Last week, Local Agencies of the North Delta (LAND), a coalition of eleven North Delta Reclamation and Water Districts, and farming, community and environmental groups, released a joint letter to Deputy Resources Secretary Dr. Jerry Meral identifying how the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) conveyance project would harm Delta wildlife, communities and farming.
This is the first time that local farming, water and reclamation districts, and environmental advocates in the Delta have come together to identify how the BDCP would devastate not only local farming but also endangered and rare birds and their habitat.
Dr. Meral has asserted to the media and to the Legislature that he is in constant communication with local interests, but local concerns remain completely unaddressed. According to Ken Pucci, a member of the LAND Coalition, “Delta stakeholders’ concerns continue to be ignored or mischaracterized as this Administration steamrolls forward with the pre-packaged BDCP.”
Major points made in the letter:
1. The area adjacent to Hood and Courtland on the Sacramento River where the BDCP proposes to place massive intakes, a forebay and associated facilities includes vibrant rural communities, historic features, productive and sustainable multi-generational farms, and one-of-a-kind habitat for special status species protected by state, federal and international law.
2. Due to its unique historical, cultural, economic, agricultural and environmental values, the local area has no suitable location for a two-square-mile Intermediate Forebay (ring dam) or any of the associated conveyance and storage facilities, including the 5 intakes for a 15,000 cfs capacity system and powerline infrastructure. All locations for such a massive forebay and the associated facilities would have unacceptable impacts on local communities, productive agriculture, important wildlife habitat and other environmental resources.
3. Alternatives are available that would have less severe impacts on Delta communities, farms and habitat. In particular, the Western Delta Intake Concept (“WDIC”) provides a promising option that would locate a similar-scaled intake on primarily publicly owned land in the Western Delta, thereby facilitating more natural freshwater flows through the Delta that the BDCP allegedly supports. In addition, conveyance of water through the Delta will continue to be a necessary part of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, and should be improved.
4. Any proposed BDCP diversions, conveyance and storage facilities planned for the North Delta, which the signers of the letter (among others) oppose, must be designed first and foremost to avoid impacts in the first place, secondly to effectively mitigate those impact, and thirdly to provide some level of offsetting in-Delta benefit. Despite repeated requests for such a conceptual redesign and analysis, the BDCP has continued to propose the most socially and environmentally damaging proposal and simply rearranged the details when concerns were voiced regarding those impacts.
Osha Meserve, who represents the LAND Coalition on the BDCP explained: “I have been attending BDCP public meetings since March 2008, and the responsiveness of BDCP to both scientific and local concerns has only worsened. The BDCP has major flaws that we have tried to help the BDCP proponents fix in order to reduce local impacts and to make the plan more likely to succeed. But when we talk about how BDCP would destroy local farms and the [Stone Lakes] Refuge, for instance, they only want to know what mitigation we want in exchange for that damage. No mitigation can make up for the damage that the BDCP would do to Delta farms, wildlife habitat and waterways.”