So what about all the parts of this project that are not tunnel construction or operation? What about paying for the actual protection and restoration of natural communities; strategies for dealing with stressors like invasive weeds, dissolved oxygen, and stormwater treatment; and monitoring, research, and plan administration?
As Restore the Delta board member Rogene Reynolds said, the other 32% of BDCP funding has been “cobbled together.” BDCP documents say that “habitat restoration carries a broad public value” and therefore should not be funded by the state and federal water contractors. The plan estimates that 15% of the total cost would relate to habitat restoration and other stressors reduction and would be paid for with state funding. Another 16% comes from federal funding, and 1% comes from “Other Funding Sources” (interest income on unspent revenue, or potential endowments or leveraging state tax credit for donated conservation lands).
BDCP is counting on the 2014 Water Bond going forward in, basically, its present form (which includes a big chunk for “Delta sustainability” and “Conservation and watershed protection”). Efforts are underway in the Assembly to ensure than any 2014 water bond excludes these.
BDCP is also counting on money from Prop 1E and Prop 84, although most of that money will have been entirely expended within the next few years, probably before BDCP is even ready to break ground for the tunnels. And they’re counting on a second water bond somewhere down the line for “public benefits.” BDCP’s informational brochure says that “subsequent water bonds . . . are likely to occur during the 50-year permit term.” Well, yes. And taxpayers 35 years down the line will probably have their own ideas about how they want to spend that bond money.
The brochure talks about the “likelihood and feasibility of public funding for BDCP,” estimating that 16% of total funding will come from the federal government through “authorities that have been used in the past to support Delta restoration and monitoring.” These agencies include the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Corps of Engineers, EPA, and USGS. But Brandon Minto, Deputy District Director for Congressman John Garamendi, told BDCP consultants not to assume continued levels of funding in the current federal climate. Congress has been demonstrating an unwillingness to fund a lot of projects that have traditionally been funded.
Dr. Meral dismissed this with the comment that this is a 50-year plan, and BDCP is “trying to take the longer view” regarding the willingness of the feds to fund water in California.