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“Identify the knobs before you start turning them.”

The National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta invited the public to an open session in San Francisco (not the most convenient location for Delta folks) week before last.

Members of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan Steering Committee, including Jason Peltier  of the Westlands Water District, made a presentation to the council suggesting that we have the science we need to move forward with conveyance, and we can’t wait forever for “ecosystem Nirvana.”

The Committee heard that increasing flood plain inundation doesn’t guarantee that salmon will use the flood plain, especially if they are not present in the system.

They heard that the first ever actual photo of a wild smelt was taken in the wild and that we have to deal with Delta stressors comprehensively.

They questioned simulations of water supply and demand in the Bay-Delta system.

They listened to Department of Water Resources Representative again cite gloom and doom scenarios from the DRMS (pronounced dreams) Study, and enumerate on the Katrina-style disasters we should anticipate.

They listened to CH2M Hill (the consultants for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan) present a model of potential effects of climate change on the habitat quality of the Delta restoration proposed by BDCP.  CH2M Hill used the model to justify the location of proposed restoration and surprisingly, it all matched up, perhaps a bit too well. The Committee was highly skeptical of the presentation, especially after having seen the time lapsed model.  It showed that the Yolo Bypass remained a prime habitat restoration location regardless of a 55 inch rise in seawater level.

Under questioning from the Committee, it became clear that the equations in the model had not been peer reviewed; and that this model was more complex than the Two-Gates model analyzed last year but had been analyzed in only two months, a third of the time spent on the Two-Gates analysis.  The Committee seemed disgusted to be asked to comment on a document so lacking in substance.

Overall, in fact, the Committee seemed unimpressed by the agency staff and consultants brought forward to brief them.  They probably learned more from some of the people making public comments.

Among those commenting was Brett Baker, a sixth generation Delta pear farmer.   Brett studied Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at UC Davis.

Brett told the Committee, in part, “If we are to guarantee the improvement of the current Delta Ecosystem, I believe it is critical to alter the inputs and outtakes of the system in such a manner that we can correlate the alterations with a positive ecosystem response before any massive conveyance systems are considered. Basically, identify the knobs before you start turning them.”

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