We begin our discussion of the July 17 public meeting on the final chapters of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) administrative draft by noting that Deputy Resources Secretary Jerry Meral said the design of the project is only 10% complete.
Bear that in mind as you read what follows. The subject of the meeting was costs, financing, and take alternatives for a project for which THE FINAL DESIGN IS 90 PERCENT UNKNOWN. And the design is for a project that has never been done anywhere before.
Over 200 people attended the July 17 meeting, about 50 of them representing the Save the California Delta Alliance and waving red and green “Stop the Tunnels” signs. This room at the DoubleTree Hotel was a big improvement over the venue for previous meetings at the Pagoda Building in downtown Sacramento, with its giant pillars in the middle of the room. Clearly, BDCP recognizes that interest in its activities has outgrown the Pagoda Building.
Don’t look for a statewide cost-benefit analysis here, or even an analysis of the costs and benefits of BDCP for the Delta. Consultants will present statewide economic impacts at a finance working group meeting on August 8. That’s when we should expect to hear about what Melinda Terry of the North Delta Water Agency said are more than 750 identified local impacts, including unavoidable degradation of groundwater quality; depleted groundwater supplies and reduced well production; limited access to properties for 10 years; reduction of recreational opportunities; degradation of levees by heavy construction equipment; and permanent loss of farmland.
What consultants wanted to do on July 17 was
- to demonstrate that anticipated funding will cover anticipated costs: $19.7 billion in capital costs and $4.8 billion in operations and maintenance costs over the 50-year permit term ($24.54 billion in undiscounted 2012 dollars); and
- to present “Alternatives to Take”: alternatives with different levels of damaging impact on fish and wildlife species, with associated differences in economic benefit to exporters. (This is, after all, supposed to be a plan that benefits fish.)
This is not an operating budget or financing plan. BDCP kicks annual operating costs down the road to be dealt with later.