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Time Out for the BDCP

We finally have an interim something from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, although it isn’t what the steering committee intended to have at this point: a quick fix for the Delta ecosystem that would let them get all their exports back. Westlands has thrown a fit and pulled out of the process; the state is making placating noises about building a conveyance (in this economy? with what environmental protections?); and the U.S. Department of the Interior may or may not be on board for the same conveyance, depending on how we read comments from Secretary of the Interior Salazar and Deputy Secretary Hayes.  (This is not a good time for the Obama administration to run afoul of agribusiness, wealthy water [...]

“Identify the knobs before you start turning them.”

The National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta invited the public to an open session in San Francisco (not the most convenient location for Delta folks) week before last. Members of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan Steering Committee, including Jason Peltier  of the Westlands Water District, made a presentation to the council suggesting that we have the science we need to move forward with conveyance, and we can’t wait forever for “ecosystem Nirvana.” The Committee heard that increasing flood plain inundation doesn’t guarantee that salmon will use the flood plain, especially if they are not present in the system. They heard that the first ever actual photo of a wild smelt was [...]

Uncertainty. Flexibility. Resilience. Adaptive capacity.

These are probably not words the BDCP Steering Committee ever wanted to have to use. But they came up time and again when the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) met last week. The DSC got an update on the BDCP and considered how to incorporate BDCP material into the Delta Plan – or not. Chair Phil Isenberg noted that the BDCP will not be completed in time to include it in the Delta Plan. To meet the statutory mandate, the Delta Plan has to go forward with improved conveyance and ecosystem restoration, with or without BDCP.  He asked outside consultant ARCADIS and the DSC staff to tell the Council what parts of BDCP are useful and reasonably ready to use. The [...]

Looking beyond the Delta

Direction to the DSC by the Legislature with respect to developing the Delta Plan includes managing not just the Delta’s water, but the water resources of the whole state (Section 85020(a)). So the DSC’s deliberations are extending well beyond water use in the Delta. During discussion of the Agriculture White Paper introduced at the meeting, the point was made that non-permanent crops have more habitat value than permanent crops.  Solano County has already been considering what kind of agriculture and ag practices synchronize best with habitat conservation. DSC member Don Nottoli pointed out that water-intensive crops may be better for habitat. That means more water in the Delta for cropping and conservation, not less. Tom Zuckerman described the Agriculture White [...]

A disincentive to conserve

Last month we reported that Fitch Ratings, a global agency that evaluates and rates agencies that issue bonds, had given the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority an A rating on revenue bonds issued in 2008. The rating was based on the financial strength of Westlands Water District.  That, in turn, was based on Westlands water “entitlements” (a term open to question) and its asserted ability to market water. We also noted that municipal bonds financing water supply can be risky, given potential shortages of water. Now Fitch has given a AAA rating to $250 million in Metropolitan Water District water revenue bonds scheduled to be sold this week.  Fitch has also affirmed its previous AAA ratings on two prior [...]

Many pairs of eyes are the next best thing to eyes in the back of your head

We know you’ve noticed that it has been raining.  One Delta business owner observed that with the Mokelumne River nearing flood stage, the state could move toward the “preferred alternative” central canal called for in the CalFed 2000 documents by opening some dams to put more water into the river, thereby flooding the McCormack Williamson tract. The state has already paid $35 million for adjacent Staten Island to flood for in-Delta storage. Meanwhile, in the North Delta, private landowners are moving ahead with strategies that will inevitably affect the Yolo Bypass. Everywhere, there are dots to be connected in a ceaseless unfolding of events.  We at Restore the Delta are grateful for all the pairs of eyes watching what is [...]

Panel calls Delta recovery plan woefully incomplete

Panel calls Delta recovery plan woefully incomplete Questions remain despite four years, $140 million in research on estuary… Mike Taugher Contra Costa Times Read Online SAN FRANCISCO — A national panel of experts appeared frustrated Wednesday by gaping holes in a developing master plan for the Delta despite four years and $140 million in studies. The report provided the committee no straightforward description of the recovery goals for the Delta ecosystem, no analysis of water demands compared to available supplies and, perhaps most troubling, portions of an ongoing study on the environmental effects of the proposal were described as woefully incomplete. How can the panel review the science behind the plan, asked Denise Reed of the University of New Orleans, [...]

Go With The Flow

Go With The FlowZeke GraderPacif Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, Executive DirectorSF Gate, Read Online A few years ago, a fresh effort to deal with the state’s perennial water problem was announced. Candidly, it hardly infused salmon fishermen and seafood consumers with starry-eyed optimism. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan was hailed by the Schwarzenegger administration and its legislative allies as a process that would pursue “co-equal” goals of Bay/Delta restoration and water delivery reliability. But as BDCP proceeded, it soon became obvious that the San Joaquin’s corporate farmers held all the aces, notwithstanding their junior water rights status. There was nothing “co-equal” about it: the basic plan calls for construction of two massive 33-foot diameter tunnels big enough to suck [...]

Lost In the Valley of Excess

California’s wealthiest growers, poorest workers, and the water between them…By John GiblerEarth Island JournalRead OnlineA newcomer arriving into California’s San Joaquin Valley – the most lucrative and industrialized agricultural region in the United States – might think that the entire place is burning. On the horizon in all directions the brown hue of the air suggests a distant fire. As the traveler advances along, say, Highway 99, the fire appears to peel away, a deep stain floating off in the distance, as if forever clinging to the edges of the sky. Upon moving farther in, one slowly realizes that the blaze does not recede. The traveler does not move toward the fire, but within it.The arid San Joaquin Valley has [...]

Where’s the beef?

After 4 years and $140 million, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is going to release some kind of document this week, but it won’t answer the central question of the exercise: how do exporters plan to get the amount of water they want while giving fish and habitat the water they need? On Tuesday, the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife held an oversight hearing on the status of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.  In his introductory remarks, Chair Jared Huffman noted that reducing dependence on Delta exports is now codified in law. But almost from the start, there was disagreement about what that means. Laura King Moon, Assistant General Manager of the State Water Contractors, suggested that for [...]