On July 24, Alex Breitler of the Stockton Record spoke with Jim Beck, head of the Kern County Water Agency about the south San Joaquin Valley’s perspective on Delta conveyance. The complete interview is available at this link.
Beck said that a canal might have lower construction costs but greater mitigation costs. He said, “I think the general consensus of the water community is the tunnel is probably the most doable solution.”
Regarding size, exporters want to get full use of the current export facilities near Tracy, and they think they need a 12,000 to 15,000 cfs facility to do that. Said Beck, “You really need to build a large facility for two reasons: One, we expect there is a potential for additional reduction of pumping to deal with fish species and their issues, and the construction of the isolated facility would help alleviate those restrictions.”
Alleviate how? You’ll be taking water fish need.
“Also, the long-term viability of Delta levees, which is very important to this area, is something we’re concerned about. If you have a Delta levee collapse that’s anywhere near what’s been considered it will affect not only this area very directly, but us. If that happens, you don’t have the south Delta (pumps) for quite a while.”
There’s that “fragile levee” premise, which isn’t well supported by any facts or evidence. In fact, the data being used to create the fragility scare is sourced from Delta historical data that is no longer applicable. Over the last twenty years Delta interests have completed a great deal of levee work to keep the Delta sustainable and safe.
And just how long is “quite a while”? And what is your plan if Delta levees and the south Delta pumps are fine, but an earthquake damages the Delta-Mendota Canal or the California Aqueduct?
Brietler asked, “What about those who say a larger canal facilitates a water grab?”
Said Beck, “I know the concern – ‘You have this 15,000 cfs facility and you’re going to want to use it all the time and you’re going to want to suck all our water away.’ But I don’t have a magic switch that can turn those pumps on; it’s the state. We operate under state and federal direction. It really comes down to whether or not the folks concerned about that trust the regulatory process we have in place. A 3,000 cfs facility just doesn’t do it.”
Mr. Beck, the folks concerned have absolutely no reason to trust the regulatory process in place because it has been ignored and over-ridden repeatedly over the decades. As to who operates the magic switch, the finger may belong to the government, but the hand belongs to the Water Contractors. (This is what Resources Secretary Laird needs to realize – see above.)
Referring to the draft economic sustainability plan for the Delta that suggests annual agricultural production could decline $50 million if a large canal or tunnel is built, Brietler asked Beck, “How do you justify a project that would benefit one portion of the state at the expense of another?”
Beck responded, “I’m about equity in the system. Your position is that the facilities that I’m paying for, and I’ve paid full cost for, should not be able to be used to the full extent that we contracted for.”
Mr. Beck is confusing “contract” water with water that actually exists and is available in any given year to project contractors. The contract says “up to X, when and if available.” The fact that the Water Contractors sized their facilities to handle the maximum available flow doesn’t mean that maximum available flow will be available often, if ever.
Contracts can’t guarantee what Nature doesn’t deliver.