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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 [...]

Pipe dream

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) has produced a June 2010 Status Update with several interesting maps.  They’re looking at management strategies  and “opportunity areas,” and considering “site selection criteria” for 5 in-river intakes at 3,000 CFS capacity each  (“to avoid high population density areas”). If you aren’t looking carefully, you could miss this subtle change on the map titled “Proposed Conveyance and Habitat Restoration Options”: the central alignment is identified as a “Pipeline/Tunnel.” We don’t remember seeing the term “pipeline” being used in earlier BDCP documents.  This map describes the “Pipeline/Tunnel” as having “2 bores, each 33 feet inside diameter.”  That was the same as last summer’s “tunnel” description. In a future update, we expect to see “tunnel” dropped [...]

Training wheels

Richard Roos-Collins, one of Governor Schwarzenegger’s appointees to the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC), has resigned.  Roos-Collins, an attorney for the Natural Heritage Institute, had previously served on the BDCP steering committee.  Restore the Delta and other groups thought that this constituted a conflict of interest, since one function of the DSC is to evaluate the BDCP.   Roos-Collins had not yet been confirmed by the Senate.  The Governor’s other three appointees – Phil Isenberg, Randy Fiorini, and Hank Nordhoff – also have not been confirmed. California law allows a Governor’s appointees to serve for one year pending confirmation.   The DSC will have a Delta Plan long before that.  So confirmation is kind of a moot point: so much for [...]

It sounded like a good idea to us

The Delta Stewardship Council couldn’t wait to get started on the part of the Interim Plan that involves “review and approval of Proposition 1E expenditures for selected projects.” When voters approved 1E in 2006, that approval included $35 million “to reinforce those sections of the levees that have the highest potential to suffer breaches or failure and cause harm to municipal and industrial water supply aqueducts that cross the Delta and which are vulnerable to flood damage.” EBMUD partnered with Delta reclamation districts to propose a Delta Levees Special Flood Control Project that would protect the District’s Mokelumne Aqueducts, Kinder Morgan petroleum pipeline, Burlington Northern Santa Fe raid line, and other Delta infrastructure, including State Highway 4. The FloodSAFE Environmental [...]

We’re dancing as fast as we can

As Delta farmers struggle to file water use reports by July 2 to comply with last year’s legislation changing reporting requirements, the Senate will be voting this week on SB 565 (Pavley). This bill would establish several new penalty and investigative powers at the State Water Resources Control Board dealing with water rights, while reducing or eliminating existing due process and property rights protections for California water rights holders. SB 565 Allows the State Water Board to review and revise any water right without cause, giving this agency new invasive power to inspect private property for vaguely defined purposes to ascertain whether the beneficial purposes of water use are being met. Shifts the burden of proving forfeiture of a water [...]

Confirmation of something we guessed

Writing in the California Progress Report, Alegria De La Cruz, Legal Director of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, talks about those farmworker demonstrations on the Westside last summer: “What about the ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations by farmworkers marching under the ‘Fish vs. Jobs’ banner? Go talk to the laborers in the small destitute towns of the regions such as Five Points, Firebaugh, Mendota and Dos Palos. I have. If you can gain their confidence, they’ll tell you, as they’ve told me: these demonstrations were orchestrated by farm labor contractors and their employers. Workers were either strongly ‘encouraged’ to joint the demonstrations with the implication that their jobs were at stake, or were simply paid to march. This is not [...]

Feinstein’s favor for Resnick et al. is still a bad idea

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s S. 1759, “Water Transfer Facilitation Act of 2009,” is on the U.S. Senate Legislative Calendar, and opponents fear that it could be included in omnibus legislation. This is the legislation that would relax the law in order to benefit the Kern Water Bank and other private entities profiting from taxpayer subsidized water and infrastructure. It would allow high flows in the San Joaquin River, crucial to the Delta’s ecological health, to be diverted outside of the CVP service area and to non-CVP contractors for use in the state’s multi-billion dollar private water sales market. Under the legislation, federally subsidized $20 an acre foot water could be resold in the open market for more than $1000 an acre [...]

And while we’re tweaking things . . .

In their enthusiasm to pass the “historic water package” last November and create a Delta Stewardship Council to put things right in the Delta, lawmakers neglected to address the matter of paying for the Council. To correct this oversight, Assemblymember Huffman presented AB 2092, a long-term financing plan for the DSC, to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. AB 2092 requires the DSC to develop a financing plan based on the “beneficiary pays” principle. This will involve defining private and public benefits, as well as identifying both benefits and negative impacts of any action. A variety of financing strategies will be necessary. Huffman emphasized that any new fees would be subject to legislative approval. Both supporters and opponents focused [...]

“Lipstick on a pig”

That was Senator Lois Wolk’s description of AB 2775, a bill that would amend the water bond to remove language that would allow nongovernmental partners to be part of joint powers authorities formed to own and manage dams. Assemblymember Jared Huffman and Senator Dave Cogdill, who never agree about anything with respect to water, coauthored this bill focusing on a “narrow point of consensus,” a “surgical change” (to quote Huffman). Huffman presented it to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on June 22. It has an urgency clause. Why the urgency? In a deeply flawed water bond, the joint powers provision is one of the deepest flaws. Organizations opposing the water bond have noted that this provision would open [...]