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Now we know how much water needs to flow

This week, the California Water Resources Control Board released a draft report identifying increased water flows needed to protect fisheries and water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary. According to Mike Taugher of the Bay Area News Group, “The key finding is that of all the snowmelt and rain that falls into the Delta’s watershed, which covers 40 percent of California, about 75 percent of it should be allowed to flow through the Delta into San Francisco Bay.” “Today, only about 50 percent of the flow passes through the Delta on average as nearly all of California taps into its rivers and the Delta itself.” A press release from the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) notes that the report [...]

“A purely theoretical exercise?”

Will the Water Board get it right this time? Mike Taugher quotes Roger Patterson, assistant general manager for the Metropolitan Water District. Meeting the 75 percent target “would obviously devastate water supplies,” Patterson said. He speculates that if pollution, invasive species, and other issues in the Delta are addressed, more water could be taken out. Taugher notes that meeting all of the requirements “would require San Joaquin farms, Southern California and portions of the East and South Bay Area cities that rely on pumps in the southern Delta to cut their Delta water use by one-third in addition to recent cutbacks required by endangered species rules. For other water users upstream, including water utilities that service Oakland and San Francisco, [...]

Introducing Deirdre Des Jardins

Deirdre Des Jardins is currently a policy analyst for environmental and fishing groups. She specializes in finding and synthesizing information from diverse and often highly technical government reports, research, and technical documents into a coherent, understandable framework for policy decisions. She has a background in complex systems theory and computational modeling, and has worked at NASA Ames and Los Alamos National Labs.

Better late than never, maybe

Senator Feinstein’s aides were in the Delta last week getting feedback on the Senator’s bill for a Delta National Heritage Area and a Delta Conservancy. We were glad to have the opportunity to share our concerns, but it all came very late in the process. The Senator plans to introduce the bill this week. There was widespread opposition in the Delta to the conservancy as proposed, and Restore the Delta will not support any version of this bill that includes a conservancy. (While Restore the Delta has always supported a conservancy conceptually, what is proposed in this legislation is the design of a Federal/State/national NGO program to work in tandem with implementation of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Restore the [...]

Been there, done that

It looks like the Delta Stewardship Council is getting ready to try balancing on that two-legged stool. The issue is risk reduction, and the problem is that as soon as you start prioritizing risks, you discover how much of the Delta is neither ecosystem nor export water supply. Last week the DSC invited the public to participate in a Risk Reduction and Coequal Goals Workgroup. (Notice was short, and even some of the consultants didn’t get that notice, but that’s a different story.) The DSC brought to the Workgroup eight questions related to prioritizing levee risks and conducting emergency planning. This was déjà vu all over again for Ron Baldwin, San Joaquin County Director of Emergency Operations. In 2008, the [...]

The NAS Committee meets the BDCP (and other Delta stressors)

In Sacramento on July 13, the NAS Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta got a briefing on the BDCP and on water quality. The Committee was asked to review the November 2010 draft of the BDCP and provide a review by mid-2011 to allow permitting by 2012. Their own report is not due until November 2011. Dan Castleberry of the Fish and Wildlife Service called the BDCP “a very ambitious effort” and told the Committee, “We need all the help we can get.” Committee members had good questions for the agency officials briefing them on the BDCP. For example, why wasn’t adaptive management successful in earlier efforts such as CalFed, and what will the BDCP [...]

And on to the serious science

In the afternoon, Dr. Michael Johnson, recently retired Director of the Aquatic Ecosystems Analysis Laboratory at UC Davis, gave a presentation on “Contaminants in the Delta and their Potential Role in Shaping Biological Communities.” He said that there was insufficient data to conclude that contaminants were partially or wholly responsible for the pelagic organism decline (POD) from 2000-2008. Effects must be from the trophic structure (which relates to energy in levels in the food chain). Dr. Johnson found that there were major fish kills even before the POD. In a list of contaminants, it was interesting to see that from 1986-2008, by far the highest contaminant count was for selenium, with boron in second place. Selenium, though, is not a [...]

“Paper Water” online

Bruce Tokars of Salmon Water Now has been prolific in producing informative videos about water politics and posting them online where they can reach a lot of viewers. His most recent effort is “Paper Water: and Other Sordid Tales.”  This is a great overview of Stewart Resnick, the Kern Water Bank, The Monterey Amendments, and Paper Water.  You can watch this in four parts on YouTube. The whole 35-minute video is also posted on Vimeo.

New lawsuit considers groundwater and the public trust

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) and the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) have filed a lawsuit against the State Water Resources Control Board and Siskiyou County based on the idea of using the public trust doctrine to regulate groundwater.   Since 1980, the State Board has regulated pumping of groundwater within 500 feet of the Scott River, where the Legislature had found geology and hydrology to be uniquely interconnected (Water Code Section 2500.5 (b).  PCFFA and ELF assert that failure to regulate more distant pumping has depleted surface flows and hastened the decline of the coho salmon.   See “Should the public trust doctrine be extended to groundwater?” at http://baydelta.wordpress.com/

We’ve been framed

Have you noticed that certain words and phrases are used over and over again to describe the Delta, while other conditions never get described at all?   Discussions about the Delta have been “framed” by people invested in seeing it in a particular way, whether or not that way is accurate. Think about how often you have seen the Delta described as the “hub” of California’s water system, as if that image conveyed everything important about the region.   But anyone looking at the system honestly would have to admit that the Delta’s days as a “hub” are over.  Water coming in is limited, fluctuating, and/or compromised.  Sending historic levels of that water out is fatal to the ecosystem. Describing it [...]