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Another detour around the BDCP process

The Sacramento Bee’s Matt Weiser announced that State officials have reached an agreement that will provide an estimated $188 million over 10 years to restore habitat for imperiled fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Click here for article. DWR and DFG will undertake certain restoration activities to satisfy state and federal environmental laws. State water contractors will pay for those projects. Weiser writes that, “In the agreement, finalized last week, DWR also commits to restoring a total of 8,000 acres of habitat for fish including salmon, sturgeon, Delta smelt and Sacramento splittail. This may involve acquiring additional Delta properties.” “The deal is intended to satisfy state and federal endangered species acts, as well as the terms of a forthcoming Bay [...]

Highlights of the October meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council

The Delta Stewardship Council met October 28-29 with a full agenda and a weighty packet of supporting documents.  Following are some highlights. According to an Agreement Listing provided in the meeting packet, Ongoing grants for the Delta Science Program (with start dates ranging from 2005 to 2010 and end dates ranging from 2010 to 2012) total over $14 million. Delta Science Program contracts total over $9 million more, including $50,000 each to the nine Delta Science Board members for 15-month contracts. Executive Office contracts account for almost $3 million more, with $1.5 million for legal services alone (in a contract with the Department of Justice). These costs are offset by Receivables from agencies including the Bureau of Reclamation, the USGS, [...]

How to implement that BDCP, but not what to implement

The DSC worked through lunch to hear from Richard Roos-Collins about an item that wasn’t even on the original agenda: the proposed plan for implementing the BDCP.  This involves a BDCP Implementation Office (IO).  Thus yet another layer of Delta governance was slipped in while most of the audience was out to lunch. The BDCP appears to be on schedule to release a public viewing draft on November 18, according to ARCADIS, the independent consultant brought on by the DSC to report on the BDCP.  A draft for public review including the draft EIR/EIS is scheduled for release in spring or early summer of 2011. ARCADIS insists that just because their matrix lists unresolved issues, that doesn’t mean that the [...]

Science tries not to trip on policy

The DSC heard from Dr. Richard Norgaard, the new Delta Independent Science Board Chair.  Dr. Norgaard showed an inclination to be . . . well, independent.  He told the DSC that the charge to the Board is immense and expressed concern with the time frame for reviewing White Papers.  He commented on the conflict with the BDCP process and declined to rank stressors. DSC Chair Isenberg told him that the DSC will push the Science Board, and Norgaard agreed that the DSC could make unreasonable demands but implied that they wouldn’t necessarily be met. The DSC heard presentations on White Papers on the Delta Ecosystem and Delta Flood Risk.  They also received a Preliminary Notice of Preparation (NOP), the first [...]

Land grab in the works

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has been observing the arrogance of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s Potentially Regulated Entities (PREs) that they don’t intend to acquire land for habitat restoration using willing sellers. Restore the Delta has learned that the BDCP is looking at eminent domain as the process to achieve habitat goals.

They’d have trouble paying for what they want to take

Back in March of 2009, the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority issued revenue notes to fund the Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Program (DHCCP) Development Project.  The DHCCP is the entity that is supposed to assess potential habitat restoration and water conveyance options for the BDCP and conduct an environmental review. Fitch Ratings, a global rating agency that evaluates and rates agencies that issue bonds, said this about the March 2009 bond issue:  “Financial strength is derived from the obligor’s, the Westlands Water District (WWD, or the district), credit quality (revenue bonds rated ‘A’ by Fitch Ratings), based on satisfactory historical financial operations and high commodity value.” Fitch Ratings also said, “The value of the WWD’s entitlement to a [...]

Not good for your investment portfolio

Last week, the New York Times reported on a new study warning of the risk of municipal bonds that finance water supply. The study is one of the first to assess the potential impact of water shortages on the municipal bond market. (Read the NY Times report click here) According to the study, credit ratings do not adequately reflect the growing risks of water shortages and legal battles over water supplies. When the risks become apparent, investors may see bond values drop. And water and electric utilities may find it more expensive to raise money. The Times article (“Water Scarcity a Bond Risk, Study Warns”) says, “Among the seven cities and agencies examined in the report, Los Angeles and Atlanta [...]

So here’s where things stand

So export water contractors plan to seize Delta land to create a combination of habitat and infrastructure so complicated that they can’t even figure out how to describe it in a proper public project description. Their plan to pay for this hodgepodge includes issuing bonds based on a degree of water supply availability and stability that no amount of infrastructure can possibly guarantee. And they’re going to try to persuade their ratepayers to pay for the bonds and bond investors to accept the risk. The greater the risk, the higher the returns to investors, and the higher the cost to ratepayers. These are the kinds of fantasies that brought us the savings and loan debacle, Enron, the foreclosure crisis, and [...]

On the bright side, more Bass Tournament thank-yous, and some congratulations

Restore the Delta thanks the following sponsors who helped with the Bass Tournament benefit on October 17: • BlackDog Baits • Mel Cotton’s Sporting Goods of San Jose • Snagproof Lures • The Fly Shop in Redding • Lamiglass • Mike Keopke/Pure Fishing • Simms(John Sherman) • Dan Blanton • Roger Stegal (ABA TD scales) • John Rohmer • Quantum Fishing • Marty Martinez (sound system) • Russo’s Marina and staff And the winners: • Kickboater/Float Tube Division – Scott Rouhier……3.fish..4.73 lbs. • Fly Division – Geg Holland/Matt Green…………5..fish ..6.43 lbs. • Standard Gear Division – Dan & Travis Fontes…………….5.fish…11.26 lbs. A huge thank you to all 35 entrants in this tournament to help us boost awareness of the threats [...]

Never mind the NHA. Keep your eye on the Department of Interior.

We now know something about what has been going on the BDCP Principals’ meetings, (which were not “secret” but which anybody present had to promise not to talk about).We reported on October 10 that Lester Snow has said that decision-making about the BDCP would take place in public meetings. Forget that.Last week Interior Secretary Salazar met with the State and the Principals.  His deputy, David Hayes, said that Delta conveyance is necessary and that “short term” protections and restoration of the Delta should be weakened.   We shouldn’t be surprised at this position, considering that Hayes was formerly an attorney with a firm that represented the Metropolitan Water District.  Before that, he was one of the architects of the failed Cal Fed [...]