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Delta water users dismiss call for steep cutbacks

By Mike Taugher Contra Costa Times SACRAMENTO — A powerful state board on Tuesday for the first time adopted criteria defining how much water must flow through the Delta to the Bay to maintain a healthy ecosystem. The criteria, while nonbinding, are based on findings that showed the state’s farms and cities are using far too much Delta water, results that could shift how policymakers balance the needs of the environment and the state’s farms and cities. “This is something that some of us have been awaiting for more than two decades,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of a trade group for commercial salmon fishermen, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. Grader and several environmentalists said the report’s central [...]

Delta’s bounty is a shared treasure – except when greed cuts ahead in line

By Brett Baker The Sacramento Bee My family has been farming in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta since 1851. The Sierra’s Gold Rush lured my ancestors to California – but the Delta made them stay. Gold played out in a few years, but the resources of the Delta have sustained our region of the state for over 150 years now. The rich soil and the reliable flows of fresh, sweet water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers yielded a bounty of crops that brought prosperity to the region’s farmers and fed Sacramento and the cities of the Bay Area. We’re still at it today. I represent the sixth generation of my family to farm the land on Sutter Island [...]

Hollywood Stars Come Together Against Proposition 18

SACRAMENTO – The No on 18 Campaign today announced its release of a public service announcement against Proposition 18, the $11.14 billion pork-laden water bond that remains on this November’s ballot. The PSA features such actors as David DeLuise, from “Wizards of Waverly Place” and son of Dom DeLuise; Justine Bateman, from “Family Ties,” “Californication” and “Desperate Housewives;” Kelly Williams, from “Lie to Me,” “The Practice” and “Scrubs”; Anna Belknap, from “CSI: NY.” The 60-second spot points out the bond will cost Californians $22 billion over the next 30 years in addition to the attempt by the legislators to postpone the measure until 2012. It also calls on voters to contact their local legislator and demand they scrap the bond [...]

“You won’t even know we’re there”

This week a Courtland landowner caught a couple of trespassers in a pick-up full of BDCP maps. After the landowner pressed for identification, one of the trespassers provided a card listing AECOM as his employer. According to its website, AECOM “is a global provider of professional technical and management support services to a broad range of markets, including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, water and government.” Their vision: “to make the world a better place.” We guess that’s why the trespasser was a bit flip in his answers to the landowner, as the landowner was interfering with the trespasser’s quest to make the Delta “a better place.” Watch for AECOM employees at a potential conveyance alignment or intake area near you. [...]

It’s not just the sewage

Ongoing efforts to tie Delta water quality problems to urban discharges continued at the NAS committee briefings last week. Fortunately, there were public comments to supplement the scheduled briefings. Deirdre Des Jardins (see brief bio at the end of this newsletter) gave the committee a bibliography of major studies on the effect of other stressors besides urban discharges. For example, research by the original Pelagic Organism Decline (POD) team shows that both the Corbula clam invasion and toxic algal blooms are associated with low Delta flows. (Corbula amurensis, introduced into the estuary in ships from Asia, filters nutrients out of the water, reducing the food supply for native organisms. An algal bloom is a rapid increase in the population of [...]

Now we know how much water needs to flow

This week, the California Water Resources Control Board released a draft report identifying increased water flows needed to protect fisheries and water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary. According to Mike Taugher of the Bay Area News Group, “The key finding is that of all the snowmelt and rain that falls into the Delta’s watershed, which covers 40 percent of California, about 75 percent of it should be allowed to flow through the Delta into San Francisco Bay.” “Today, only about 50 percent of the flow passes through the Delta on average as nearly all of California taps into its rivers and the Delta itself.” A press release from the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) notes that the report [...]

“A purely theoretical exercise?”

Will the Water Board get it right this time? Mike Taugher quotes Roger Patterson, assistant general manager for the Metropolitan Water District. Meeting the 75 percent target “would obviously devastate water supplies,” Patterson said. He speculates that if pollution, invasive species, and other issues in the Delta are addressed, more water could be taken out. Taugher notes that meeting all of the requirements “would require San Joaquin farms, Southern California and portions of the East and South Bay Area cities that rely on pumps in the southern Delta to cut their Delta water use by one-third in addition to recent cutbacks required by endangered species rules. For other water users upstream, including water utilities that service Oakland and San Francisco, [...]

Introducing Deirdre Des Jardins

Deirdre Des Jardins is currently a policy analyst for environmental and fishing groups. She specializes in finding and synthesizing information from diverse and often highly technical government reports, research, and technical documents into a coherent, understandable framework for policy decisions. She has a background in complex systems theory and computational modeling, and has worked at NASA Ames and Los Alamos National Labs.

Better late than never, maybe

Senator Feinstein’s aides were in the Delta last week getting feedback on the Senator’s bill for a Delta National Heritage Area and a Delta Conservancy. We were glad to have the opportunity to share our concerns, but it all came very late in the process. The Senator plans to introduce the bill this week. There was widespread opposition in the Delta to the conservancy as proposed, and Restore the Delta will not support any version of this bill that includes a conservancy. (While Restore the Delta has always supported a conservancy conceptually, what is proposed in this legislation is the design of a Federal/State/national NGO program to work in tandem with implementation of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Restore the [...]

Been there, done that

It looks like the Delta Stewardship Council is getting ready to try balancing on that two-legged stool. The issue is risk reduction, and the problem is that as soon as you start prioritizing risks, you discover how much of the Delta is neither ecosystem nor export water supply. Last week the DSC invited the public to participate in a Risk Reduction and Coequal Goals Workgroup. (Notice was short, and even some of the consultants didn’t get that notice, but that’s a different story.) The DSC brought to the Workgroup eight questions related to prioritizing levee risks and conducting emergency planning. This was déjà vu all over again for Ron Baldwin, San Joaquin County Director of Emergency Operations. In 2008, the [...]