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The disaster in Japan reminds us . . .

California will draw many lessons from last week’s massively destructive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which led to states of emergency in four California coastal counties and even an emergency watch on the Delta’s Staten Island. One lesson is that the State cannot ignore emergency response services in the Delta region in its ongoing efforts to adjust California’s water delivery systems. This point was made repeatedly by panelists addressing the Delta Stewardship Council last Friday on the subject of reducing risks to people, property, and state interests in the Delta.  The point was made most vigorously by Ron Baldwin, director of San Joaquin County’s Office of Emergency Services.  He called for risk maps, a scripted plan empowering local responders, and [...]

An inland sea is not an option

Among other charges to the DSC in developing the Delta Plan is the charge to “Protect and enhance the unique cultural, recreational, and agricultural values of the California Delta as an evolving place.”  Much will depend on definitions of “evolving,” but as Machado told the DSC, we can’t single out some portions of the Delta to be protected, because that could threaten the survivability of the whole. Panelist Gil Cosio of MBK Engineers reminded the DSC of the section of the Water Code stating that “the physical characteristics of the delta should be preserved in their present form. . . .  [The] key to preserving the delta’s physical characteristics is the system of levees defining the waterways and producing adjacent [...]

More on the subject of levee risk

Gil Cosio didn’t mince words in commenting on the erroneous information that went into the new PPIC report, saying that the PPIC didn’t gather all the data that they should have because of time constraints.  “Garbage in, garbage out,” he said.  “Lund’s data is just not right.” Last week PPIC author Jay Lund wrote a blog post with “a timeline of published technical and scientific work and events indicating that many Delta levees are at substantial risk, involving independent researchers using diverse methods over several decades.”  The timeline starts in 1931 and includes events in which islands were flooded and abandoned by their owners. Leaving aside for the moment the decisions of individual landowners to “repurpose” their own property (which [...]

We indulge in a bit of Meral speculation

Last week Dr. Jerry Meral, Governor Brown’s new deputy secretary for the BDCP, delivered an address in Los Angeles to the California Water Policy Conference (a project of POWER – Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform).  If you’d like to know what Dr. Meral has to say about the BDCP, you can read his comments here. However, we are more interested in something Dr. Meral wrote back in 2005.  Even then, he was advocating “a water pipeline circumventing the Delta.”  But he recognized why Northern California doesn’t trust the water contractors to operate such a facility: Having built it with their own funds, they will naturally want to maximize their own benefits from its operation. “One way to respond [...]

Not fish and chips

When the Metropolitan Water District hosted a 20-person lunch in San Francisco celebrating passage of the 2009 water package, the district picked up a tab for $1,861.50, including four bottles of wine at about $55 each.  Jeffrey Kightlinger, MWD’s general manager, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “it was important to mark the achievement with people, including several environmentalists, who helped make it happen.” Comments one prominent environmentalist who DIDN’T help make it happen, “No wonder they don’t care about smelt – they’re eating Oysters Rockefeller – and having their ratepayers pick up their dinner check.”

It seems to us we’ve heard that song before: A SPECIAL REPORT

When Governor Schwarzenegger showed the Delta to visiting journalists from outside California, he did it from a helicopter flying over the region. Even then, though, he was closer than most of the academics who are continuing to pad their professional resumes by writing about the Delta for the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).  They seem to be viewing the region from about 50,000 feet. Last week the PPIC entertained 350 people at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento for what was basically a book launch of their latest tome, “Managing California’s Water: From Conflict to Reconciliation.”  Attendees enjoyed lunch and panel discussions courtesy of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Pisces Foundation, The [...]

In Stark Contrast

Thank you to the hundreds of Restore the Delta supporters who attended our Art, Wine, and Edible Delight event this past Saturday.  Michael Prietti and Pat Livingston’s  photography, the Americana music of Mom’s Chili Boys, the fabulous Delta wines from Heringer, Carvalho, and Solomon Wineries, and the great spread from Husick’s Catering, the Monterey Fish Market, Golden State Fruit, and Kobasic’s Candies remind us all why we are so proud of our home.  The Delta is a place of a true community, splendid creativity, wonderful wine, and real local food. This is why the Delta must be preserved and protected.  It already is a model of a strong local economy, sustainable agriculture, unsurpassable recreation, and world class fishing.  Preserving the [...]

What Dr. Robert Pyke has in mind

Dr Robert Pyke has a wealth of geotechnical and water resources engineering experience from all over the world, including the Delta, and he has some sensible suggestions for addressing our water management problems.  Among them 1.  Restoration of floodplains on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries, which provides three significant benefits: stretching out floods to allow export pumping over a longer time; reducing peak flows as floods pass by the major urban areas and through the Delta; and restoring complexity and nutrients to the ecosystem. 2. New pumping facilities somewhere in the west Delta to allow flows to pass through the Delta in a natural way before surplus flows are extracted; these facilities might include some temporary [...]

What the Delta Stewardship Council has in mind

The Delta Stewardship Council released this week its first draft of the Delta Plan.  We appreciate that the Council is making the drafting process available to public comment.  It is our understanding that there will be six more drafts leading to the completion of a final plan in December of this year. With that said, our prior training as college English instructors rises to the surface when responding to this draft. First off, as noted by Jane Wagner-Tyack,  “Much of what is here could be referenced in appendices, including every reiteration of the legislation, the definitions, the quotes from Delta Vision, and all the hand-wringing findings.  Everything in Chapters 1 through 3 could be covered in about three pages.  We [...]

What Congressman Devin Nunes has in mind

We were puzzled by some statements in the press release from Congressman Devin Nunes’ office announcing proposed funding cuts affecting the biological opinions and San Joaquin River Restoration. The press release calls these cuts the first step “to replace the flawed billion dollar salmon run…”  In place of the existing restoration plan, Nunes and House leaders say they are seeking to establish both an environmentally and economically responsible San Joaquin River restoration. This will include a year-round, live river on the San Joaquin but will also ensure a robust east side agriculture economy.” Hoping to learn more, we checked out the Congressman’s website.  We found a link to a November 2007 publication on the San Joaquin River Settlement.  In it, [...]