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Get ready to cram

The Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) met on November 17 and 18 and spent its first meeting day on matters related to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Delta Plan. In releasing the EIR, they have “officially initiated a legal process”, according to DSC counsel Chris Stevens. The Council discussed how best to incorporate public comment and make changes to the Delta Plan without releasing a new EIR. (This is what happens when you go too fast.) The DSC has said that they intend to go farther than CEQA requires.

The council adopted a 90-day comment period (comments now due February 2, 2012), with Council member Don Nottoli holding out for 120 days with the only “No” vote. The council (and in particular Gloria Gray) remains open to the idea of extending the comment period if there is a compelling reason to do so.   The document’s length could be a compelling reason. At 3500 pages, this EIR document is anything but a quick read. Even with 90 days, if you started reading at the beginning of November when the document was released, you’ll have to get through about 40 pages a day.

The DSC also discussed how to best present the EIR to the public, with Council member Nordhoff suggesting a “road show” of sorts.

Chair Isenberg said that in his view, changing a few policies and recommendations and making changes in response to public comment would not substantially impact the integrity of the EIR, considering there would still be a sixth draft of the plan to come.   But not everyone agreed that making changes wouldn’t necessitate a “new” programmatic EIR.

Friday’s meeting featured a panel science discussion, which in addition to explaining much about the ecosystem, urged the council to find a better way to organize, communicate and otherwise translate their document. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist Bruce Herbold suggested that X2 (the shifting point where fresh and salt water mix) will continue to be the battle ground for water quality and it’s importance to the health of the estuary. Reducing future reliance on the delta, as well as inflow/outflow recommendations, are obviously tied to the X2 discussion.

After extensive comment, the Council supported a recommendation for the Fish and Game Commission to consider new regulations increasing the number and size of stripers that can be caught and kept. Chair Isenberg referred to this as a policy decision, but he seemed to understand that this was a step toward diminishing the public trust resources of the Delta via policy.

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