Perhaps the most substantive undertaking of the Council thus far in its existence was agenda item 7: the East Bay Municipal Utilities District Aqueduct Protection Projects, which would entail levee improvement projects on Lower Roberts Island, Upper and Lower Jones Tract, as well as Palm and Orwood Tracts.
In a decision that will have an almost immediate impact on the landscape of the Delta, the DSC authorized 5 out of 10 projects proposed in response to the project solicitation package (PSP) designed to distribute funding from Proposition 1E funding. The other 5 proposals are currently under development and will be brought before the council in the coming months.
So that’s where some of that Prop. 1E money is going to be used.
But then the DSC turned to the matter of financing the Delta Plan. They heard from a panel with four members: Alan Highstreet (CH2MHill), Ellen Hanak (Public Policy Institute of California – PPIC), Richard Sykes (East Bay Municipal Utility District – EBMUD), James Nachbaur (Legislative Analyst’s Office -LAO), and David Bolland (Association of California Water Agencies – ACWA).
Hanak supported the concept of General Obligation funding for ecosystem restoration in the 2012 Water Bond, and promoted the development of a beneficiary and stressor pays framework for project and plan implementation. She went on to say, “We haven’t been charging ourselves, as a society, enough to cover the full costs, and that is what redressing the ecosystem damages is about.”
(This is a heck of a plan: Water contractors build a State Water Project, underestimate its true cost, and get the taxpayers to subsidize it for the next century. Some taxpayers will benefit from it – although not as much as the water contractors will. No one will worry about the environment. But if something comes up later that the water contractors didn’t anticipate, they’ll call the taxpayers “society” and get them to pay to mitigate it. This is a poor plan from an environmental and economic perspective, and elucidates why California is in such trouble financially while the environment continues to be degraded.)
Nachbaur discussed a public goods charge but made it clear that the LAO wasn’t recommending that as the most appropriate finance structure.
ACWA’s Boland presented principles that could have been called “why you should charge everyone but us for the implementation of the Delta Plan.”
Principle 1: Create Value
ACWA bemoans the regulatory structure that is emerging from the Delta plan, and implies that there should be a corresponding increase in supply to justify investment.
Principal 2: Develop Partnerships and Broaden Support.
ACWA is disapproving of the breadth and depth of DSC’s authority, and feels that required contribution to the implementation of the plan will result in decreased collaboration of State, Federal, local government, non-governmental organizations, and private sector efforts to accomplish the co-equal goals in the Delta. (As if they’ve been collaborating!)
Principle 3: Broaden the Financial Base
ACWA concludes that the plan should have a broader beneficiary focus and include as many interests as possible to decrease the financial reliance on water suppliers and users.
Principle 4: Implement “Beneficiary Pays” Appropriately
ACWA argues that as much burden should be placed on the General Fund as possible. “It is clear that substantial STATE GENERAL FUNDS and program funds, as well as a variety of federal funding sources must be brought to the table to finance these public benefits.” (Emphasis added.)
Principle 5: Support the 2012 Water bond (of course)