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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Ronald B. Robie 

With Introductions by 

William E. Warne 

Ruben S . Ayala 

Gerald Meral 

Interview Conducted by 

Malca Chall 

in 1988 

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 

California, Berkeley. 

."t * 
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 
follows : 

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. ' 

ca. 1980 

Cataloging Information 

ROBIE, Ronald B. (b . 1937) Director, California Department of Water 

The California State Department of Water Resources. 1975-1983. 1989, xi, 
97 pp. 

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 





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 



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 

Litigation 41 

The Sierra Club and the Delta Pumps 41 

The Wild Rivers Designation 43 



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 
as Director 

Groundwater Storage 

Waste Water Management and Reclamation 87 


APPENDIX - Selected Biographical Details 90 






FACSIMILE 714-7H7-5295 

TELEPHONE 714-787-4327 


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 
Rubidoux Hall 
University of California 
Riverside, CA 92521 



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 
Water Resources. 

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 canal. 

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 
my tenure. 


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 
Sacramento, California 


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 
the measure. 

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 
Sacramento, California 

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 
Sacramento, California 



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 
history projects. 

Malca Chall, Senior Editor 
Water Resources and Land Use 

27 June 1989 

Regional Oral History Office 

Berkeley, California 

Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 


University of California 
Berkeley, California 94720 


Your full 

(Please write clearly. Use black ink.) 

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Date of birth 

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Father's full name 

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Mother's full name 


Your spouse 

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Birthplace M * & <, ~ , 

Your children Tp rf d , f 1 ^ 6 

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Where did you grow up? 

Present community 



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Areas of expertise 



Other interests or activities 

Organisations ip which you are active_ 



[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 better. 

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 
going to. 

I was appointed early, and I don't think there were any other 
serious candidates. 

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 fire. 

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 
deputies present. 

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 
still there? 

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. 




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 

The Staff 

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. 

My Directorate 

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 
hundred people. 

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 
going on. 

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 
the legislation. 

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 
reading it. 

Tracking Legislation 

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 
governor's office? 

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 
of time. 

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 
with it? 

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 
its own. 


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 
talking about? 

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 
any power?" 

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 
were doing. 

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 
District] facilities. 

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 
of problems. 

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 
your reputation? 

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 
the water. 



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 
replenishment first. 

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 
other people. 

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 
came back. 

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 
used to." 

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 
Statement [EIS]. 

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. 


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 
detriments. " 

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 
9, 1975. 

"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 
quality element. 

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 
certain group? 

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. 

Water Rights 

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. 

Water Conservation 

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 
technical people. 

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 
money . 

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 
drainage program. 


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 
medfly crisis. 

Pesticide Control 

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 
levee maintenance. 

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 


Mono Lake 

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 
to be. 

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 
because ? 

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 

Auburn Dam 

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. 
(R. R.) 


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. 

Acreage Limitation 

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, 
the solicitor? 

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 
canal, still. 

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 
Costa County. 

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 
with 200. 

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 
big margin. 

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. 



Assembly Passes 
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 
add amendments. 

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 
groundwater study. 

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. 

Auoeiauti Prta 

July 11, 1980 
San Francisco Chronicle 


Canal foes lose out 
on state Senate bill 

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 
sembly amendments. 

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 
conservation business. 

"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 
facing reality. 

"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. 

August 1980 
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 
Proposition 8 

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 
that up. 

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 
Racanelli decision. 

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 
for him. 

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 
worked well. 

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 
nothing else. 


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? 

Robie: Yes. 

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 
of it. 

Recap of Several Major Policies During Robie 's Term as Director 

Groundwater Storage 

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 
be reversed? 

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 
water management? 

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 
osmosis desalting. 

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 


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 

Legislature, 1960-1969 

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. 







Oakland, California 
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, 
19 58. 

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, 
Melissa 15. 


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 
(Water Law). 

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. 

(March 19^3) 



Director, California Department of Water Resources, March 1975 - 
January, 19&3. 

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, 
Coauthor (1970). 

"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) 

December 1982 



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, 
77, 79 

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 

(CEQA), 71-72 

California Federation of Labor, 73 
California State, 

California Water Commission, 7- 

10, 19-21, 31 

Department of Finance, 23 
Resources Agency, 12, 21-22 
Water Resources Control Board, 2- 

5, 51 

Water Rights Board, 2-3 
California State Interagency Group, 

California State Water Project, 10, 

17, 22-31, 34 
litigation, 41-44 
strike, operation and maintenance 

employees, 36-39 
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, 

84, 85-86 
Gualco, Eugene, 71, 73 

Hammond, Rich, 22 

Imperial Irrigation District, 50-52 
Interagency Drainage Program, 54 
Investing for Prosperity, 54, 62 
Irrigation Management Information 
System, 62 

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 
initiative, 76 

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, 

51-52, 73 

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, 

79, 82 

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, 


15, 16, 

26, 27 
31-32, 33 


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 
United States 

Bureau of Reclamation, 3, 7, 11 

34, 46, 48-49, 53, 54, 68 
Federal Water Pollution Control 
Act, 4 

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- 

72, 86 

windmill power, 28 
Wright, donald, 48 

Malca Chall 

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. 

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