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Crashing the Principals’ Office

By Brett Baker Over the past several weeks, the media has reported on “secret meetings” being held behind closed doors to set the course for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.  Resources Agency Director Lester Snow went before the DSC last week to refute the reports of “secret meetings” saying they were due to insufficient fact checking on the part of reporters and news media. On the morning of September 30th, 2010, a BDCP principals meeting was convened at the California Farm Bureau Federation off of Garden Highway in Sacramento. Those on the invite list included BDCP steering committee members who were only privy to the discussion, but not allowed to speak.  (Melinda Terry of the North Delta Water Agency- the [...]

Called into the Principals’ Office: The Not-So-Superintendent

Lester Snow may have been kicked upstairs from DWR Director to Resources Agency Secretary partly to ensure delivery of the Bay Delta Consesrvation Plan.  The Administration may have been thinking that potentially regulated entities (PREs) around the BDCP table were losing focus and Snow would be the one to get folks back on track and encourage compromise.  Unfortunately, last month the table was moved to a back room, and people from the Delta weren’t given a key to get in. Delta legislators complained in a formal letter to Snow and the Department of the Interior, but the Schwarzenegger Administration is showing itself to be increasingly contemptuous of California’s elected representatives. At the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) meeting on September 23, [...]

They had to pay someone to tell them this…

DSC independent consultant ARCADIS released a report that bashed BDCP’s progress and lack of significant findings, and the lack of willingness and/or ability to ask the right questions. A notable weakness is the vagueness surrounding proposed operational criteria and conservation measures.  RTD reported on this last month (August 25) in our “Haste makes waste, again” article. The DSC briefly discussed the ARCADIS report, and we can only hope that they give it  the attention it warrants. If the folks running BDCP had listened to and addressed the issues and concerns we have heard continually brought up at public scoping meetings and community outreach meetings, maybe the council could have saved itself the ARCADIS consulting fee.

Technically speaking

There was a good bit of discussion regarding the DSC’s adoption of a Delta Plan, the folding in of BDCP, and how an appeal should be handled if someone takes issue with the Plan. Greg Zlotnik (State Water Contractors) requested some clarification from the Council on the necessity of BDCP in a Delta Plan. Isenberg reminded Zlotnik that “necessity” was not the critical point; the critical point was whether the BDCP would remain eligible for state funding.  (It is easy to forget that taxpayers are funding this process on which the State of California has now spent over $100 million.) Isenberg:  “That is why you are here.” Zlotnick: “No, it isn’t.” Isenberg: “Trust me, that IS why you are here.” [...]

Delta and Fishing Activists Disrupt Secret Delta Meetings

A Thursday morning meeting of Bay Delta Conservation Plan principals was disrupted by a fisherman, two environmentalists, and a Delta farmer protesting the closed process. The Department of Water Resources has told legislators that they’re not welcome at meetings of signatories to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the plan that state water exporters have undertaken to secure their water supplies. The meetings have been going forward behind closed doors since August in what Resources Secretary Lester Snow told lawmakers was “a key procedural component of the public BDCP Steering Committee process.”  Showing up this morning at the meeting convened at the California Farm Bureau Federation in Sacramento were Dan Bacher, fisheries activist, researcher, and editor of The Fish Sniffer; Bill [...]

Inquiring Congress members want to know . . .

Westlands Water District got a letter from Congress members George Miller, John Garamendi, Grace F. Napolitano, and Mike Thompson. “We read with great interest,” they write, “that the Westlands Water District has more water at San Luis Reservoir than it can use this year, and is contemplating an exchange with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. . . . [This] announcement of “extra” federal water delivered to Westlands will come as a surprise to anyone who has seen Westlands’ political advocacy, press releases, and court filings over the course of this year.” The Congress members have nine questions for Westlands, including a question about why the district isn’t using any “extra” water to replenish the groundwater it says is [...]

Resuscitating the California Water Commission

The California Water Commission (CWC) is one of those State boards and commissions that could have sunsetted ten years ago and hardly anyone would have noticed. But it’s back, thanks to the 2009 Comprehensive Water Package.  The Legislation gave the CWC some responsibilities with respect to the water infrastructure envisioned by the water bond. The commissioners have been selected (see Dan Bacher’s article on the subject from last May http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/05/14/18647925.php), and six of the nine met for the first time on September 28.  (Two have appointments that are not yet in effect.)  Anthony Saracino (director of the California Water Program at the Nature Conservancy) chaired the proceedings.  Joe Del Bosque (member of AgSafe, California Farm Bureau, California Latino Water Coalition [...]

Big proposals from the Little Hoover Commission

The most interesting briefing came from Stuart Drown, executive director of the Little Hoover Commission.  The subject was the Little Hoover Commission’s August 2010 report, “Managing for Change: Modernizing California’s Water Governance.” This is a report that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, which is surprising given what it recommends:  separating the State Water Project from DWR.  An independent, publicly-owned California Water Authority would operate the SWP and eventually merge it with the Central Valley Project. A new Department of Water Management would be created within the Natural Resources Agency. This Department would collect and monitor data on water use; manage supply and demand (with input from the Department of Fish and Game); administer and enforce water rights; implement the [...]

Drawing lines in the sand

Under the terms of last year’s legislation, the Delta Protection Commission (DPC) has until July 2011 to come up with an Economic Sustainability Plan for the Delta. The DPC has completed five community meetings to gather public input on the creation of the Sustainability Plan “framework” for the Delta.  The DPC held meetings in Courtland, Discovery Bay, Rio Vista, West Lodi/North Stockton, and Antioch. This was the first of a series of community meetings on the ESP, and attendance could have been better.  The commission knows they need more outreach, but like everything else related to governance under the Delta Reform Act, this process is on a tight schedule. Among the issues raised: You can’t talk about economic sustainability without [...]

What would a Delta National Heritage Area look like?

On October 6, the DPC will hold Public Meeting #2 of its Feasibility Study for  a National Heritage Area (NHA) in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  The meeting will include small group discussion on potential interpretive themes for a Delta NHA. The meeting will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at D. H. White Elementary School, 500 Elm Way, Rio Vista. There is also breaking news of a new bill introduced by Senator Feinstein in regard to the creation of the NHA designation.  Restore the Delta will keep you posted in the weeks to come.