≡ Categories

Delta Flows: August 9, 2013

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.
– Pablo Picasso


Art and the Delta as Place

Arts activists from around the U.S. and the world will hear about the Delta in September thanks to two young Delta advocates. At Gabfestry, an Arts Activist conference in Maine, students Ryan Camero and Javier Padilla Reyes will be presenting “Visions in the Dark: The Case for Creative Placemaking,” a presentation/workshop focusing on conditions in Stockton and California.
According to the project website, “They will represent Stockton, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the issues surrounding them to an international audience and will return to bring community projects that aim to inspire and empower leaders as well as nurture positive, exponential efforts, in Stockton and the Valley.”
Say these advocates, “As community organizers, we will be speaking and presenting a panel discussion concerning the case for environmental sustainability of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Moreover, we will brainstorm for a graphics campaign that will raise awareness of protecting California’s most important resource: water.”
We hope you will consider supporting this exciting project.

Nine wreathes!

Russell Fisher, the director of Restore the Delta’s award-winning documentary Over Troubled Waters, has updated his Media Creations blog to show all the film festival awards (9) and all the formal screenings (25) the documentary has had. We’re all so proud of those nine wreathes. Visit Russ’s blog and see them for yourself.

BDCP consultants do some cherry picking

Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) consultants are busy this week trying to convince us all that a Statewide Economic Impact Report on the Peripheral Tunnels can take the place of a statewide analysis of the costs and benefits of ALL reasonable alternatives for managing water transfers through the Delta.

They really are putting all their eggs in the Peripheral Tunnels basket. Says the Report, “Construction of the water conveyance facility, under CM1 Water Facilities and Operation,” (in other words, the Peripheral Tunnels) “will reduce the risks to the state’s water system from flood- or earthquake-induced supply disruption.” Leaving aside questions of the earthquake vulnerability of Delta levees (which is frequently over-stated), how can they take credit for reducing these risks when they have not? not modeled reliability (performance) of the tunnels under conditions of levee failure or high levels of sea level rise?

Recall that BDCP is planning to export water from the south Delta 51% of the time even with the Peripheral Tunnels diverting water in the North Delta. The south Delta pumps would be shut down if enough levees failed. This could mean loss of half the water supply from the proposed project. Yet the BDCP EIR/EIS and BDCP economic analysis are silent on plans to strengthen or maintain levees.

The state needs to commit to upgrading the levees, as proposed by the Delta Protection Commission, and look at the remaining risk. BDCP may be too expensive for the limited benefits it offers.

Other costs not evaluated in the Economic Impact Report are those associated with 48 significant and adverse impacts to the Delta identified in the EIR/EIR. Asked Melinda Terry of the North Delta Water Agency, “Did you people read the same EIR I did?” Apparently not, and as a result, the Report badly underestimates costs to the Delta.

There are many other problems of arising from this effort to justify the unjustifiable. Here’s an especially interesting feature of the analysis: it assumes that the facilities will operate for 40 years, even though the permit term is 50 years. Dr. Sunding of the Brattle Group characterized this as a conservative way to estimate benefits. But it makes us wonder how long anyone expects these tunnels to operate.

Another cost BDCP is probably underestimating

The California Department of Public Health on Valley Fever has produced an interesting brochure on Valley Fever. The fungus that causes Valley Fever lives in the top 2 to 12 inches of soil in many parts of California, and the incidence of the disease is highest in southern San Joaquin Valley counties, plus San Luis Obispo County. But Valley Fever occurs in the Delta region as well. The spores are released by activities such as digging, so construction workers and excavation crews are at particular risk. However, anyone breathing dust containing spores that have been released is also vulnerable. The number of cases may be under-reported because symptoms are similar to other diseases, but the effects can be severe and costly. Take a look at page 4 to see respirators used to limit exposure. Also consider the prevention measures recommended for workers. Now imagine the number of people in this region who could be exposed to these spores. This is a hazard we all live with anyway in an agricultural region. But is BDCP looking at the costs of making the hazard potentially much worse with their massive excavation project?

Turning up the heat

Deirdre Des Jardins of California Water Research has an interesting July 23 post on the Sierra Club Yodeler website. It’s called “Will the ‘Cadillac Desert’ become the ‘Cadillac Oven’?” Take a look at the maps she found showing California Historical & Projected July Temperature Increase 1961-2099. It looks like things will be increasingly uncomfortable in the Inland Empire and desert areas of Southern California.

Comments Des Jardins, “The state needs to consider whether it is sustainable to ship water 300 miles to build subdivisions in an area that could see the same summer temperatures as a low-grade oven.”

These temperature increases don’t bode well for California agriculture, either. But it looks like the heat will be a bit less extreme in the Delta region, which is a good reason not to get rid of agriculture there in favor of short-term water support for agriculture elsewhere.

Boxed in by assumptions

Thanks to Maven’s Notebook for an excellent transcript of a radio interview between BDCP spokesman Deputy Resources Secretary Jerry Meral and Jonas Minton of the Planning and Conservation League. (And see Maven’s Notebook for detailed reports on just about every Delta-related meeting.)

The interview includes this from Jerry Meral: “Well, it is true that there is public financing for the habitat part. There’s a bond on the ballot today that would be voted on next November if it stays on the ballot that includes some funding for habitat. There is a possibility that the public will vote on the habitat, but not on the tunnel part.”

Meral knows they can’t operate the tunnels without the habitat component. Doesn’t that mean that if the public refuses to pay for habitat by rejecting the bond, the Peripheral Tunnels that Governor Brown is determined to build would be a stranded asset?

And there was this from Jonas Minton: “In this case, the Jerry Brown administration inherited BDCP from the Schwarzenegger administration. And contrary to the advice of some, including the Planning and Conservation League, what they did is they started off with the project they wanted, and then they’ve been trying to explain or justify or scientifically demonstrate how it could work. . . . [We] think that by inheriting this project where they figured out what they wanted and then tried to justify it – it has made it difficult for the water exporters, the people who would get the water, to objectively look at alternatives like how much increased water conservation be achieved and how would that affect the diversions from the Delta.”

Leave a Comment

{ 0 comments… add one }