Twenty-six people were able to make public comments, with Pavley giving speakers 3 minutes each until the allotted hour drew to a close. Only four of them spoke in support of the planning efforts under discussion. The rest – elected officials, business people, farmers, fishing interests, and other concerned citizens – gave Pavley’s committee a dozen reasons why the BDCP is a very bad idea.
Countering the perception that Delta interests only say “No” and have no constructive suggestions, Restore the Delta’s Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla emphasized the importance of
- reducing exports
- fixing Delta levees
- encouraging local water use projects to increase regional self-sufficiency.
Several people noted that in addition to meeting the coequal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration, the Delta Plan is supposed to protect the culture and economy of the Delta itself. Restore the Delta president Joy Baker noted that BDCP will have negative effects on the human environment, including the schools, businesses, churches, and libraries supported by agriculture in the largest concentration of prime farmland in the state.
Katie Patterson of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation cautioned against a Delta Plan that would evolve agriculture OUT of the Delta.
Following the public comment period, Pavley and Wolk heard agency responses from Delta Stewardship Council chair Phil Isenberg on the Delta Plan and from Department of Water Resources director Mark Cowin on the BDCP. Despite earlier statements from MWD and Westlands that exporters don’t want to end up with less water, Isenberg said that he doesn’t anticipate a higher-flow BDCP making its way to the Stewardship Council for incorporation into the Delta Plan because the Department of Fish and Game will not give BDCP the necessary permits.
Cowin offered adaptive management as the answer to conflicting science. You try something, see if it works, and if it doesn’t, you try something else. Senator Rubio asked how much has been invested to date in studies for the BDCP. Cowin’s answer: about $140 million. Cowin also echoed that the BDCP would have to stand up to the permitting process by federal fisheries agencies, and especially the Department of Fish and Game.
Cold comfort when we consider that DFG officials made it clear about six years ago that they and the Department of Water Resources speak with “one voice.”