From deep in the weeds of a meeting like this, it is easy to lose sight of one extraordinary fact: the Peripheral Tunnels are being put forward as a CONSERVATION MEASURE. That is, BDCP assumes tunnels will do LESS damage to the Bay-Delta than current operations of the export projects do. BDCP includes 22 Conservation Measure, but “Water Facilities and Operations” is Number 1.
And from deep in the weeds, it almost made sense when Letty Belin, representing the U.S. Department of the Interior, said “The federal government is not the proponent of this project.”
But it didn’t feel like that when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stood up with Jerry Brown and someone from NOAA last July (Belin got confused about who represented NOAA) and announced federal support for the Peripheral Tunnels. It doesn’t feel like that when a primary beneficiary of BDCP is Westlands Water District, which receives its water from the federal Central Valley Project. The federal government has a horse in this race, and it is silly to pretend that the only federal interest relates to fisheries agencies making permitting decisions under the federal Endangered Species Act.
According to Belin, they’re so determined to get this right that they’ve involved themselves in the planning process before a permitting application has even been submitted. She doesn’t know of another project that is taking so many federal resources. Nevertheless, “We’ll dispassionately review it,” she said.