Frazier: New DWR Director is 'Too Beholden to Water Contractors She Must Regulate’

By Dan Bacher | March 3, 2018 |

SACRAMENTO – While Jerry Brown has been a genius at manipulating the media to portray him as a “green governor” and the state as the nation’s “green leader,” the regulators have in fact been captured by the regulated in California. This is particularly true when it comes to water and environmental policies.

In the latest example of regulatory capture, employment records obtained from a recent Public Records Act request reveal that Karla Nemeth, Governor Jerry Brown’s controversial choice to head the Department of Water Resources (DWR), “may have a conflict of interest that compromises her ability to objectively lead an agency tasked with managing the state’s massive water infrastructure on behalf of all Californians,” according to a news release from Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay).

The documents suggest Nemeth was being paid by DWR and the Natural Resources Agency earlier in the decade while an employee of the Metropolitan Water District of California of Southern California (MWD) to shape water policy in favor of building the controversial tunnels project that threatens to destroy the Delta’s ecosystems. “MWD has been the leading proponent for building the tunnels,” according to Frazier.

Karla Neweth. 
“As co-chair of the Legislature’s Delta Caucus and as a member and past chair of the Assembly Accountability & Administrative Review Committee, I am deeply concerned that the newly appointed director may have received compensation from MWD to work on promoting the Bay Delta Conservation Plan while also working for the Natural Resources Agency and DWR,” said Assemblymember Frazier, who represents the 11th District, encompassing much of the Delta region.

“For nearly a decade, Ms. Nemeth’s career focus has been on the past variants of the disastrous tunnel plans. This raises a huge red flag about her ability to prioritize the more pressing aspects of her role at DWR outside of her tunnel vision.

“Management of an agency tasked with protecting and maintaining the state’s vast water resources, storage and delivery infrastructure is too important to be controlled by a director whose sole focus and career has been about ramming the catastrophic tunnels through the regulatory process on behalf of the governor and MWD,” Frazier added. “Delta residents deserve better. It does not serve California to have a DWR director who is indebted to the same water contractors she must hold financially accountable for repairs and maintenance to prevent catastrophic infrastructure failures like the collapse of the Oroville Dam Spillway. Lives are at stake.

“I am working with my colleagues in the Delta Caucus and the Assembly and Senate to identify what action we can take in the Legislature.”

Assemblymember Frazier represents the 11th Assembly District, including the communities of Antioch, Bethel Island, Birds Landing, Brentwood, Byron, Collinsville, Discovery Bay, Fairfield, Isleton, Knightsen, Locke, Oakley, Pittsburg (partial), Rio Vista, Suisun City, Travis AFB, Vacaville and Walnut Grove.

Documents acquired by Restore the Delta (RTD) from a recent Public Records Act request to MWD confirm that the newly appointed Nemeth was a MWD employee from 2009 to 2014, earning over $900,000 in total compensation.  

During her MWD tenure, she was contracted to work for Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) planning under the CalFed program, and then by the California Department of Water Resources. 

All PRA documents sent by MWD to Restore the Delta can be read here. The RTD press release can be read here: 

In December 2016, I broke the story of the staff shake up at MWD that culminated in the recent appointment of Nemeth, the fourth director appointed in a year. At the time, internal emails, confirmed by a California Natural Resources Agency spokesperson, revealed that Mark Cowin, then Director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), and Carl Torgersen, the DWR Chief Deputy Director, would retire from their positions at the embattled agency at the end of 2016.

The chaos within the DWR leadership began months before the Oroville Dam spillway fiasco:…

Meanwhile, proponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels project continue their campaign to build the new two phase version of the California WaterFix, despite the fact that the project makes no scientific, financial or economic sense, according to critics.

In the latest effort by Brown to fast-track the planning of the process before he leaves office, General Manager Jeff Kightlinger and Assistant General Manager Roger Patterson on February 27 revealed that the Governor, the State Water Contractors, and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) have been engaging in discussions to forge ahead with the first tunnel of the new two phase CA WaterFix project. They are doing this “while keeping quiet about specifics of a potential second tunnel,” according to an analysis from Restore the Delta (RTD).

For more information, go to:


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