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Sleight of hand revisited

In our last newsletter, we mentioned that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is taking credit for habitat conservation work that is going forward anyway, whether or not BDCP is approved by state and federal fisheries agencies.  Melinda Terry of the North Delta Water Agency raised this issue regarding Conservation Measure 2, Yolo Bypass Fisheries Enhancement.  At the March 20 BDCP public meeting, she mentioned two other projects currently underway.

Here’s the situation:  A Biological Opinion (BiOp) issued in 2009 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) called, among other measures, for the Bureau of Reclamation (which operates the Central Valley Project – CVP) to do habitat restoration projects in the Delta to protect endangered species.  The Bureau is supposed to work with the State on this because pumping by the State Water Project (SWP) is part of the problem.

Any work done pursuant to the BiOp is a being done as a condition for SWP/CVP to receive incidental take permits under the Endangered Species Act.  Habitat projects like those in the Yolo Bypass, at Yolo Ranch, and on Prospect Island are mitigation requirements for the federal and State water contractors to continue to operate existing South Delta pumping facilities that kill fish.

These habitat projects ARE NOT “public benefits.”

This is an important distinction because the push is on by BDCP to identify all or most habitat restoration in the Delta as a “public benefit” that the water contractors will not have to pay for.  They want the Water Bond, a general obligation bond, to pay for much of this restoration.

When BDCP Chapter 8, Implementation Costs and Funding Sources, is released in a few weeks, we’ll be looking to see whether the plan is differentiating between habitat acres the public will be expected to pay for versus habitat the water contractors have to pay for anyway as mitigation for the environmental impact of building Conservation Measure 1 facilities – the Peripheral Tunnels.

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