In a marathon day of meetings on March 20, Delta advocates were all over Sacramento trying to keep up with the State’s different planning processes affecting the Delta region.
While the State Water Resources Control Board was meeting a few blocks away (see below), the California Water Commission (CWC) spent Wednesday morning having a “workshop” on Strategies for Future State Investments in Public Benefits of Water Projects. Public benefits are those for which project beneficiaries do NOT expect to pay. In other words, they will require a general obligation bond.
Determining public benefits, primarily for storage (dams), was a major task assigned to the resuscitated CWC under the 2009 Delta Reform legislation. But determinations of public benefit will also affect how the Peripheral Tunnels are paid for. Resources Deputy Secretary Jerry Meral, at a pre-“workshop” briefing, told the commissioners that a bond will be needed for the public benefits portion of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).
The Water Code identifies the following as public benefits of water storage projects:
1. Ecosystem improvements (including those that influence the Delta)
2. Water quality improvement (in the Delta and elsewhere)
3. Flood control benefits
4. Emergency response
5. Recreational purposes
Look for water project proponents to find ways to shift costs for a variety of aspects of water infrastructure from direct beneficiaries to the public at large. Later in the day, Meral told attendees at the BDCP public meeting that although the water contractors will pay for mitigation for the Peripheral Tunnels, taxpayers will pay for the habitat under this habitat conservation plan. The Water Contractors are just paying for the planning. If you thought habitat WAS mitigation, think again.