Five alternatives to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) are being offered to meet California’s water needs without further damaging the Bay-Delta ecosystem, and every one of them is better than BDCP. Restore the Delta maintains that each one of these plans should be studied in full by the BDCP as viable alternatives. The BDCP, however, continues to study “alternatives” to the BDCP that make the BDCP look like the winner that it isn’t.
Restore the Delta maintains that the “Responsible Exports Plan”
by the Environmental Water Caucus, offers a truly comprehensive plan for both the Delta and the state.
To learn more about the EWC Plan, attend the Delta Protection Commission Meeting on May 23rd at 6:15 PM, Courtland Auditorium 146 Primasing Avenue, Courtland, CA.
The Environmental Water Caucus (EWC) is a statewide consortium of groups working to achieve comprehensive, sustainable water management solutions for all of California. Among other measures, the EWC plan would:
Focus on fixing the South Delta pumps which will still be in use with the BDCP and several other alternative plans for the Delta, using known, not experimental technology.
Take only a sustainable yield of water from the Delta based on documented information regarding flow standards from the 1960s to the present 2010 State Water Resources Control Board hearings. Presently, 3 million acre feet is the maximum safe yield amount for exports from the Delta. This is the maximum cap in the EWC Plan.
Allow for habitat in the Delta with sufficient flow. And it does so without weakening Delta communities by keeping habitat on already existing public lands and on wide levees.
Increase flow in the San Joaquin River, reduce reverse flow in Old River, and connect Delta flows to San Francisco Bay to enable salmon to reach the sea and return to spawn.
Improve water quality and quantity for all Delta communities.
Reduce discharges of salt, selenium and boron into the San Joaquin River that impair south and central Delta agriculture.
Not introduce new infrastructure into the heart of the Delta outside of Clifton Court.
Support wide levee standards set in the Delta Protection Commission’s Economic Sustainability Report.
Preserve the “common pool” in the Delta to ensure that Southern California will continue to have a stake in Delta protection.
Call for the largest investment in regional self-sufficiency. $2.7 billion, of all Delta plans in new regional water projects to conserve, recycle and reuse water outside of the Delta. Studies predict that up to a million acre-feet of “new water” can be created for every $1 billion invested in water efficiency programs.
Generates jobs. Economists estimate that investments in water efficiency projects create 10 to 20 jobs per $1 million spent. BDCP estimates that it will only result in 5-7 jobs per $1 million spent.
The anticipated cost for all the strategies the EWC plan proposes works out under $10 billion, with a sustainable yield of Delta exports. And it would provide south-of-Delta with about a million acre feet of more water than what is presently being exported.
From this starting point, the State can then contribute additional funds to construct new water efficiency projects to create “new water” as it sees fit in its budget.
And because the proposed water supply strategies are local and regional, the State won’t need to spend up to $55 billion over the next half century on a piece of infrastructure that will turn North Delta agricultural land into an industrial eyesore and be useless in a series of drought years.
3 million acre feet??? Really???
Limiting exports from the Delta to 3 MAF a year is based on water realities. Even in 1960, the men planning the State Water Project knew that was all they could reliably get out of the Delta.
A graph in Bulletin No. 76,
Delta Water Facilities
(1960), shows that any demand over 3 MAF a year would have to be met from sources that were never developed.
“Full demands on the State Water Resources Development system can be met until about 1981 from surplus water in and tributary to the Delta with regulation by the proposed Oroville and San Luis Reservoirs,” planners wrote in Bulletin No. 76. “However, upstream depletions will reduce the available surplus supplies and water will have to be imported from north coastal sources after that year.”
They projected a statewide demand of 8 MAF by 2020. That left them with a shortfall of 5 MAF, and they planned to find that by diverting water from north coast rivers. But beginning with the passage of the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1972, those north coast rivers became unavailable for development.
That was the point at which every region of California should have started looking closer to home for additional water to meet local needs.
Instead, agricultural and urban development statewide climbed just as if that extra 5 MAF of water were available. A burgeoning addiction to water transfers was fed by unsustainable allocations from the State Water Resources Control Board under pressure from the state and federal water contractors.
In 1992, the State Water Resources Control Board found that Delta pumping in wet years should not exceed 2.65 MAF in order to provide the necessary outflows to protect fish and the Bay-Delta and Estuary ecosystems. And in fact, as exports from the Delta rose above 2.5 MAF a year, the health of multiple species of fish declined.
Those planners 50 years ago were right: 3 MAF a year is the maximum that should be taken from the Delta.
Three MAF is still the number to aim for, and we don’t need any conveyance to get it. Certainly not the 9,000 cubic foot per second (cfs) proposed by the thirsty state and federal water contractors. But not a 3,000 cfs conveyance facility, either, offered as a compromise but still taking additional water the system can’t spare. And not a facility to take water from any other part of the Delta.
The three MAF a year average can be taken most years using existing through-Delta conveyance. If the water isn’t available, it’s because California is having one of its periodic droughts, and then everyone in the state has to pull together to cut consumption.
But what about our urban neighbors?
Smart urban water agencies haven’t been waiting for transfer supplies to dry up before they started planning for local alternatives.
The prime example is Orange County, which has been relying on recycled water for years.
Senator John Garamendi has pointed out that the fifth biggest river on the west coast of the Western hemisphere is the water that flows out of the sanitation plants in southern California and is dumped into the Pacific Ocean.
Last month, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announced publication of a plan by five Southern California water agencies to reduce their dependence on water from the Bay Delta and the Colorado River.
According to NRDC, “The top five agencies, the City of Santa Monica, the City of Camarillo, Ventura County Water District No. 1, the Long Beach Water Department and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, are collectively cutting water imports by 40 billion gallons per year by 2035, which is more than the annual water use of Sacramento.”
“They will achieve these reductions through proven and more sustainable techniques such as urban rainwater and stormwater harvesting, better groundwater management, and water conservation, recycling and efficiency.”
The path California must take
The 2009 Delta Reform legislation recognized that a sustainable water future for the whole state depends on reducing reliance on the Delta. NO conveyance will lead to that result. Not the Peripheral Tunnels. Not a smaller tunnel. Not a tunnel in a different part of the Delta.
Every process investing time and resources in new infrastructure to move unpredictable water supplies simply delays the inevitable day when Mother Nature says “No more” to California’s addiction to water transfers. We can plan for this future, or we can go cold turkey, ready or not, with empty tunnels becoming a stranded asset.
PPIC says something we can agree with
Check out Table 2 on page 14 of the most recent report from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) (“Stress Relief: Prescriptions for a Healthier Delta Ecosystem”). It shows the results of a survey of scientists and stakeholders on options to improve the Delta ecosystem.
Options with the highest scientific consensus and the highest potential impact:
Expand seasonal floodplains
Improve upstream habitat
Restore tidal marsh
Remove selected dams
Introduce more variable flows
And at the other extreme, the option with low scientific consensus, low potential [positive] impact, and high cost:
Divert exports via tunnel
UOP economist Dr. Jeff Michael notes, not for the first time, that the Endangered Species Act does not require the Peripheral Tunnels and that the State should be developing strong no-tunnel options for the BDCP.
(But of course, tunnels is what the BDCP is really about.)
Institutional voices heard, other voices silenced
The Senate Natural Resources Committee and the Select Committee on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta had a joint information hearing on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan this week, but of course they didn’t want to hear the perspectives of too many in-Delta interests that think the plan is a bad idea. Roger Patterson of the Metropolitan Water District; David Guy of the Northern California Water Association; Greg Gartrell of Contra Costa Water District; Jason Peltier of Westlands Water District; Don Nottoli of Sacramento County; Doug Obegi of the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Brent Walthall of Kern County Water Agency all got plenty of time to testify. Everyone else with comments to make got a strictly-enforced two minutes each.
Melinda Terry of the North Delta Water Agency (NDWA) says she saw no genuine interest – and in fact, no respect – from legislators regarding what critics of BDCP had to say. There was no opportunity for panelists to respond to issues raised in public comment.
Terry was able to point out in her comments that the BDCP Plan and EIR/EIS indicate all protections in the NDWA 1981 Contract will be triggered: increase in salinity, seepage and erosion damage, and lowering water surface elevations in the Sacramento River by 3-feet, as well as lowering the groundwater, which will harm Delta farming water diversion intakes and residences as their drinking water supply comes from water wells.
However, there’s no way for NDWA to determine the severity of the detrimental impacts because both the Plan and the EIR/EIS lack specific details regarding location, size, duration and intensity of any of these impacts, and the BDCP doesn’t provide any venue for meaningful discussion of these issues.
Terry also raised a couple of flood management issues on behalf of the California Central Valley Flood Control Association (CCVFCA), which she also represents:
The EIR/EIS transportation chapter analyzed traffic volume and road surface conditions (pavement), but did NOT analyze the degradation of levees underneath the pavement with heavy construction trucks running 24/7 for 10-year construction period;
With five county habitat conservation plans (HCPs) and the large regional BDCP HCP, there is very little habitat land left for the locals such as a reclamation districts to use when mitigating for levee improvement projects.
In addition to the BDCP Governance issues that Supervisor Notolli raised, Terry notes that the BDCP fails to provide adequate oversight and management of the mitigation measures to make sure they are done properly and are in fact working to mitigate the impacts during the 10-year construction. Plus, the mitigations in the EIR/EIS are completely inadequate.
Added Osha Meserve of Local Agencies of the North Delta (LAND),”With respect to the massive impacts on local Delta communities from the BDCP described by Ms. Terry, our concern is that these impacts will not be justified because the Plan will not actually provide the promised biological benefits.” It isn’t going to help fish.
Scary BDCP stats
Pile driving – there are about 1,000 steel piles that have to be hammered into the ground/river: 30 piles per day (8-12 per intake) with 700 strikes per day for each pile. So, 30 X 700 = 21,000 strikes per day of a pile driver which will sound like a bomb going off with each strike. (BDCP Chap 5, page 5.3-3) Terry notes that she didn’t see anything in the Plan or EIR/EIS about how long it takes or how many total strikes it takes to hammer the pile into the ground. So for instance, if it takes 35,000 strikes for each pile, then each will take five days to install, so the math even looks uglier if takes multiple days: 35,000 (700 strikes per day for five days) X 1,000 (total # of piles) = 35 million total strikes for all of the piles. Says Terry, “How are humans, terrestrial wildlife or avian species supposed to survive such a deafening assault? I’ve lived next to pile driving before and it will drive you stark raving mad.”
Muck – 7,000 cubic yards per day hauled by trucks 24 hours a day seven days a week because the boring machine runs 24/7, for a grand total of 25 million cubic yards of muck being removed and then stored in 25 foot high 100-570 acre (total of 1,595 acres) muck storage areas. The 9,000 cfs tunnel (Alt 4) increases muck production 41% from the 15,000 cfs (Alt 1A) because the tunnel sizes had to be increased due to gravity feed. Muck contains soil conditioning agents: bentonite, foaming agents and/or polymers/biopolymers. (BDCP Chap 5, page 5.33) Suggests Terry, “MAYBE THE NEW DELTA SLOGAN SHOULD BE: MUCK OFF!”
Concrete Batch Plants/Fuel Stations/Pre-cast Segment Plants – 5 concrete batch plants with adjacent fuel stations in south Sacramento County, each between 2-40 acres in size, and 6 precast segment plants with two in south Sacramento County and four in San Joaquin County. Total of 22 million cubic yards of concrete to be used.
This is definitely a project from Hell.