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The DSC punts

Restore the Delta is one of over 200 organizations that have signed a letter to the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) criticizing the Delta Plan that the Council has spent over a year developing.

The signers include environmental, environmental justice, tribal, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations from all over California – the most diverse group so far to unite in telling the Stewardship Council how far it has missed the mark with its master plan for the Delta required by the 2009 Delta Reform Act.

The letter says that the Fifth Draft of the Delta Plan has failed to define and quantify the coequal goals of habitat restoration and reliable water supply.

Referring to the California Supreme Court’s Mono Lake decision, the letter reminds the DSC of its obligation “to take the public trust into account in the planning and allocation of water resources and to protect public trust uses whenever feasible.” This requires considering the economic value of public trust resources, including fisheries, natural resources, and associated ecosystem services.

The letter says that the Delta Plan lacks the comprehensive economic analysis necessary to evaluate and balance competing demands for water.

The letter includes recommendations made in the report California Water Solutions Now, available here, issued by the Environmental Water Caucus.

  • In order to recover the health of the Bay-Delta ecosystems and its fisheries, scientifically developed criteria that would allow increased flows through the Delta must be established.  Water exports from the Delta must be decreased and current federal and state water contract levels must be reduced in keeping with a safe, healthy, and reliable supply.
  • In order to compensate for reduced exports from the Delta, the state must sponsor a long-term, aggressive water efficiency program state wide that would apply to both urban and agricultural users. The favorable economics of water efficiencies and water recycling have been proven and would be billions of dollars less expensive for the state than constructing major new conveyance facilities through the Delta or major new storage dams.
  • In order to further reduce the export pressures on the Delta, thousands of acres of impaired and pollution-generating farmlands south of the Delta must be retired from irrigation and turned into more sustainable and profitable uses, such as solar energy generation.
  • Delta levees must be improved beyond the current US Army Corps of Engineer standards in order to address potential earthquake and future sea level rise concerns. The reinforcement of core levees beyond current standards is estimated to cost $1 to $2 billion and is orders-of-magnitude less expensive that major conveyance projects that are currently being contemplated by state and federal planners.
  • The Delta ecosystems and wildlife cannot be restored without major reductions of pollutants that are currently being poured into the Delta or without a significant program of habitat improvements for the Delta.
Restore the Delta thanks its friends in the environmental community for taking the lead and for their hard work on developing this comprehensive response. To read the Environmental Water Caucus letter, click here.

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