Assemblyman Jared Huffman visited The Press Democrat this week and made an interesting point about the water plan approved by the state Legislature: The framework for protecting the Delta stands even if voters reject the $11 billion bond act.

Quandary resolved? Not necessarily.

Along with billions for dams and reservoirs, about $2 billion in the bond is earmarked for the Delta, where levees are in trouble and the natural balance of freshwater and saltwater has been altered at the expense of natural ecosystems.

Huffman, who represented environmental interests in the water talks, fought to keep the bond out of the water package but ultimately voted to put it on the ballot. For now, however, he isn’t committing himself to campaigning for it, or even voting for it next year. With ag interests voting for his Delta bill, Huffman said it would have been bad form to oppose a vote on their top priority, additional water storage.

Honor in politics? Who’d of thought?

What may determine whether the bond is worth voting for next year is if Huffman, D-San Rafael, succeeds in buttressing Delta restoration and water conservation programs when the Legislature reconvenes its regular session in January.

He plans to introduce legislation allowing the new Delta Stewardship Council to assess fees from water exporters (read big ag and Southern California cities) to pay for a restoration plan that’s supposed to be finished by 2012. Huffman also wants to beef up groundwater monitoring and water theft rules that were scaled back in the bond talks. Because they can be passed by a majority vote, instead of the two-thirds required for the bond package, he thinks he’s got a better chance.

If it all comes together, Huffman says there’s “a fighting chance” to save the Central Valley salmon runs.

— Jim Sweeney