn't. We built the State Water Project and
we had a drain on paper but nowhere else.
The problem is that the drainage all goes to the center of
the Valley, and various people contribute to the drainage in
different amounts. If you only build a drain by charging people
whose water actually goes into the drain, then you're letting a
lot of people off and it's unfair. So what you really needed was
some kind of taxing entity or some kind of method of determining a
zone of benefit to pay for a drain.
So that was the first problem, how you finance the Drain
assuming you could build one. The second problem, of course, was
the absolutely hysterical attitude in Contra Costa County that no
drain could ever go there. We did make some studies that showed
that in truth and fact if you discharged the drain water way down
in Contra Costa County, the impact on the bay would be relatively
Chall: That is so, is it?
Robie: Well, we had some studies. Regardless of that, we knew that
Contra Costa countians were just unalterably opposed. I did two
things when I became director. The first thing I did was that I
said I would consider putting some State Water Project money in
there. Because it seemed to me that if we were going to build a
drain that we ought to try to sweeten the pot by putting some
state money in there and declare it nonreimbursable, which we
could do legally, I think. In other words, I was willing to
stretch the rules a little bit to try to get them moving, because
I knew they wouldn't pay.
Secondly, I thought that if we had this drainage program, for
the first time we would bring in people from the Contra Costa
area, which we did, and environmentalists, and see if there was
any possible chance that they could work out accommodation. I
mean, in many respects we had agreement on the Peripheral Canal,
on the legislation. The Sierra Club supported it once. So I was
always the lawyer, I guess. I always thought you could bring
people together and compromise anything if you tried hard enough.
This is one that you can't.
So I started the IDP [Interagency Drainage Program], along
with the other cooperating agencies, and I was naive and hoped
that we could work it out. Of course, it just drifted onward
forever, getting nowhere. But I never really cut it out. I
reduced it in scope over the years because I felt it was not
producing anything, but it was symbolic. The idea that we
cooperated with the bureau on it was still important.
The only other thing that we did was It got into my head,
as a non-engineer, that maybe we could desalt the drainage water.
Looking back on it, it was sort of ahead of its time, because we
didn't know about selenium in the Kesterson Reservoir at the
time. So we invented the concept of the desalting plant down
there, which we funded originally out of State Water Project
funds. Then we eventually used the Investing for Prosperity
We decided a long time ago that desalting would never be a
solution in terms of sea water desalting for California; it was
too expensive, and had all sorts of problems. In the the Mideast
or Kuwait or someplace, but not here. There were a lot of people
who kept thinking that was the solution, just like conservation.
We said that desalting has got to be reverse osmosis or some kind
of waste water desalting. So we decided to build this
experimental plant down in Los Banos to see if it would work, in
the hopes that we could desalt the drain. It was a successful
experiment. The equipment, after we finished using it, was
dismantled and is now down in Orange County. It's beautiful.
But, of course, we never really had a drain, and we were left with
the bureau and their drain. I haven't read the final reports of the
Robie: What happened in the last analysis is sort of interesting. The
old Salyer/Boswell people are always the odd people out. They,
having a lot of money and being very smart I mean, they were not
dumb adversaries decided that they would do their own drainage.
What most people don't know is that they bought a little district
down there that had a four thousand acre foot entitlement or
something. I can't even remember the name of it anymore. They
bought this district, turned in it's contract, and used it as a
big storage pond for their own waste water [The Tulare Lake
Drainage District]. The Salyer/Boswell people, who were in Kings
County, basically, have drainage disposal of their own through
evaporation ponds. So it leaves Kern County without drainage.
Robie: It doesn't even have to be a complete drain, because the Tulare
Lake people have taken care of their own drainage. They're just
ponding it and evaporating it. To the best of my knowledge they
haven't had any Kesterson kind of problems right now. So they did
it on their own. They had to have drainage, and they did it.
Chall: They won't have the Kesterson problems, I guess, if there's no
Robie: Or if there's no selenium.
I went down for the groundbreaking of the desalting plant in
1982 at Los Banos. I wasn't around for the dedication. I think
it was one of those projects that the new administration sort of
kept at a low level after that. I was never invited down there
again, so I haven't been there.
The Medfly Crisis
Chall: Now I'm going to slide through some minor issues. They weren't
really minor, but compared to everything else we've talked about
they might be. The medfly
Robie: Oh! We didn't have much to do with that except that we used our
technical people on it. One of the things the department did was
maintain the levees of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the
Sacramento River levees. Our people knew how to apply herbicides,
because that's what they did when they treated the levees. So we
used them as part of the team. I wasn't directly involved in the
Chall: But you were involved in pesticide control, because at some point
you actually did indicate that certain kinds of pesticides were
banned. How did that come about?
Robie: Jerry Meral, particularly, on my staff was concerned about
pesticides. He's a biologist, and that was one of his areas. I
personally was committed to reducing toxics use in the project and
in integretated pest management. So we banned certain chemicals
on our own. We had the right to use them, we had the right to ban
them; we didn't have to use them if we didn't want to. We also
took the lead in getting rid of PCBs at the State Water Project,
at great cost, and our contractors thought it was silly. We tried
to set examples like that. We also hired some people, a number of
different consultants, to work on special integrated pest
management programs like research on squirrels and things like
And grass we cut the grass on levees so you could see the
squirrel holes. The question was, if you let the grass grow long
and you let natural predators in, then maybe you would get rid of
the squirrels better than either cutting the grass or using
herbicides. So we spent some money on hopefully creative things.
Not an awful lot came out of it, but we had a very committed staff
and we did our best to reduce the reliance on chemicals in our
Part of the problem was that we had trouble with the
employees. I met with the employees on a couple of occasions, and
they really liked to run their trucks and spray. They thought
management was almost subversive in getting rid of chemicals. I
couldn't believe it. But, you know, people whose daily job means
doing something have a vested interest in doing it even if it is
hurting them. It's very hard.
I was really shocked to talk to our employees at the yard
over in Bryte and have them not at all concerned about it. I went
over to Oroville and told somebody we were getting rid of PCBs.
One of the employees there said, "Oh, I used to use PCBs to wash
the grease off me." They used liquid PCB like it was a cleaning
agent; people washed their hands with it! We were spending money
to get rid of these things, and employees were saying, "So what?"
If you wonder sometimes why the public doesn't respond
Chall: All rightMono Lake.
Robie: Oh, this is one I'm very proud of. Mono Lake is another one of
those extraordinary issues; there are about eight or ten in which
we took issues that people in the water management field just
didn't like. Los Angeles was really a sacred cow. Los Angeles
had the history of taking over the Owens Valley, buying all the
land, becoming sort of the ultimate in landlords. Yet, over the
years, I dealt with the people of Inyo County and Mono County, and
because they were so integrally tied to Los Angeles they could
never take them on. Most of the people who took on Los Angeles
over things like Mono Lake were outside of the area. It was a
curious love-hate relationship between Los Angeles and the local
Los Angeles really had a stranglehold over Mono and Inyo, and
nobody could release it. Los Angeles was very powerful in the
legislature, and its allies were everybody who developed water.
Because if Los Angeles could have its water supplies modified by
the water board or somebody, then so could East Bay MUD.
Everybody saw Mono Lake as a symbol of a water right that wasn't
Physically, as you know, Mono Lake is a lake which is
saline. The fresh water that used to flow into Mono Lake was
diverted by Los Angeles before it got to Mono Lake. So the lake
was going down and getting saltier, more saline, because the water
was being diverted to Los Angeles. In order to solve the problem
you'd have to stop diverting it. Then you would create the
situation where the fresh water would flow, unused, from the
mountains right into the lake, where it would never be used again
for traditional consumptive uses.
On the surface it sounds like a waste of water, if you don't
consider Mono Lake tremendously important. The argument was that
that same acre foot of water that goes into Mono Lake helps a few
brine shrimp, but look what it does in Los Angeles it will take
care of a family of four for a year, or run a factory, and so
So the issues on Los Angeles were great. The litigation that
began in '79, [the National Audubon Society case] resulted in a
supreme court decision in 1983.* The governor was really
National Audubon Society v. Superior Court of Alpine County
(1983) 33 Cal. 3d M19 [189 Cal. Rptr. 316; 658 P.2d 7091 as
modified on denial of rehearing April 1M, 1983.
Robie: concerned about the problem, so he created the Mono Lake task
force, which was a governmental task force. It included the
federal government, which was through the Bureau of Land
Management, which eventually had jurisdiction on the area around
the lake, and others, including the city of Los Angeles. It was
staffed by our department. Jack Coe, a very capable engineer who
was the head of our Los Angeles office, turned out to be the chief
staff person on the Mono Lake task force. The Mono Lake task
force studied the issue for a year or so and then finally issued a
report supporting the reduction of flow to Los Angeles. The
dissent in it was from the city of Los Angeles, of course.
It was to me an incredible thing to think that the state of
California was able to take a position on an issue that strong, on
which there was such opposition in Los Angeles. This is where
Governor Brown was different from anyone else. The lawsuit was
started in '79, the supreme court of California decided it in
'83. The Mono Lake task force reported in November of '81, so it
was two years before the public trust was enunciated by the
court. The recommendation of the task force was the reduction of
export from 100,000 acre feet to 15,000 acre feet; legislation to
protect the water rights in other words you could legally provide
some protection urban water conservation of 15 percent; more
reclamation; and then purchase by the city of MWD replacement
Chall: I wondered why they hadn't thought of that before.
Robie: The way to resolve it was to have the MWD water be used instead.
You would have 15 percent water conservation, but you'd recognize
the water was needed. It was, to me, an amazing report. Huey
Johnson was the secretary for resources and strongly supported
it. Here you had a federal-state report that recommended
signficant changes that the establishment was wildly and violently
against. So we were really pushing against the status quo.
Chall: The Mono Lake committee of citizens is still very strong.
Apparently they're not satisfied.
Robie: Well, the report never got implemented.
Chall: Did you say this went to court?
Robie: No. All this time there was a case called the National Audubon
Society case. In 1983 the California Supreme Court said there was
a public trust in Mono Lake. It said there was a legal basis for
changing Los Angeles' water rights. Prior to 1983, city of Los
Angeles had a firm water right.
Robie: In fact, the irony of this whole thing, and I don't mind saying
so, is that in 197U, when Los Angeles got its water right, I voted
for it because I was on the water board this water right that I
later recommended be cut back. The reason was that the law in
1974 was that once Los Angeles had a vested right, the board
couldn't change it. I remember very, very well asking Gavin
Craig, the chief counsel of the board, before I voted on that,
because I was worried about it, "Are you sure that this is a
ministerial act?" In his opinion it was; that issuing the
license, which is what the board did in '71, was a ministerial act
and was not discretionary. So I voted for it.
Chall: Ministerial meaning ?
Robie: That we had to give them a license and we didn't have any
discretion. The supreme court in 1983 said that the existing
license could be modified by the board because there is a public
trust. So the water board in '83 had the authority they didn't
have in '7 1 *. But our report that recommended changing the water
rights came before the law said they could do it. That's one
reason why we had to provide replacement water. I mean, the
report was designed to minimize the impact on Los Angeles, but
nevertheless it still made a policy decision to save the lake.
Of course, MWD's argument was that they didn't have 85,000
acre feet of replacement water. "We only have enough for
ourselves, and you'll have to take it from the Delta." Their
political argument was, "Save Mono Lake and you'll hurt the
Delta," which they thought was very clever and they would then get
supporters in Contra Costa County to oppose the Mono Lake report.
I mean, that's the kind of reasoning you get.
I was very proud of the Mono Lake task force report. It sits
there, and some day Mono Lake will be saved. That report will be
one of the things that people will refer to and say, "Well, they
had an idea back then "
Chall: You mean that maybe in some future day what's happening in Mono
Lake will be reversed?
Robie: Everything is so funny when you're dealing with natural
resources. After '81 or '82 or '83, the water years got pretty
good up there, and they really saved the lake automatically. And
that's what always happened. Over the years Mono Lake went up and
down. And there were periods when there was a lot of water up
there and Los Angeles didn't need it, and it was automatically
being saved. For a lot of reasons the squeeze hasn't been on.
There's an additional lawsuit that's pending now in court, which
the Third District Court of Appeals just heard, on another legal
basis for preventing the water from going into the lake. So the
issue is very alive.
Robie: The original Mono Lake case, the Audubon case, was just sent back
to Alpine County by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It was
sent there to find a judge who was neutral; you couldn't hear it
in Mono County. The case will go back to Judge Cook in Alpine
County one of these days and it will go on its way. Maybe a few
years from now we'll find out what happens.
The Pacific Southwest Water Plan
Chall: We'll watch it. This minor issue comes up once every few years
and I think you more or less laughed it off: the idea that
surfaces once in a while to transfer water from the Pacific
Northwest to Los Angeles. The board of supervisors in Los Angeles
came up with this, and I've seen it discussed many times before.
Actually, while it seems now that it can't happen, it was sort of
the pie in the sky that provided the impetus to stop the MWD from
fighting over the Arizona project [Central Arizona Valley
Robie: It had a factor in it, yes. Secretary of the Interior [Stewart]
Udall in 1966 announced the Pacific Southwest Water Plan, which
was a way of settling Arizona's problems.* It would have taken
water from the Colorado to California, and then taken water from
California to the Colorado. He was basically going to replenish
the Colorado with California water, which meant you'd have an
aqueduct going in one direction and the other. It was a classic
political compromise. The response at the time from the city of
Los Angeles was to develop what was called the Snake -California
plan. They were going to go to the Snake River. They put
together a report in just a week; it was almost a handwritten
report. That resulted in them creating an Idaho Department of
Water Resources. All the western states got hot.
Then the North American Water and Power Alliance [NAWAPA],
which was I can't even remember the name of the company now, but
there was a commercial engineering company that produced that and
advertised it, which would have taken water from great valleys in
British Columbia and places.
Chall: I think there were even some iceburgs
Robie: That was called NAWAPA, and that was a wild proposal. The only
other thing that became of that was that Lieutenant Governor
[Edward] Reineke was interested in an undersea pipeline. After
See interview with William Warne, pp. 111-117.
Robie: they had abandoned all the ideas about bringing it over the land,
they considered putting in an undersea pipeline on the theory that
it would be at sea level the whole time and you wouldn't have any
pumping. That was studied once. When I was director it was never
viable. We Just pooh-poohed it and made fun of it.
Innovative Resource Policies
The Renewable Resources Investment Fund
Chall: Tell me what the Renewable Resources Investment Fund was supposed
Robie: This was Huey Johnson's idea. Huey was a very creative guy. He
worked as secretary for resources, and prior to that he was with
Trust for the Public Land, and The Nature Conservancy, which
basically leveraged private funds into public benefit. His
concept was that we need to keep our resources renewed by stream
clearance, by better fire protection, by having controlled burns
instead of fire fighting. There was a whole series of
developments in the technology of forest management. He created
originally, with the governor's approval a bond act on the ballot
in 1980, I think, which was defeated the Renewable Resources
Investment Fund that would have used money on a series of state
projects that would produce a greater return than their investment
by increasing our resources.*
He packaged it all in such a way that it was a prospectus
that looked like a stock offering. It showed that if you spent so
much money on stream restoration, you will have a greater
production of fish. So your economic benefits from fisheries will
be more than the investment. The concept was that things that you
do for the resources of our state are really an investment, and
you can actually measure their benefits. The concept was that we
will have a continuing fund. It became a Brown administration
priority. At one point this desalting plant was funded by what
was called the Energy and Resources Fund, which was a twenty-year
plan eventually to restore resources. That was its final title.
Proposition 1, to provide for the issuance of $495 million in
bonds for such purposes as park acquisition, wildlife
conservation, and water reclamation. Sponsored by Senator John
Nejedly. June 1980 ballot.
Chall: [Reading from notes] The policy goals were for the year 2000, but
implementation would be for Actually, that's called Investing
for Prosperity that Huey Johnson designed.
Robie: That's the same thing.
Chall: I see. One came out in 1979 and the other 1981. Is that
Robie: Investing for Prosperity was what it was called in '81.
Originally it was called
Chall: Renewable Resources Investment Fund. But it was the same thing?
Robie: Yes. It was Huey's major theme, and it was gradually refined and
Chall: The governor did, despite the budget crunch, provide the
Department of Water Resources with funds to begin the construction
of the reverse osmosis plant and a few other things.
The Irrigation Management Information System
Robie: Including the CIMIS, which I have notes here on a million dollars
for the Irrigation Management Information System. That is one
that I'm very proud of. That was done with the University of
California and is still running and is very, very popular. They
paid to put computerized weather stations where the farmer on his
farm had a computer terminal and could call up the weather station
and it would tell him how much water to irrigate. It would tell
the farmer about the weather conditions. People would
over-irrigate at times, so it let you know more precisely how much
to irrigate and save a lot of water. The system has been expanded
every year since I've been gone, and it's now going full blast all
over the state. It's a very important element of farming. If
nothing else, if you don't use as much water you save money,
because water is expensive.
A Closer Look at Several Federal/State Relationships
Chall: We've touched on some state and federal issues and the New Melones
Dam. What about Auburn Dam? That was sort of an up and down
thing, too. Carter recommended deletion of funding, and then
Andrus would not recommend reauthorization. Then there were the
Delta water standards.
Robie: That's an interesting thing. A couple of things about that:
number one, Governor Brown always supported Auburn Dam. When
President Carter suggested a review. Governor Brown's response was
that he wanted it built.
Chall: Why? There was so much hue and cry among the conservationists
about Auburn Dam.
Robie: I had one conversation with the governor, and he said that to some
extent this public works money would go other places, and he
supported it here. He supported Auburn Dam throughout the whole
administration. During the administration we sort of suggested
that Auburn Dam be rethought, but we never stopped supporting it.
That was actually his position. He took it personally and talked
to us about it. I really don't know ultimately why he supported
it. We had a lot of reservations about it.
When the Oroville earthquake came in '75, it resulted later
on in questions about the earthquake problems at Auburn. We took
positions that were sort of negative to Auburn, in the sense that
we wanted to make sure that it was safe. A lot of people thought
they could set the earthquake concerns aside. So we appeared to
be opposing it, and we did slow it down and ask for a review of
the safety and so forth. But we basically never said we didn't
support the dam itself. My personal feeling is that it's not a
necessary dam, and I don't think it really needs to be built.
The state didn't have a really good relationship with the
federal government during the time I was director because they
were still in their strong period of having all of their
supporters in Washington, including Bizz Johnson. Every time I
saw Bizz Johnson I paid courtesy calls on him two or three times
a year Congressman Johnson would always start out by saying, "How
is my dam doing in Auburn?" I never had anything good to report.
Bizz Johnson was a totally pro-development guy who thought all
these dams were wonderful, and so were others. As a result, the
Robie: federal government responded to political pressure, and the
California political delegation was really gung-ho for these
None of the urban legislators wanted to offend their rural
friends by taking on their projects. So the urban legislators
Just went off and did something relating to urban areas. Even
though he had a vast reservoir of potential opposition for some of
these really damaging projects, none of the southern Californians
got involved; they left their hands off him. So we were sort of
swimming against the tide.
Meeting Water Quality Standards
Robie: The other thing is that when we were badgering the state, the
state was badgering the federal government to meet water quality
standards and cooperate. The San Joaquin Valley was divided into
two parts, the service area of the state and the service area of
the federal government. All of the federal government agency
service people did not want to meet the standards because it would
mean less water for them. So you had the Westlands Water District
against meeting state standards. 1 Here's the poor state of
California trying to get along with the federal government, and
the federal government was doing all these inconsistent things.
Also, again, none of the state contractors in the San Joaquin
Valley would take on the federal contractors. They were more
together, even though against the state. So the state became the
big enemy, and I had an obsession with making the federal
government meet the state requirements. Of course, the Supreme
Court said to in 1978, and now they have agreed by contract. The
whole issue in the first Peripheral Canal bill was state and
federal standards; that was the number one issue.
I didn't have a real close working relationship with the
federal government; it was a rocky one. At one point we said we
wouldn't transport any of their water in our aqueduct unless they
were in compliance. And we turned off their water one time. We
had people out there shooting at us, and we had to send our people
out to turn the water off and on in the middle of the night so
nobody could see them so they wouldn't be shot. I mean, it was
just crazy. I finally had to retreat from that because I couldn't
make it work.
Ironically, the state standards were federally approved by EPA.
Chall: Where was that, in the San Luis area?
Robie: Yes. In any event, the federal-state relationships were bad, but
they were bad in part because of the circumstances, and they
finally changed. Now, Secretary Andrus was the bright spot.
Chall: I was just going to ask you it seemed to me you were fortunate,
from your point of view, in having him as as secretary of
Robie: Secretary Andrus visited the governor in either '77 or '78 (the
election was in '76), prior to the Supreme Court [decision]. He
came to California and visited the governor. We had a list of
half a dozen things to talk to Secretary Andrus about, and one of
them was the Delta. Secretary Andrus said, in the presence of the
governor and the news media, "We're going to cooperate with
California on the Delta." Secretary Andrus is a wonderfully
environmental and sensitive man. He made that public commitment,
and it gave a great boost to the state's position. The problem
was that it was never really carried out by his agents. But it
was significant, and they never really got too far off base
because they couldn't go too far away from his policies. So it
was sort of interesting.
It was an informal policy, and it was strictly political. I
mean, if Governor Brown hadn't been Governor Brown and a Democrat,
Secretary Andrus would have come out and probably met with the
governor, but he wouldn't have done that. He, I think, had
recognized the need to protect the Delta, and the state
administration was strongly in favor of it; so he gave his support
to it, and it was very important. That was at his level.
Congress didn't support that, and neither did the local people in
California until the Supreme Court came out in '78. Even after
that they didn't agree.
Chall: He also said it was just a question whether the bureau would help
finance the Peripheral Canal, which they didn't do.
Robie: In that regard Andrus was on the other side. He was
environmental, so he didn't want to do anything to help the
Peripheral Canal. This was interesting, because he took an aloof
attitude on the Peripheral Canal, and his staff in California,
then, took an aloof attitude on it even though they wanted the
Peripheral Canal. Because they were to be our partners. So you
had two sides of Secretary Andrus.
Chall: In 1977 you set up a task force with the federal and state
people. This had to do with the cooperation between the state and
federal Tony Kline, Richard Rominger, Bill Press, Robie, [Adolph]
Moskowitz, Berge Bulbulian, John Garamendi, Larry Moss, and
others. Was that to iron out ?
Robie: That dealt with the acreage limitation and federal reclamation
Chall: There's just nothing you can do about that in the state, so what
was the problem here?
Robie: That was really related to acreage limitation.
Chall: But what were you going to do about it?
Robie: The Westlands Water District had a contract, and the requirement
of the law was that after ten years they had to sell all the land
that had been under the limitation. Southern Pacific was going to
sell much of the land. The state was interested in getting the
land broken up and helping people farm it. That was one effort
the state made. The governor had a little group that toyed with
trying to place people on farms and make it work.
There was a report of the task force out I didn't really
participate in it; it was really outside my jurisdiction that
dealt primarily with acreage limitation and matter relating to
that. It did deal with water quality standards in one section,
but other than that it dealt primarily with federal reclamation
land and 160-acre limitation.
Chall: That's absolutely a losing cause, isn't it?
Robie: Yes. I think the governor got excited about it for a while, and
then gradually figured it wasn't a winning proposition.*
Chall: I read this in your material, but I couldn't believe you were
taking it on.
Robie: I wasn't. But they put out a nice glossy report. It was required
by the federal government; I think the federal government set up
the task force and the governor appointed somebody. It was to
See interview with Ralph Brody, "Devising Legislation and
Building Public Support for the California Water Project,
1950-1960; Brief History of the Westlands Water District," in
California Water Issues, 1950-1966, pp. 22-2H, 91.
Robie: decide what the federal government should do about resolving these
acreage limitation problems that they had the selling of land and
so forth. And out of it came the Reclamation Reform Act because
they did amend the Reclamation Act.
Chall: They did, and I think it is still being honored in the breach.
It's very complicated; the issues are not yet resolved.
Robie: But I didn't get into it in detail. I had enough problems without
Non-Reserved Water Rights
Chall: What about your not very happy correspondence with Leo Krulitz,
Robie: Oh, on the non-reserved federal water rights? Solicitor Krulitz
came up with the idea that the federal government can have water
rights that were non-reserved. The understanding was that when
you made a reservation for a national forest or whatever, you
could have water rights sufficient for the forest, and those were
reserved water rights. He expanded that to cover non-reserved
water rights in an opinion of the solicitor, and all of the
western states got very upset about it. That's one case where I
was on the side of the water industry. We all agreed that it was
a little farfetched. He was basically doing it for environmental
purposes. The Supreme Court decided U.S. v New Mexico on the same
day as U.S. v California was decided
Robie: and narrowly interpreted reserved rights so that there was less
water for the federal government. The solicitor wanted to get
back and expand federal rights. After Jimmy Carter, the Reagan
administration solicitor reversed his opinion, and it's gone
The Carter and Reagan Administrations Compared
Chall: What were the differences between the Carter and Reagan
administrations with respect to the issues we have been covering?
Robie: It's sort of funny. The Carter administration was very hostile
toward water projects. They wore this on their sleeves and went
out slashing at them, and then got everybody mad at them. I
Robie: I think this is one of the great ironies of the whole situation*
The Reagan administration came in, widely admired by water project
people, and Reagan was worse than the Carter administration. But
they didn't say so.
Bill Gianelli, who became the assistant secretary, felt that
there should be cost sharing on federal projects, beneficiaries
should pay part of their costs. It was something he supported
when he was the director in California. It made everybody mad,
but there wasn't any money. The Reagan administration for years
has been cutting back, and they have started fewer projects than
anybody in history. But is anybody mad at them? No way! It's
all a matter of style over substance. The Carter administration
said, "We don't like the water projects, therefore..." and the
Reagan administration just didn't build any.
The Bureau of Reclamation is being dismantled, literally;
it's virtually non-existent. It's not out there drumming up any
projects. Bizz Johnson's gone and the bureau is not working any
alliances with anybody. George Miller is the head of the sub
committee [Water and Power Resources] and he doesn't like water
projects; Mo [Morris] Udall is the head of the full committee
[Interior and Insular Affairs] and he's lukewarm. The
administration has had benign neglect, and nobody's mad at them!
People still think, if you ask them, that the Reagan
administration is gung-ho for water projects, but ask them what
they've built, and they haven't built any. In other words, the
way to get by with it is just to do nothing and pretend you're
doing something, rather than make a splash.
Chall: The Carter administration was concerned about the so-called pork
Robie: And all they did was say they wanted to look at them, and it was
like you had murdered your mother. Yet the Reagan administration
did the same thing.
Chall: But they didn't say it; they just did it?
Robie: They just did it.
Chall: Well, I needn't even ask about the positions of Andrus and James
Watt. I think you were still around a while when Watt was
secretary of the interior.
Robie: Yes, Watt was secretary during the first two years of the Reagan
administration. Well, we didn't have much to do with him. In our
area he really didn't have any impact, on water.
Chall: George Miller has a lot of impact, or does he?
Robie: Yes, he does.
Chall: What is his impact?
Robie: He had a big impact in the Delta, in the settlements over the
Westlands contract and the acreage limitation law. He was in
favor of doing something for the Delta, so he made a big
difference there, having somebody other than somebody like Bizz
Johnson or some of the congressmen. Congressman Miller basically
has been in a situation now where nothing is happening, so he
hasn't really had to assert himself in most areas. I mean, there
are no projects.
The Peripheral Canal Debate; Where Policies Meet Politics
The Review Study, 1975-1977
Chall: Now, everything came together with the Peripheral Canal. We've
already talked about your Delta study, D1379, Teerink's concern
about the canal. You said you were going to make a new study, and
you did, and then you and your staff opted for the Peripheral
Canal. It's very difficult to follow the trail. What was the
relationship between you and the governor in '77 one of the
crucial years in the debate regardingthe Peripheral Canal?
Robie: We need to go back to '75. In '75 the Peripheral Canal was still
on the schedule. John Teerink in January deferred it for one year
because it was a hot potato and he didn't want to do anything with
it. He deferred it one year until '81, and I deferred it another
year to give us more time. Then we decided to make a review, and
that was to reconsider the needs and timing of the facilities, to
deal with federal participation, to take a new look at
alternatives new protections for the Delta, an evaluation of fish
protection facilities which was one of the big hang-ups and dry
year criteria to make sure that it was going to be operating
My hope was that the staff would be clever and would come up
with something that wasn't the Peripheral Canal. That's what I
hoped. Because everybody agreed that you needed a facility, which
they still do. They're going to build something other than the
Chall: Cross channels?
Robie: Cross channels. The big thing that the Delta people knew was that
if it was in a confined canal they wouldn't get the water on the
way. It's just like having a bypass around town like a freeway;
if you know the cars are going to go through town, you know
they'll stop at your gas station, but if they go around town they
won't. They wanted the water to go through the Delta so that it
had to go through the Delta channels before it got to the pumps.
As long as it did, they knew they'd get it. Nobody could turn it
off, because it had to go through. So that was really the issue:
isolated facility versus non-isolated. That was the heart of the
disagreement. The Peripheral Canal was the isolated facility.
I hoped that my staff could come up with something that would
meet the needs of the canal without being a canal. They worked at
it, we had hearings which we televised, and we did everything
under the sun. We issued Delta alternatives reports, and we did
have a couple of alternatives that are being talked about now.
One went down just half way and stopped, and then it had another
thing at the end. In other words, it went down to New Hope and
then it used natural channels the rest of the way. It had some of
the advantages of being enclosed. I had some really good people
working on it: Bob Potter, Don Owen, Jerry Meral was
there people who really knew that if anything could be done to
find something else, they would find it. And they came up with
the Peripheral Canal.
I talked to the governor, because he knew I was doing it, but
I hadn't talked to him about what to do. Charlie Fullerton, who
was the director of fish and game, whose department always
supported the canal he and I said, "Let's have our staffs
recommend to us. We'll have the head of the fish and game staff
and the head of the DWR staff make the recommendation to us, and
we'll release it with a big flourish, and we'll see what happens.
If it gets shot down, we'll kill it before it gets to the
governor. We have the option of going through a process."
Governor Brown's Early Commitment
Robie: So on June 3, 1977, I told the water commission that it had been
recommended by the staff. We never got to the stage that Charlie
and I recommended, because we met with the governor and he said,
"When are you going to recommend it? I want to announce it." So
the governor actually said before we did, "I want to build the
Peripheral Canal." He didn't even let us go through this
process. On June 13, the governor, exercising leadership, said to
Senator [Ruben] Ayala, who was the chairman of the
senate[Agriculture and Water Resources] committee, and Eugene
Robie: Gualco, the chairman of the assembly [Water] committee, "I want
you to sit down and hammer out legislation to carry out this
So we did. We sat down in the governor's office, for a
couple of days, with a whole bunch of people, representing all
kinds of interests. They put out a bill that passed the senate
Finance Committee, Senate Bill 3^6, They amended it without even
printing it and passed it out on June 16; it passed the senate on
June 23. So within a week it had passed.
Chall: Now, back up a bit. I have somewhere in my notes that on the
twenty-third of February in 1977, the governor called a meeting of
state and local leaders and began the formulation to complete the
SWP to satisfy water needs to the year 2000. I guess shortly
thereafter the Ayala bills, 3^4, 3^5, 3^6, came through. Was that
all separate? When the governor called that meeting, what did he
have in mind? What was going on? You probably were there.
Robie: That was before the recommendation of the Delta came out, so we
started meeting to talk about the alternatives report. That was
the report that had different alternatives. The governor went
over them with me. There hadn't been any official staff
recommendation. That meeting was held, and Senator Ayala
immediately introduced his bills, most of which were unacceptable
to us. I don't remember what they were now.
Chall: Yes, they were, except for 3^6, which provided $900 million to
construct the facilities in and near the Delta. You told the
water commmission that you probably could work with those bills to
amend them. One, 3M, would exempt the SWP from the provisions of
CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act].
Robie: Which is crazy.
Chall: How could he do it? And 3^5 was to repeal the Wild and Scenic
Rivers Act under certain conditions. You opposed that, even
though it passed the committee but that's probably as far as it
got. But 3^6 is the one that everyone pulled on. Then, on
June 13, the governor did call this series of meetings on the
canal. What were they like? How did he show that he wanted it?
Robie: They were interesting. He personally met with them and said, "I
want you to work something out; here's Robie, sit down and talk
about it with him." We sat there and we negotiated. But the
thing is that Senator Ayala was impatient with the governor,
because we had taken two years, so he put in these three bills.
His staff, Steve Macola, came up with these, I guess. The two of
them were really absurd, and I don't know to this day whether they
were trying to shock everybody or what. But building it without
Robie: going through the environmental impact process is just sticking
environmentalists' noses in the dirt, and repealing the Wild
Rivers Act would be just wacky. But it certainly got everybody's
attention. So he was just trying to get the governor to do
something, I think.
The First Version, SB 3^6: The Crucial Federal Role, 1977-1978
We responded in due course, and the governor said, "Let's go
ahead." So we passed it out. The key provision of the bill, the
leverage in it was that the federal government had to agree to
meet the water quality standards before the canal could be built.
And they had to have a permanent agreement in the Delta before you
could build a canal.
The bill included everything that we had wanted, and this was
the source eventually of great misunderstanding. It authorized a
full set of new projects, but it didn't guarantee that they would
be built because they were all subject to timing and so forth; it
just listed the ones that we wanted. For example, it had the
Glenn Reservoir, which was up in the mountains in Glenn County; it
had the Cottonwood Creek project up there in Shasta County; it
also included water reclamation, groundwater storage (which we are
now getting); and it included Suisun Marsh facilities, and a dam
at Los Vaqueros, which is still being considered, down in Contra
The idea was that we would set aside the projects we wanted,
which meant that we didn't build on the Eel River, of course. The
strategy was to lay out the next twenty or thirty years and show
where you'd go. The intention was that you wouldn't build any of
these things until each one needed to come on the line. Of
course, when the bill was discussed it was always put as a package
and it assumed that everything would be under construction
tomorrow. I thought it was an orderly way to do it; it was one
way of guaranteeing you'd never go to the Eel River, because you
didn't include it on your list.
The big problem was the federal role. At the time, in '77,
we didn't have California v U.S.; we didn't have any guarantees
the feds would meet the water quality standards. The water board
had ordered the feds to meet the standards, but they had not
agreed and they had challenged the water board's authority. In
the Law Review article I wrote I point out that it wasn't until
last year that the appellate courts upheld the board's authority.*
Pacific Law Journal, July 1988.
Moving SB 3^6 Through the Legislature
Robie: We went to the assembly. The Assembly Water Committee had, in
addition to Gualco, Assemblyman [Daniel] Boatwright, and a
coalition of people who didn't like it. Gene Gualco, who was from
Sacramento County and head of the committee at the time, voted for
it and carried it. It's interesting that he didn't get any
political flack from that. That showed that in '77 the Peripheral
Canal was not that much of a negative. It became a negative over
the period of three or four years. Robert Cline voted against it,
I noted that. He was the spokesperson, basically, for the
Salyer/Boswell interests, and they later on fought it bitterly.
This was the opponent's [Salyer/Boswell] theory: the bill
would be passed and would authorize the Peripheral Canal, and
would require a federal commitment to water quality. The Sierra
Club and environmentalists would then go back to Washington, now
that they had gotten the commitment to meet the standards, and work
against the federal agreement to build the canal. So they'd have
the standards but not the canal. The MWD stuck with us to the
bitter end, however.
A lot of Republicans agreed with it, although it was not
partisan originally, except that when Governor Brown started
getting credit for it Republicans got goosey about it, because
they didn't want him to take credit for it even though it was
really his baby. That became a part of it. The opponents were
convinced that the environmentalists would be disloyal to the
commitment and would not go back to Washington and work on getting
the agreement torpedoed. The bill had guarantees built in; it had
the protection for the Delta that was in D1379. In retrospect, I
suppose that nobody trusted anybody and the opponent's position
was not so illogical.
Now, what happened was Assemblyman Gualco' s staff people
were sympathetic to some of the Delta people. They delayed the
bill and it lost momentum. Because remember, it passed in June in
the senate [23-7] and it didn't get out of the assembly until
September. It passed the assembly by a vote of fifty-eight to
twenty-one. It was a good vote. It went back to the senate and it
couldn't get a two-thirds majority. It did get two-thirds in the
assembly. It got two-thirds in the senate the first time around,
but it didn't the second time. One of the problems we had
there We had a conference committee, as I recall, that was
Assemblymen Gualco, [Larry] Kapiloff, [Gordon] Duffy, and Senators
Ayala, [John] Nejedly, and [Peter] Behr. We had the support of
the California Federation of Labor, the Planning and Conservation
League (which was Jerry Meral's old group), the Sierra Club, the
MWD, East Bay MUD, and the Santa Clara Water District.
Robie: The bill came back to conference committee in January of '78, and
it then went to the senate where the final vote was twenty-one to
fourteen, which ended it because it was a senate bill. So it lost
The enthusiasm that the governor had created and that
hammered out its solution, negotiated in two days which was a
remarkable accomplishment just didn't hold up.
Chall: How did he hammer it out? You used the word "hammer" just now,
and you used it in your commission report.
Robie: He just called them all there, and the governor has enormous
power. People don't realize that when the governor comes in the
room with people, people are awed by it. I mean, people who might
hate this governor just like the president. He was doing what
they wanted, basically. He was trying to get a water project for
them. They didn't like all the details. When he walked in and
said, "I want you to do this, I'm enthused," they just felt
compelled, and they did things they wouldn't have done for anybody
else under other circumstances.
That's just the way it is. Those things come and go. Very
rarely in our history have people worked things out like this.
I've never negotiated anything so fast; it just took a day or
two. It gets down to my old theory, that I think you can
negotiate almost anything.
Analyzing the Votes on SB 3^6
Robie: There was the first version. It's main flaw was that it was tied
to the feds, but that was my obsession, I guess, because without
the federal government it would have been nothing. The other
thing that underlies all this is that I thought, and everybody
else did, that anything as controversial as the Peripheral Canal
could not be built without legislative approval. We are a
democracy, still, and under the law 1^ believe that the state could
build the Peripheral Canal today without legislation, I believe
it's the law. I always believed that. Because it says, "the
delta facility." "
Chall: But you need money.
Robie: Oh, yes, but it's there, too, because DWR can sell bonds. My idea
was that you don't build something that's wildly controversial
without a public behind you. The way to get the public behind you
is to pass it in the legislature, and it really was the way to
go. We had good support in the legislature. We were shooting for
a two-thirds vote that's the other thing; it had to have a
two- thirds vote.
Chall: Because there was money attached to it?
Robie: Right. Anyway, we had a majority vote even at the very end,
twenty-one to fourteen. If you have a representative democracy at
all we accomplished a lot. I look upon that somewhat proudly,
although it ended up in the trash heap.
The Second Version, SB 200, 1979-1982
Robie: Senator Ayala then introduced Senate Bill 200, with a state-only
Peripheral Canal, which was a problem. The reason was that you
couldn't have a state-only canal because the federal government
would be operating independently without the canal and would be
causing harm, while you were operating in the canal. So it was
Chall: But you still let it go through. I wonder why, knowing as you did
that it was a problem.
Robie: Well, it had the protective measures for the Delta; it just wasn't
tied to the feds. Basically it had all the benefits of 346
without the federal commitments. That's the only thing
different. It still had the Delta protection.
Governor Deukmejian as a senator voted against it on one
issue. There was a section of the bill that said that the
protection for stored water, requiring the projects to release
stored water, was declaratory of existing law. In other words,
the state water contracts were signed in the early sixties, but if
this bill were passed and it was considered a new law, you
couldn't change the contracts. So we had to say legally that it
was not a new law, it was just an existing law, a statement.
That's where Senator Deukmajian refused to vote for us on the very
last vote in the senate.
The court of appeal, in the Racanelli decision, said that has
been the law all along.* So had the bill gone through now it
wouldn't have made any difference. I'll give you that Law Review,
because it traces that background.
So 200 was the same. The only thing it did was that it
didn't guarantee that the federal government would be part of it.
But it put all the guarantees for the Delta in: protective
*U.S. v. State Water Resources Control Board (1986), 182 Cal. App.
3d 82 [227 Cal Rptr. 161].
Robie: measures for Delta, Suisun Bay, and San Francisco Bay. The
guarantees were there, and that's why the MWD and everybody
gritted their teeth because they wanted the project enough and
they were willing to accept that.
Chall: What about Senator Nejedly's SB 1361? It was supposed to go along
Robie: There wasn't any deal that we would go along with it. Two hundred
was by itself. What happened was that Assemblyman Kapiloff became
the chairman of the Assembly Water Committee, and he supported SB
1361. He was from San Diego. Senate Bill 200 was introduced [in
the senate] in May of '79, and it didn't pass until
1980 twenty-four to twelve on January 23, 1980. The governor
urged it in his State of the State address. Then it took until
July to pass the assembly, fifty to twenty-eight; it passed by a
They had ACA 90 there, which was the amendment putting the
bill's protections in the constitution. Assemblyman Kapiloff tied
the amendment to SB 200, and Proposition 8 was put on the ballot
in November 1980 and won, but did not go into effect, since SB 200
was repealed by referendum in 1982.
The Delta Protection and Wild Rivers Initiative, Proposition 8;
Peripheral Canal Referendum, Proposition 9
Chall: During June and July, according to my notes, the governor appeared
before legislative committees and worked on ACA 90, and SB 200,
and SB 1361 Nejedly. These were measures that the rest of the
water agency people didn't want. What was his interest in this
Robie: He supported Nejedly's bill. Senate Bill 200 was passed July 7,
and ACA 90 was tied to SB 200; they were double jointed.
Chall: The governor said they had to go together.
Robie: Well, they went together, so they had to pass them both. That's
why the referendum erased them both. Senator Nejedly had a bill
that the environmentalists wanted. I'll go back and put this in
perspective. I don't remember what Senator Nejedly's bill did
exactly, but I know the context.
Governor Brown was reaching toward '80 and the presidential
election, and he was getting cool on the Peripheral Canal now.
The reason he was getting cool was because it was having more
Robie: trouble. It was really hot in '79, and in '80 it was still doing
okay, but he was getting cool. He still supported it; he urged
its passage in the State of the State address.
Then Nejedly introduced his bill I think it was a ground-
water storage bill. He [Brown] supported it, but he didn't tie it
together. But he sort of threatened people that if you don't pass
that, I may not sign the other one.
As I remember, that was Gray Davis 1 s idea. The governor did
two things: he softened on the idea of SB 200; he wasn't as
enthusiastic about it. Secondly, a lot of people thought that he
was double crossing them by pushing the Nejedly bill and
threatening to maybe not sign the other bill.
That's the other point I was going to make. The bill
[SB 2003 passed the assembly on July 7. It didn't have to be
signed until August 30, because they had adjourned. During that
period of time none of us knew whether he was going to sign the
bill, even though we had spent two years working on it. He
wouldn't tell us he was going to sign the bill. Then he announced
he was going to appear on television on Friday, July 18, and we
didn't know if he was going to sign it or not. On Thursday night
[July 17] I went over to his office, and he said he was leaving
for Los Angeles. I still didn't know whether he was going to sign
Chall: Did he know, I wonder?
Robie: I don't know. We had previously given him some ideas: we said
that one thing you could do was sign the executive order on
conservation, which he did, and you could also ask that the wild
rivers be included in this system. "Since now people think that
what you are doing is not environmental, you can add some
goodies," which we had always wanted, like the wild rivers.
Thursday night before the signature session he said, "Come down to
Los Angeles with me and we'll work on the speech tomorrow."
So I flew down and stayed overnight at his house, which I had
never done before or since. The next morning he went into a
little room and hand-wrote his statement, consulting with me
regularly, and by three o'clock it was almost done. It was to
sign it. We called Senator Ayala and Assemblyman Kapiloff and
told them to meet us at the governor's office in downtown Los
It started at six o'clock, and I think at about five o'clock
the highway patrol said, "You've got to get going, because at five
o'clock on Friday you're going to be late for your own television
program." We went racing through the freeways of Los Angeles and
finally arrived at the State Building.
2d Peripheral Bill
A bill backed by Governor
Brown to require water districts
getting water through the Periph
eral Canal to have water conserva
tion plans was approved last night
by the Assembly.
On its second attempt it pas
sage, the measure by Sen. John
Nejedly, R-Walnut Creek, received
a 42-36 vote, one more than the
majority needed. It went back to
the Senate for consideration of
The bill was defeated 36-35
Wednesday, but backers got a
second chance when they promised
it would be amended to soften its
impact on Southern California and
San Joaquin Valley water districts.
The bill is an attempt to modify
a bill, sent to Brown's desk this
week, that would authorize con
struction of the 43-mile Peripheral
Canal to take more Sacramento
River water around the Sacramen
to-San Joaquin Delta to be pumped
. Brown has said he wants to
sign both bills together, although
he has not flatly stated he would
veto the peripheral canal bill if the
Nejedly bill, were not passed.
The Nejedly bilL backed by
environmentalists and Northern
Californians, would require state
water officials to allow enough
fresh water to flow into the Delta
"to restore and maintain historical
fish and wildlife levels."
It would also require peripher
al canal water recipients to develop
water conservation plans and set up
ground-water management studies,
a section opposed by farming inter
The bill's main Assembly spon
sors, Speaker Leo McCarthy, D-San
Francisco, and Assemblyman Law
rence Kapiloff, D-San Diego, aid
Neiedlv had promised to take the
bill back to the Senate after the
Assembly approval and put it into a
two-house conference committee to
Those amendments would re
quire water districts merely to
submit water conservation plans to
the state Water Resources Control
Board, rather than have the plans
approved by the board. They would
also state that no water agency
would be required to enter into a
Kapiloff called the bill "an
attempt to put into place lust a
modicum of restraint on the part of
those who must ship water from
one basin to another."
But Assemblyman Richard
Robinson, D-Santa Ana, said it was
not necessary to pass the bill this
week, before the Legislature takes
its summer recess, or even this
The Peripheral Canal's not
going to be built while we're in
recess," be said. "... If you're voting
with the (Brown) Administration or
the speaker on the understanding
that you're going to get amend
ments, get them on the floor today"
rather than expect them later.
July 11, 1980
San Francisco Chronicle
Canal foes lose out
on state Senate bill
SACRAMENTO (AP) Heeding
pleas of southern and central Cali
fornia interests, a Senate commit.
tee Monday lulled a water conser
vation bill backed by most Periph
eral Canal critics and the Brown
On a 6-3 vote, the Agriculture and
Water Committee decided to hold
onto the measure instead of sending
it to the full Senate for a vote on As
The bill, SRivn fry fi n ,t^n N.
jedly, R-Wnlnr* ''-""i* """lid have
required . water agencies moving
more than 50,000 acre-feet of water
a year from one basin to another to
prepare water conservation plans.
Those plans could then be used by
the state Water Resources Control
Board in determining how much
state water 'an agency ' actually
The bill was supported by most
Northern California legislators, who
fear that construction of the Periph- .
eral Canal will enable central and
southern parts of the state to take
more and more northern water.
The bill would also provide
greater environmental and water-
rights protections for the Sacra
mento-San Joaquin Delta.
Gov v Edmund Brown Jr. called
for enactment of the Neiedly bill
last month in .a televised address
when he signed legislation authoriz
ing the 43-mile canal, which would
skirt the delta.
Nejedly's bill squeezed out of the
Assembly after Brown hinted that
he might veto the canal bill, and the
administration promised to amend
SB1361 to make it more palatable to
southern and central parts of the
But before the measure could be
sent to a two-house conference
committee for revision, opponents
sidetracked it to the Agriculture and
Water Committee for what one bill
supporter called an "indecent buri
The committee spent about three
hours hearing an explanation of the
bill and proposed amendments and
taking testimony, and then did what
it baa been expected to do.
Critics said the measure was too
complicated to be pushed through in
the last days of the Legislature's
1980 session, and one contended the
state should stay out of the water
"I don't agree that the state
should mandate water conserva
tion," said John Eraser, a lobbyist
for the Association of California
Water Agencies. "I think that's best
left to the local people/ 1
But Nejedly said the bill was a
"very innocuous" form of conser
vation and that its critics were not
"We ought to recognize the fact
that we are in a very different era of
resource management than we
were 20 years ago," he said "There
are very visible shortages of water
in some areas. These management
techniques are long overdue."
Ron Robie, Brown's water re
sources director, said the adminis
tration would push the conservation
issue again next year. "The water
industry is very foolish in engaging
in this hysterical rhetoric," he
Voting to hold the bill in commit
tee were Sens. William Craven, R-
Oceanside; Ken Maddy, R-Fresno;
Walter Stiern, D-Bakersfield; Rose
Vuich, D<Dinuba; Jim Nielsen, R-
Woodland.x and Ruben Ayala, D-
Voting against the motion were
Sens. John Garamendi, D-Walnut
Grove; Ray Johnson, R-Chico, and
Dan O'Keefe, R-Cupertino.
Hayward Daily Review
Robie: The governor was flirting with the Nejedly bill, and I hope that
for purposes of this historical review you can just tell what it
does. He was flirting with the Nejedly bill because he was
worried that in the middle of the presidential election he was
going to make a non-environmental decision. I think that
presidential politics had something to do with this.
Chall: As we get along in this, it seems to me that by trying to appease
major water and agriculture interests with SB 200 as it was, and
to appease the northern water interests and conservationists with
Robie: Which is okay.
Chall: with the wild rivers thing, and then saying at the same time,
"We'll ask Secretary Andrus to place it in the measure for good,"
that you were going to alienate the water interests. How could he
not realize that he was going to do that? Even the California
Journal, the League of Women Voters people who spent a lot of
time on this were all The Sierra Club had already left him.
How could he not have understood that?
Robie: I don't know. Well, Senate Bill 200 was a good bill. It still
had the protections for the Delta in it. As I say, it passed as
late as July by fifty votes in the assembly, which is a good
Chall: It was the voters out there; it wasn't the assembly.
Robie: I don't know why he started playing with that Nejedly bill and got
weak on it. My problem was that if we didn't want to support
something we shouldn't have done it in the beginning. We went all
the way down the line, and I was under tremendous pressure. It
was hard to explain to people how when a governor who asked for it
in his State of the State address, supported it all year long,
then suddenly when it passed didn't know whether he would sign
it. It was not easy to explain to people.
Chall: Then later on he decided that he would vote for it [Proposition 91
when it was on the ballot, but he would not campaign for it.
Because he hoped to be on the ballot also.
Robie: He was on the ballot. He was running for the Senate.
That was really the end of it. Once the t.v. program was
over we walked out of the governor's office and went down to the
main floor of the State Building, and there was Sunne McPeak
having a t.v. interview in the lobby. That was really sort of the
end of the whole thing.
Robie: The election occurred in '82, in June. Lieutenant Governor [Mike]
Curb had set up a task force fronting for the Salyer/Boswell
interests they just kept beating away on it, and of course by
that time things had changed.
The thing that was important to me was that as recently as
'77, when Gualco supported it, it was not that much opposed. I
realized the Bay Area people and even those in Sacramento County
were violently opposed to it, but it took a long time to build
Chall: To build up the opposition?
Robie: A surprisingly long time. So that was it. I felt that the
package was as good as you could get. Now we have the legal
guarantees in SB 200, which have been granted by the courts in the
Oh, just one thing: I spent a great deal of time before
legislative committees I had never spent so much time in my
life. I went all over the state; I appeared hours before Senator
Ayala and everybody. It was an interesting experience, indeed.
Chall: As I read through my collection of newsclips related to the canal,
it looked as though some crucial amendments were constantly being
promulgated in both houses and that the decisions were hard fought
on both sides. Could you focus for a bit on Senator Ayala and his
goals for the canal? How did he, for example, deal with the
interests of both Senator Nejedly and Governor Brown to place
environmental protections in the bill when the farmer and water
interests were so opposed? These much have been exhausting years
Robie: Senator Ayala was a very dedicated person, but he gritted his
teeth and deferred to the administration. He is a former Marine
and a tough opponent. He knew the administration demanded
environmental protections, and he knew he could not get a bill
without the governor's support. Hence he went along with much
displeasure with the governor blowing hot and cold.
Chall: What were your relationships with Senator Ayala? How did you work
with him and his committee or staff?
Robie: I felt they were great. He is a fine, dedicated senator. We
Chall: What about the assembly? Speaker Leo McCarthy assisted Lawrence
Kapiloff or so the press would have us assume in his measures to
protect the Delta which were not always in line with what the
Chall: farmer and water interests wanted, or even Governor Brown, early
on. How did you work with Kapiloff? Did you indicate interest in
his positions, encourage the committee's work?
Robie: Larry was somewhat difficult to deal with because he often had
impractical ideas, but we worked together well. I worked with him
on Senator [Ray E. ] Johnson's constitutional amendments. My big
problem was that although I agreed with many of his ideas, they
were not politically possible, so I had to reject them.
Chall: What happened the night of the election, as you were all sitting
around watching? How did you feel?
Robie: I don't even remember where I was. I was disappointed. I did all
I could; I couldn't do anything more.
Reviewing the Debate
Chall: Looking back, there's a tremendous amount of information here that
I wouldn't consider emotional rhetoric [indicating a stack of
papers] . A lot of people spent a great deal of time thinking
about the meaning of this bill, whatever their concerns were; the
California Journal analyzed it a lot over the years; the League of
Women Voters analyzed it carefully; this is your DWR material.
Marc Reisner gives it many pages in Cadillac Desert.
Robie: Oh, I know. Marc writes from an environmental perspective, and I
don't think he's an impartial observer by any means.
Chall: No, he's not impartial. He writes about the size of the Glenn
complex and the other facilities that were being planned. When
you think of the size and depth of the canal itself, including
those other facilities, it looks larger than might have been
considered by just the cross-delta facility envisioned in the 1958
State Water Project legislation.
Robie: I think that's part of the problem. Each of the projects in there
was designed to supply additional water when it was needed. They
were not to be built unless they proved feasible at the time they
were to be constructed. The way the water demand has slowed down
now, those would simply be on the books as projects whenever
somebody wanted to start them up. It wasn't like the federal
government and the Auburn dam; they wouldn't be built until the
need arose, because the state didn't have the money to do it, if
Robie: As I say, it is completely misunderstood. The purpose of
specifying projects in the bill was to make sure they wouldn't go
to the wild rivers to set up other ways. At one point there was
even a provision in Senate Bill 3**6 that said you could build new
facilities on the eastern side of the coast range. They used that
language instead of referring to the specific projects. That was
taken out because it was too general. You have to remember that
there was going to be a report on the wild rivers in '83. It was
a '72 bill and it took ten years to get the report, as required by
the law. There were still a lot of people who wanted to dam wild
We had several objectives: Peripheral Canal, indeed, but
secondly Delta protection, and that was written into the law.
People don't realize that that bill had Delta protection that the
water users violently opposed. They were giving up, at least at
the time, what they thought they didn't have to do making sure
that the wild rivers were protected. Assemblyman Kapiloff stuck
in the wild rivers constitutional amendment. Basically, the Delta
would have been protected.
What's happened is that the courts finally got around to
saying that the law is the way I thought it was all along, but
other people didn't believe me. That's why we basically wrote
into these two bills, SB 3^6 and SB 200, the provisions of the law
that are now the law. The people who were concerned have now
gotten the protections. They don't have the canal, but the other
side got the protections, because they are now the law. I thought
they were in there all along, except for the federal part; but the
federal part is coming around as well.
Chall: The use of the wild rivers, referred to as the north coast, was in
the Burns-Porter Act. They said that some time in the future we
will use the wild rivers. The language for the cross delta
channel was pretty mild; you really couldn't tell what it was.
Robie: The Peripheral Canal wasn't developed until '64, so it wasn't
Chall: The canal becomes much more than a channel.
Robie: Sure, it is.
Chall: Was the Peripheral Canal, minus the wild rivers, supposed to
provide the remainder of the two plus million acre-feet of water
needed to satisfy the State Water Project contracts?
Robie: Yes. But in truth and fact nobody was going to build on the wild
rivers because the seismic conditions in the wild rivers and
things are such that nobody would really build on the rivers.
Most people knew that the wild river projects were really dead,
but nobody believed it. You don't believe it now.
Robie: Kapiloff said we'll put it in the consititution; Andrus put it in
the federal system. So they're gone. But they were dead before
that. That's what the point is: people were arguing over issues
that didn't exist, but you couldn't convince them of that. None
of the conservationists believed that wild rivers wouldn't be
developed until they had guarantees. Nobody believed in the Delta
guarantees. The water users, if they had been smart, would have
accepted the law and they wouldn't have had to have that. But
they fought the Delta. The Salyer/Boswell people did not believe
in Delta protection. They opposed the Peripheral Canal bill
because it had Delta protection in it.
Here we have the environmentalists who didn't like it because
of the canal, together with Boswell who didn't want the
guarantees. They're all losing, because you ended up with the
guaranteees in the law anyway, the State Water Project can still
take water, you still have an inefficient means of getting the
water, and the fish are still suffering. I think that in the long
run the canal is eventually going to get built; maybe not, but
something like it should be.
The point is that now you're not going to need any of these
upstream reservoirs for a number of years.
Chall: Nobody realized in 1960 that the water was not going to be needed
as projected, and it probably still isn't needed as projected.
Nobody knows what projections are anyway, or costs.
Robie: Right. It's never gone down, but it hasn't come up as fast as
projected. That's why the state system is good, because we have
not built anything that wasn't needed. Under the federal system
you would have built stuff that wasn't needed. There's no way
that any governor would ever spend any money on a new facility for
the State Water Project if you couldn't show that you actually had
a demand for it. I wouldn't have built it, and nobody else would
have. That was built into Senate Bill 200.
After all, when you are doing an initiative campaign Look
at the current presidential election; everybody is using slogans.
Everybody added up the cost of the project. At that time,
remember, we had inflation at 12 or 15 percent, so they escalated
the project cost to billions. Now the inflation rate is U per
cent! If you took the cost for that package and used today's
inflation rate, it would only be a fraction, or much smaller than
it was in 1982 when you had the election. That's water over the
Robie 's Career after DWR; The Sacramento Judiciary
Chall: Let's finish up, then. You left the Department of Water Resources
at about the same time as the governor. What were your options
that you were considering?
Robie: Oh, I was considering going into the practice of law, which is my
Chall: Out of administration, out of water?
Robie: Well, I would have been doing water if I could have.
Chall: Maybe in some consultant position?
Chall: Who offered you the appointment to the judiciary?
Robie: Governor Brown.
Chall: Why did you accept it?
Robie: I guess because every lawyer would like to be a judge. That is
really the ultimate for a legal person, to be able to decide
cases. So I accepted. I was interested before that; I had let
him know I was interested. He left the appointments he made in
Sacramento until the next to the last day.
Chall: Did he appoint you to the superior court?
Robie: The municipal court.
Chall: You are now on the superior court.
Robie: Correct. I ran for office on my own in '86.
Chall: Do you enjoy this field?
Robie: Yes. I don't do very many water things, if any. I don't do any
at all actually, but I love the law and I enjoy doing what I am
The Deukmejian Administration and Water Policies
What have you seen of your concerns on water management and
balance being carried out in the Deukmejian administration by
All six men who have served under Democratic and Republican administrations as Director
of the State Department of Water Resources were present at Western Water Education
Foundation's Water Briefing in Sacramento, April 22, 1985. From left to right are
former Directors Harvey 0. Banks, William Warne, William Gianelli, John Teerink, Ron
Robie, and present Director David Kennedy.
Photograph courtesy of Department of Water Resources
Robie: Especially the groundwater idea. We didn't talk about a lot of
the groundwater ideas, but groundwater was my theme the whole time
through. The main problem was that the San Joaquin Valley people
thought it meant regulation and they wanted the unfettered use of
groundwater. My emphasis changed gradually from regulation to
storage, although I talked about it in ' 77. 1 told them that
groundwater storage can be the salvation for California's
agriculture. I think that's the principal thing they've done.
They have now developed a real groundwater storage program in
the southern San Joaquin Valley. They have also worked out the
coordinated operating agreement, finished it and signed it. They
have enlarged the east branch of the California Aqueduct, which is
something we were in the process of doing. They have gone ahead
with the pumps at the Delta, which we had begun. They've gone
ahead with the North Bay Aqueduct, which is something we worked
on. We established conservation planning as a prerequisite to
building the North Bay Aqueduct. We had some controversy over
that and insisted on water conservation as part of it.
Chall: North Bay?
Robie: That's Solano and Napa. They are working, albeit slowly, on the
use of water from Imperial Valley and MWD. They will ultimately
be on board on that. Those are the things but the whole idea of
water conservation as being important has been emphasized
throughout the Deukmejian administration.
Chall: So Kennedy hasn't really changed any
Robie: Oh, no. They are concerned, as I was, about water conservation.
I created the Office of Water Conservation in '80, I think. My
staff had a great problem with it because they said I didn't need
an office because it was small. But I wanted to do it as a
symbol; I wanted people to know that water conservation had the
status of something else energy. So I created an Office of Water
Conservation. They have just reorganized, and I think they've
eliminated the name of the office now, but it's a very high
priority. They have continued all of the conservation efforts as
far as I can see that I did, except the "save water" slogan. They
have continued the agricultural management program.
I think we were ahead of our times, myself. The things that
are being done now are being done because people have come to
accept them. We were out there in front at the beginning and took
a lot of flack, but now they're being done anyway.
Chall: What do you feel has been scrapped? Anything?
Robie: I don't know of anything in particular. I just think that we left
the department in pretty good shape. We didn't have the Delta
facility, but we had an energy program that was in pretty good
shape. They've had to work on the contracts involving the
geothermal, which were difficult problems they had that I left
behind. They're moving right ahead. The demand has greatly
dropped since I left. What I'm saying is that the agricultural
users in Kern County have had real problems, and they're giving up
some of their water supplies now.
Chall: What are those problems?
Robie: Economic problems. They were opening new land when the project
first opened, beginning in '67 '71, I guess, down there. They
were opening new land, developing it, and they were doing well,
and they were exporting. They have now had a real drop in the
economy down there and they are simply not able to use all their
water. They're giving up their water and transferring water from
the southern San Joaquin Valley. The State Water Project was in
the full speed ahead mode when I was director, and now the valley
is just fading out in terms of its demand. The urban demand is
going up as projected. It's going up slowly but surely.
Chall: What do you foresee as the future problem with the land that is
being wasted because of the salt build-up? Sometimes it looks as
if the farmers are eating their seed corn, and yet there's so much
land there that I suppose they don't care.
Robie: I really don't know. There's a lot there, but it's a matter of
who owns it. I haven't kept that close track of it, but I think
they're spoiling their own nest and there's going to be eventual
reduction in the viability of agriculture in several areas because
Recap of Several Major Policies During Robie 's Term as Director
Chall: We have come to the end of my outline. Is there anything you
would like to add that we didn't cover?
Robie: I don't really think there's anything else. We did a lot of
things on groundwater storage. Back in '76 I gave a speech that
cited Carley Porter, and we put out bulletin 186 in 1977, in our
third year, that was the prototype groundwater storage program.
Chall: You were saying that you thought you could regulate groundwater?
Robie: We thought we could take water, put it underground, and take it
out later and use it as a storage dam. That's what they're doing;
they're going to do it, it's in the process. We did a lot of
studies, and even had a Mojave water agency recharge program in
'78. We took 22,000 acre feet and put it underground.
My idea was that one way to force the issue is to ^o it. So
I found a contractor of ours in the San Bernardino district who
was willing to work with us. It was strategy, basically. You
know, the MWD was dragging its feet, so we said we would do it
with San Bernardino. They actually had one program. We had a big
ceremony and we stored it underground. We did it, showed them
that it could be done. Things were foot-dragged from then on, but
in the beginning of the '80s it came back again, and now it's in
good shape. The water contractors are moving toward it things
that they had objected to before. So I feel good about it.
Chall: With respect to groundwater replenishment, was there some problem
with the water rights laws?
Robie: Sure. The water rights law is still defective. You do not have
the ability to control in a basin who takes what, unless it's one
of those southern California basins with a management plan. You
can steal from your neighbor and you can overdraft with impunity.
The only answer is to bring a gigantic lawsuit, and that's not
practical. So the problems of groundwater exist, except that up
until this year we've had pretty wet years and the groundwater
basins have come back again.
Groundwater basins go up and down. During the war years, the
'JlOs, the groundwater basins in southern California were
chock-a-block full. Later on they got drawn down terribly in the
early '60s. When they get filled everybody says there is no
problem. Now they may go down again. When we had these hearings
in '77, we could show real problems with groundwater; but water
supplies got better in wet years.
Chall: When the supplies are overdrawn and there's subsidence, can that
Robie: Subsidence can't be reversed, but there hasn't been that much
subsidence. I mean, there has been subsidence, but there are many
areas like in southern California where the groundwater basins
have gone up and down without any significant subsidence. You
don't really lose a lot of storage space with subsidence; you
might have some problems on the surface, but there isn't any real
loss of storage capacity of any consequence as yet.
Waste Water Management and Reclamation
Chall: So groundwater replenishment is moving ahead. What about waste
Robie: Waste water reclamation has never met its potential. One year in
the Brown administration the governor assigned water reclamation
to the water board. We had some meetings, and he assigned water
conservation to the department, and water reclamation to the
board. The board created an office of water recycling. The
governor set a goal for them to get people recycling, because it's
really directed to the waste treatment process.
As years have gone on, along with all the toxics problems,
people have now measured what's in water. And nobody's too
enthusiastic about pushing waste water. I mean, there's so much
terrible stuff in waste water, and we now are able to measure it.
There was always opposition to using it for potable purposes, but
there's even more now. So I think water reclamation is a dead
issue except in certain areas where it could be used for
irrigation and things like that. But in terms of ever developing
a system where you use it for real uses Sometimes people
thought about having a dual system where your lawn would be
watered with reclaimed water, and your house would be run on
something else. But those were all too expensive, and water
reclamation just never made it.
Chall: It's interesting how these theories move with the times.
Robie: Well, you know, there could be all sorts of terrible stuff in
waste water now.
Chall: So, conservation is not as easy as everyone thought it might be?
Robie: No. But conservation still is the best hope, and possibly reverse
I'll leave these materials if you will send them back to me.
These tell you which water commission speech was excerpted.*
The materials referred to are excerpts from Ronald Robie' s
reports to the California Water Commission, arranged by topics.
Copies of these and Robie' s personal papers will be deposited in
the archives of the Water Resources Center Library on the
Berkeley campus of the University of California.
Chall: I'll make copies, and we can put them in the archives. Are you
familiar with the Water Resources Archives at Berkeley? Gerry
[Gerald] Giefer, who's the librarian, would very much like to have
your papers, which I told him you had told me were stored in your
garage. The library is an exceptional resource for research on
Robie: Okay, you can have them.
Chall: Thank you very much for setting aside a day for the interview. I
appreciate it and so will the students of California water
history a never-ending subject for research.
Transcriber and final typist: Judy Smith
TAPE GUIDE Ronald B. Robie
Date of Interview: 28 October 1988
tape 1 , side A
tape 1, side B 12
tape 2, side A 2H
tape 2, side B 31
tape 3, side A 15
tape 3, side B 55
tape 4, side A 67
tape 4, side B 77
APPENDIX- -Selected Biographical Details
RONALD B. ROBIE
Judge of the Superior Court
800 H Street, Sacramento, Ca . 95814. (916)440-7164
Appointed Judge of the Municipal Court, Sacramento Municipal
Court District, January 2, 1983 (Gov. Brown); Elected November 6,
1984; Elected Judge of the Superior Court, June 3, 1986 (term
ending 1993); Appointed June 23, 1986 (Gov. Deukmejian).
Born: March 13, 1937, Oakland, California
Married: Lynn DeForest, August 30, 1958
Children: Todd 28, Melissa 21
University of California, Berkeley, A.B. 1958 (with honors,
Phi Beta Kappa)
University of California, Berkeley, M.J. 1960
University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, J.D. 1967
(With highest honors)
Adjunct Professor, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School
of Law, 1970-Present (Water Law, Environmental Law,
International Law of the Sea)
Member, California Judges Association; Chair, Technology and
Courts Committee, 1988-89
California Reporter, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation,
Water Law Newsletter. 1974-Present
Member, Board of Trustees, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Mountain-Valley Chapter, 1980-Present
Staff Director, Assembly Committee on Water, California
Member, State Water Resources Control Board, 1969-1975
Director, California Department of Water Resources, 1975-1983
Chair, Water Resources Committee, American Bar Association,
Chair, Legal Committee, Western States Water Council, 1978-80
Delegate, National Conference of Special Court Judges, 1985
Associate Justice Pro Tern, California Court of Appeal, Third
Appellate District, November 1984-January 1985. Published
opinions: Davert y^ Larsen (1985) 163 Cal. App. 3d 407; Perry y_,_
Heavenly Vallev (1985) 163 Cal. App. 3d 495; People y_L. Smith
(1985) 163 Cal. App 3d 908; Nelson v^. Hall (1985) 165 Cal. App.
3d 709; In rje_ Damon 1L_ (1985) 165 Cal. App. 3d 471; People y_,_
Pitmon (1985) 170 Cal. App. 3d 38. Associate Justice Pro Tern,
California Supreme Court, Peo v^ Collins (1986) 42 Cal. 3d 378.
JUDGE RONALD B. ROBIE
SACRAMENTO MUNICIPAL COURT
March 13, 1937
1399 San Clemente Way
Sacramento, CA 95831
Phone: (916) 421-1485
Bachelor* s Degree, Speech, Journalism, with
honors, University of California at Berkeley,
Master's Degree, Journalism, University of California
at Berkeley, I960.
Juris Doctor Degree, with highest honors,
University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of
Law, 196? (No. 1 in class of 27).
Married, Lynn Deforest; Children, Todd 21,
Ford Foundation Legislative Intern, California Legislature, September
I960 - July 1961.
Consultant, Assembly Water Committee, California Legislature,
July 1961 - April 1969.
Administrative Secretary, California Advisory Committee on Western
States Water Planning, February 1966 - April 1969.
Private practice of law (part-time), December 1967 - April 1969.
Lecturer in Law, Sacramento State College, 1969-1970 (Business Law).
University of California, Davis, School of Law, 1973 - 1974
Adjunct Professor of Law, University of the Pacific, McGeorge
School of Law, September 1969 - present. (Water Law, Environmental
Law and International Law of the Sea).
Member, State Water Resources Control Board, April 1969 - October 1972;
Vice Chairperson, October 1972 - February 1975.
Chairperson, Water Resources Committee, Section of Natural Resources
Law, American Bar Association, August 1974 - 1976.
Director, California Department of Water Resources, March 1975 -
Chairperson, Western States Water Council, Legal Committee,
197S - 19 SO.
Member, Western States Water Council, 1976 - 19&3.
Member, Colorado River Board of California, 1977 - 19#3.
Member, Governor's Commission to Review California Water Rights
Law, May 1977 -
Member, Board of Directors, Interstate Conference on Water Problems,
August 1977 - 1962.
California Judges Association
American, California and Sacramento County Bar Associations
Phi Beta Kappa
California Alumni Association
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Sigma Delta Chi (Professional Journalistic Society)
United Presbyterian Church
Commonwealth Club of California
"Long-Term Implementation of Water Policies to Enhance the Environ
ment in the Face of Population Pressures", Proceedings, Water
Quality Management Symposium, University in California Water
Resources Center, (Report No. 16) December 1969 pp. 110-116.
"Relationships Between Water Quality and Water Rights", in
Contemporary Developments in Water Law, University of Texas Center
for Research in YJater Resources, 1970, pp. 72-82.
"Water Pollution: An Affirmative Response bv the California
Legislature", 1 Pacific Law Journal 2 (1970)
"Practice Under California's New Porter-Cologne Water Quality
Control Act", 45 Los Angeles Bar Bulletin 177, Norman B. Hume,
"Regional Control of Water Pollution: The California Model",
6 Water Research 1419 (1972).
"Some Reflections on Environmental Considerations in Water Rights
Administration", 2 Ecology Law Quarterly 695 (1972).
"Control of Estuarine Pollution", 11 Natural Resources Journal 256
(1971), Jerome B. Gilbert, coauthor; reprinted in Pirie, Ed
Oceanography (1973) .
"State Viewpoint: The Federal Water Pollution Control Act and
the States: Love in Bloom or Marriage on the Rocks", 7 Natural
Resources Lawyer 231 (1974) .
"Water Pollution Control: Institutions and Their Financing in
California", in Water Pollution Research Proceedings of the 7th
International Conference, William R. Attwater, coauthor; presented
in Paris, 1974.
"Recognition of Substantive Rights Under NEPA" , VII Natural Resources
Lawyer, 387 (1974) .
"Modernizing State Water Rights Law: - Some Suggestions for New
Directions", 1974 Utah Lav Review, 760 (1974) .
"The Penguin is Esthetically Pleasing", American Water Works
Association Journal, (September 1976) .
"Existing Water Laws and Industry Practices: Their Contribution
to the Waste of Water"/' 3 Los Angeles Bar Journal 53, Marcia J.
Steinberg, coauthor; (September 1977) .
"The Public Interest in Water Rights Administration", Rocky Mountain
Mineral Law Review, (1977) .
"Pressures Created by a Severe Drought on Water Institutions",
American Journal of Agricultural Economics, (December 1977) .
"The California Water Plan Past, Present and Future", 3/4 Progress
and Water Technology, p. 69, Robin R. Reynolds, coauthor (1978) .
"Water Issues Facing California", Institute of Governmental Studies,
University of California, Berkeley (1978) .
"California's Program for Dealing with the Drought", American
Water Works Association Journal (February 1978) .
"Area of Origin Statutes The California Experience", 15 Idaho
Law Review, 419, (1979).
"Federal Water Policy Impedes California Planning", Annual Conference
Proceedings, American Water Works Association, June 29, 1979, p. 229.
"Water Management of the Future A Ground Water Storage Program for
the State Water Project", 11 Pacific Lav Journal 41 (1979).
Trriaation Development in California - Construction or Water
Management, in Irrigation, ChaHenges of the 80s, American Society
of Agricultural Engineers, (October 1980) p. 1.
-A Water Manager's Commentary on the Public Trust Doctrine", in
The Public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resources Law and Management,
School of Law, University of California, Davis, (1981) p. 132.
[Added by Regional Oral History Office, June 1989]
"The Delta DecisionsThe Quiet Revolution in California Water Rights,"
in Pacific Law Journal, McGeorge School of Law/University of the Pacific,
Volume 19, Number 4, (July 1988)
INDEX -- Ronald B. Robie
acreage limitation, 66-67
Adams, W. W. (Win), 2
American River, 2, 10
Andrus, Cecil, 43, 63, 65, 82
Auburn Dam, 63-64
Ayala, Ruben S., 70, 71, 73, 75,
Banks , Harvey , 3
Behr, Peter, 73
Blanton, Melissa, 19-20
Boatright, Daniel, 73
Boswell, J. G. Ranch Company, 55,
73, 79, 82
Brody , Ralph , 6-7
Brown, Edmund G. , Jr. (Jerry), 1,
5, 6-10, 12, 13, 14, 28-29, 30,
33, 39-40, 43, 44, 48, 58, 63, 65,
66, 70-71, 72, 73, 74, 76-79, 87
Brown, Edmund G. , Sr. (Pat), 6
Bulbulian, Berge , 7
Bureau of Reclamation. See United
California Environmental Quality Act
California Federation of Labor, 73
California Water Commission, 7-
10, 19-21, 31
Department of Finance, 23
Resources Agency, 12, 21-22
Water Resources Control Board, 2-
Water Rights Board, 2-3
California State Interagency Group,
California State Water Project, 10,
17, 22-31, 34
strike, operation and maintenance
California Water Fund, 22, 23
California Water Plan, 46-47
Carter, Jimmy, as president, 67-68
Central Valley Project, 48-49
Chrisman, Ira (Jack), 9
coal plant (power) , 29
Coe, Jack J. , 58
Cologne, Gordon, 3
Colorado, River Board, 52
Corps of Engineers (army) , 7
Curb, Mike, 79
Davis, Gray, 77
Dedrick, Claire, 5, 6, 22, 28
Delta, San Francisco Bay, 2, 10,
34, 41-42, 48-49, 59, 65, 69. See
also Peripheral Canal
desalting, 54, 55, 87
Deukmejian, George, 43, 75
as governor, 83-84
drain. See San Luis Drain
drought, 1966-67, 32-36
Duffy, Gordon, 73
East Bay Municipal Utility District,
Environmental Defense Fund, 43
Epstein, David, 1
Franklin, Scott, 9
Frost, Daniel S. , 8
Fullerton, Charles, 70
geothermal power, 27-28, 30
Gianelli, William R. , 2, 10, 18,
32, 52, 68
Gilbert, Jerome B. , 3
Gindler, Burton J., 3
Glazer, Michael, 9-10
Goggin, Terry, 29
Graff, Tom, 5, 6
Graves, Mary Ann, 23
Grew, Priscilla, 30
groundwater storage, 35, 36, 46,
Gualco, Eugene, 71, 73
Hammond, Rich, 22
Imperial Irrigation District, 50-52
Interagency Drainage Program, 54
Investing for Prosperity, 54, 62
Irrigation Management Information
James, Robert W. , 15, 17, 37
Jansen, Robert B. , 16-17
Johnson, Harold (Bizz) , 10, 63
Johnson, Huey, 12, 22, 30, 58, 61-
Johnston, Jack B. , 17
Kapiloff, Larry, 73, 76, 77, 79-80,
Kennedy, David, 5, 15, 51-52, 83-84
Kesterson Reservoir, 54
Krulitz, Leo, 67
Owen, Donald E. , 70
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
(PG&E), 24-27, 30
Pacific Southwest Water Plan, 60-61
Peripheral Canal, 43, 52, 64, 65,
pesticides, control of, 56
Pine Flat Dam, 25
Planning and Conservatin League, 73
Porter, Carley, 2, 3, 26
Porter-Cologne Act, 3-4, 46
Potter, Robert G., 70
power, electric, 24-31
Proposition 8, 1980 (Delta
protection and wild river
Proposition 9, 1982 (Peripheral
Canal, referendum), 76-80
Proposition 13, 1978 (property tax
limitation initiative), 31
public trust, doctrine of, 59
Quinn, Tom, 1, 30
labor unions, State Water Project,
Los Angeles Water and Power, 27
Mark, Mary Anne, 15
McFall, John, 10, 47
Me Peak, Sunne, 78
Meral, Gerald H. (Jerry), 15, 16,
17, 56, 70
Metropolitan Water District, 27,
Miller, George, 68-69
Mono Lake, 57-60
Moss, Laurence I. (Larry), 22
Nejedly, John, 73, 76, 77, 78
New Melones Dam, 1, 10, 11-12
North Bay Aqueduct, 84
nuclear power, 24, 26, 28-29
Reagan, Ronald, as governor, 5, 6
as president, 67-68
Reisner, Marc, 80
Renewable Resources Investment Fund,
Reynolds, Robin, 14-15, 17
33-35, 55, 73,
Salton Sea, 51
Salyer Land Company,
San Felipe (water project), 9
San Joaquin Nuclear Feasibility
Project, 24, 28
San Luis Drain, 53-55
Santa Clara Water District,
Schober, Frank, 33
Shoemaker, Charles (Chuck),
Sierra Club, 41-44, 73
Southern California Edicon,
State Water Contractors,
State (California) Water Project.
See California State Water Project
Sundesert nuclear power plant, 28-
surplus water, 34-35
Teerink, John, 14-15, 24, 69
tidelands oil funds, 22
Towner, Porter, 17
Tulare Lake basin, 50
Tulare Lake Drainage District, 55
Udall, Morris, 68
Bureau of Reclamation, 3, 7, 11
34, 46, 48-49, 53, 54, 68
Federal Water Pollution Control
Valine, Glee, 16
Warne, William E. , 25, 26
water, conservation of, 49-52, 84
water, reclamation of, 87
water, transfer of, 85
water quality, 2-5, 46-47, 48-49
water rights, 47-48, 67, 86
Water Rights Review Commission, 48
Western States Water Council, 39
Westlands Water District, 53, 64,
Wild and Scenic Rivers, 43-44, 71-
windmill power, 28
Wright, donald, 48
Graduated from Reed College in 1942 with a B.A.
degree, and from the State University of Iowa in
1943 with an M.A. degree in Political Science.
Wage Rate Analyst with the Twelfth Regional War
Labor Board, 1943-1945, specializing in agricul
ture and services. Research and writing in the
New York public relations firm of Edward L.
Bernays, 1946-1947, and research and statistics
for the Oakland Area Community Chest and Council
of Social Agencies 1948-1951.
Active in community affairs as a director and
past president of the League of Women Voters of
the Hayward Area specializing in state and local
government; on county-wide committees in the
field of mental health; on election campaign
committees for school tax and bond measures, and
candidates for school board and state legislature.
Employed in 1967 by the Regional Oral History
Office interviewing in fields of agriculture and
water resources. Project director, Suffragists
Project, California Women Political Leaders
Project, and Land-Use Planning Project, and the
Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program Project.