Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Thankfully, the Governor recognized the threat of a federal taking of property without compensation when he vetoed  AB 2686, “An act relating to the Santa Ynez Valley Water District” authored by Assembly Member Pedro Nava. Instead of educating our political leaders about the threat, Capitol Weekly wrote the article, “Should tribes be allowed in Joint Powers Agreements?”

Most tribal governments seek to expand their territory and authority. Their expansion removes state jurisdiction making them unaccountable to the public.

Tribal Chairman Armenta wrote an email letter to Assembly Member Nava claiming federal reserved water rights and asking for his assistance in obtaining them through AB 2686. His tribe currently is only a water district customer.

Rather than objecting to Armenta’s federal claim of expanded authority, Assembly Member Nava quickly acquiesced, changing an innocent bill into a threat against every water user in the Central Coast area. Then when questioned about who changed the bill and why, Assembly Member Nava’s staff, ID 1 staff and attorneys told us they did not know. The email request from Chairman Armenta to Assembly Member Nava to help the tribe secure federal reserved water rights was released weeks later after significant public pressure.

Defining a tribal government as a public agency elevates them beyond other customers and public interests. As a public agency, the tribe would have joint powers authority, including the right to contract with federal agencies as a state agency. Any tribal government could use this contracting authority to take water rights currently owned and used by others without paying any compensation.

The question should not be, “Should tribes be allowed in joint powers agreements?” The question should be, “Why does Assembly Member Nava believe helping tribal governments does not hurt State sovereignty and the public’s best interests?”

Lana Marcussen
Legal Water Consultant

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