The NAS Committee meets the BDCP (and other Delta stressors)

In Sacramento on July 13, the NAS Committee on Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta got a briefing on the BDCP and on water quality.

The Committee was asked to review the November 2010 draft of the BDCP and provide a review by mid-2011 to allow permitting by 2012. Their own report is not due until November 2011.

Dan Castleberry of the Fish and Wildlife Service called the BDCP “a very ambitious effort” and told the Committee, “We need all the help we can get.”

Committee members had good questions for the agency officials briefing them on the BDCP. For example, why wasn’t adaptive management successful in earlier efforts such as CalFed, and what will the BDCP strategy be? DWR deputy director Jerry Johns, blamed it on lack of metrics (not knowing what results to expect), and Castleberry said “That’s what we need help with.”

One Committee member questioned the coequal goals and wondered what you do when “you can’t have it all.” According to Johns, that won’t be an issue here because the problem isn’t how much water there is but how it is moving through the estuary. We just need to change the way we divert it. “We’re hopeful,” he said. “We’re Americans. We like to make things happen.”

Question from the committee: Have you exhausted alternatives to engineering to correct a problem caused by engineering? And what about the short time frame for applying methodology to the plan? Johns: Nothing works without better conveyance. And by the time we’re done, we’ll be able to tell you what we did. “It’s kind of like building an airplane in flight.”

Question from the committee: How much does the BDCP talk about conditions west of the statutory Delta? Carl Wilcox (California Department of Fish and Game) admitted that there is a “disconnect”: the BDCP is not focused on the Bay, although flow criteria involve species in the lower estuary.

Question: Is economics being considered? Johns said that the state and federal contractors are spending $150 million on the BDCP planning effort, and they will pay for conveyance if there is adequate benefit for them.

Question: How is the BDCP is considering demand? Johns: The water contractors would like to meet historical levels of supply. (The committee should get more information about historical levels, since these varied considerably from wet to dry years and in many cases exceeded what the Water Code allowed.)

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