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Brown administration defends official amid calls for his resignation

ConservationEnvironmental IssuesU.S. Congress

The head of the state Natural Resources Agency, John Laird, is defending his top deputy even as Democratic leaders in Congress are calling for his resignation.

The controversy surrounding Jerry Meral, the agency’s deputy directory, stems from comments he made in a meeting earlier this month in which he reportedly indicated the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta could not be saved, and that its preservation was not a goal of the governor’s $23-billion water plan.

Five congressional Democrats demanded Meral’s resignation over the comments, but a spokesman for the agency said the remarks were “taken out of context” and that there are no plans for call for Meral’s resignation.

“The administration remains deeply committed to maintaining a healthy Delta ecosystem,” said agency spokesman Richard Stapler. “In fact, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan invests $7.5 billion” to preserve and restore the region.

Brown is pushing a controversial plan that includes building two massive new tunnels that would divert millions of gallons of water out of the Delta toward Southern California. The plan has met resistance from Central and Northern California lawmakers of both parties who say it would destroy the Delta habitat and put the livelihood of farmers in the region in jeopardy.

ALSO:

Congressional Democrats demand resignation of Brown appointee

Gov. Brown pushes $23-billion plan to tunnel under delta

Deaths of endangered fish curtail water exports

Email: anthony.york@latimes.com

Twitter: @anthonyyorklat

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