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The Water Board will be playing “Gotcha!”

The 2009 Comprehensive Water Package created new requirements for water users to monitor and report diversions.  Beginning in January 2012, users are supposed to keep monthly records of water diversions.  Delta water users are a prime target of this requirement, but it’s hard to see how the monitoring and reporting will yield useful information in the Delta. That’s because in the Delta, much of the diverted water that is not consumed by crop growth returns to Delta channels as runoff or percolates into the ground and returns to channels as seepage.  In some cases, Delta reclamation districts pump irrigation water back into communal channels at their own expense, and it is available for additional use in the Delta.  The 2009 [...]

Let’s all be reasonable

In addition to creating new monitoring and reporting requirements, the 2009 Water Package also created a Delta Watermaster.  Watermaster Craig Wilson will be presenting a report on “The Reasonable Use Doctrine and Agricultural Water Use Efficiency” to the Delta Stewardship Council next week. The report’s premise is that inefficient use of water is unreasonable use under the Reasonable and Beneficial Use Doctrine.  This report focuses on agriculture because “small changes in agricultural water use efficiency can produce significant amounts of ‘wet’ water and California’s agricultural sector, which has tested and proven many conservation practices, is in a position to identify economically justified and locally cost effective water management techniques that retain the value of return flows to both downstream users [...]

Ready. Fire. Aim.

On Jan 12th and 13th the Delta Independent Science Board (ISB) hosted a Delta Stressors Workshop.  According to the posted agenda, “The goal for January 12 is to identify alternative classifications of stressors and ways of evaluating their relative importance, especially considering interactions of multiple stressors. The goal for January 13 is to begin preparation of a synthesis report intended to assist the California Senate, Assembly and the Council in identifying approaches for addressing multiple Delta stressors.” Some members of the Board questioned the applicability or usefulness of the document they had been charged with producing. Many balked at the directive, saying that they lacked a goal, sufficient direction, or ways to measure the effectiveness of their product. Several board [...]

Tele-scoped, micro-scoped, sigmoido-scoped

This is a month for scoping. Last week the Bureau of Reclamation did scoping meetings in three Central Valley regions for the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority’s long term water transfer from Northern California to the Westside. Long-time observers of Central Valley water grabs, note that conducting this EIS/EIR and establishing such a long term transfer of exports out of the Delta watershed in advance without the environmental reviews regarding the water needed for the ecological health of the Delta is an end run around the process. In addition, salt discharge and pounds of selenium in violation of Clean Water Act standards are being discharged by the Westside into the San Joaquin River and Delta.  Providing more water to [...]

Scoping the Delta Plan

Also this month, the Delta Stewardship Council is holding CEQA scoping meetings on the development of the Delta Plan.   Meetings are scheduled in Sacramento and Clarksburg on January 24 and in Stockton on January 25.  Meetings will also be help in Southern California (Diamond Bar), in Merced, in Concord, and in Chico.  (Yes, the Legislature gave this DSC a very long reach.)   Links to information on these scoping meetings are available at http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/calendar.html

Save the Date

Restore the Delta will be hosting a special Delta wine and art event on February 26, 2011.  Mark your calendars and stay tuned for details next week.

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 [...]