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“We’re not there yet.”

In the afternoon, Deputy Resources Secretary Jerry Meral presided over a BDCP Public Meeting. The meeting was supposed to be webcast, but the Pagoda Building was apparently not a good venue for webcasts, and some interested people in the Delta were never able to see the meeting, although Meral did respond to email questions.

Meral began by saying, “We don’t have what all of you want – the proposed project. We’re not there yet.”

They hope to have a draft BDCP document available for review (but no official public comment) at the end of January or the beginning of February. They’re looking at

early spring for a public draft of the EIR/EIS, including operating criteria for Conservation Measure 1, Water Facilities and Operation. The final EIR/EIS is scheduled for completion by the end of 2013.

In February of this year, state and federal fish agencies produced a “red flag” document of issues they were not seeing addressed by the BDCP’s effects analysis. Consultants have been trying to address these issues ever since, and ICF International’s Jennifer Pierre spent much of this meeting talking about what they had come up with.

This was a presentation originally promised for this past August, but everything had to be modified when the number of intakes was reduced from five to three and the maximum diversion was reduced from 15,000 cfs to 9,000 cfs. (Same knobs to turn, different operational criteria.) Among other modifications, consultants have revised the operations section to deal individually with the needs of multiple species instead of grouping species. The reverse flow criteria on Old and Middle Rivers are stricter. They’ve added a Fall X-2 (the distance upstream from the Golden Gate Bridge where salt and fresh water mix, which can be manipulated with upstream releases of water).

All the modeling uses a reconfigured Delta with tens of thousands of new acres of habitat.

They claim they will only take 9,000 cfs when the Sacramento River is running high; the intakes wouldn’t be used at all in very dry years. (Yeah, right.) In dry years, according to Pierre, the south Delta pumps will be relied on more, but that will cause entrainment problems. In answer to a question, Meral said that fish agencies think BDCP could safely have full diversions even in years when flows are not above normal. But Carl Wilcox of Fish and Game said that if flows go down, diversions and deliveries go down. There was talk from consultants and fisheries reps about triggers for diversions. There was talk of the “decision tree.” People kept talking about a high level of uncertainty. People kept saying, “It’s complicated.”

Journalist Dan Bacher wanted to know how BDCP would comply with salmon doubling goals established by the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Meral said that BDCP has to contribute to salmon recovery, but it isn’t so ambitious as to achieve doubling goals.

Neither Shasta nor Oroville dam is part of the BDCP planning area. Meral said that upstream water right holders will not be affected by BDCP. Managing conditions in the Delta without affecting conditions upstream sounds not just complicated. It sounds impossible.

For an example of the kind of adaptive management BDCP is proposing, the best that anyone could offer is management of salt ponds in the South Bay. BDCP is many orders of magnitude bigger than that.

Delta folks who were worried about an intermediate forebay planned for Courtland will be interested to know that BDCP is now looking at a location closer to Hood, maybe east of I-5 near the Stones Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. In answer to a question from Bill Wells about the effect of a forebay there on the water table, Meral didn’t seem to have a good answer.

Nick Di Croce of the Environmental Water Caucus pointed out – not for the first time – that the first thing that should be done is a detailed analysis of how much water the Delta needs to be healthy and how much water is really available for export from the Delta. As things stand now, that isn’t going to be the order of things. Asked what happens when the State Water Resources Control Board implements flow criteria, Meral kind of shrugged and said it won’t change what BDCP has to do to meet its objectives. But they can’t wait for the Water Board.

Meanwhile, North Delta Water District, Contra Costa and Solano counties, Delta residents – all the people who scrutinize the existing documents – are not finding answers to their questions there. The feeling of being left out and over-ridden persists.

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