Time Out for the BDCP

We finally have an interim something from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, although it isn’t what the steering committee intended to have at this point: a quick fix for the Delta ecosystem that would let them get all their exports back.

Westlands has thrown a fit and pulled out of the process; the state is making placating noises about building a conveyance (in this economy? with what environmental protections?); and the U.S. Department of the Interior may or may not be on board for the same conveyance, depending on how we read comments from Secretary of the Interior Salazar and Deputy Secretary Hayes.  (This is not a good time for the Obama administration to run afoul of agribusiness, wealthy water districts, or private equity investors looking to make money on water.)

The Five Delta Counties gave Lester Snow some suggestions for improving the BDCP planning process.  They said that the Steering Committee should be “reconstituted as a true stakeholder body with authority to make decisions on the BDCP based on votes of its membership.”

The Counties want full voting membership on that Steering Committee, without any preconditions.  They want to see alternatives to conveyance and an assessment of cost, including costs of mitigation.  They will not be satisfied with just participating in advisory local issues groups.

Corporate environmental organizations that have been at the BDCP table all along wrote to Governor-elect Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to pledge their continued commitment to “working with the state and federal governments towards rapid resolution of the numerous outstanding substantive issues with the BDCP.”

They aren’t asking for alternatives to conveyance; they’re asking for a conveyance facility of “the appropriate size.”  They also suggest that Steering Committee meetings be “professionally and independently facilitated”, with all proceedings “well-documented and publicly available.”

No matter what happens next, the BDCP will be a very different process from the one we’ve come to know and love to hate.

From outside the corporate environmental agenda comes our favorite recommendation about what to do next.  The Environmental Water Caucus wrote to Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes with the following suggestion:

“We encourage you to consider a $4.55 billion buyout of water contracts associated with 1.3 million acres of toxic lands in the Western San Joaquin.  This would reduce contract demand by as much as 3.9 million acre-feet of water.  Based on an average 55% contract rate of delivery, this would reduce demand by over 2 million acre-feet annually.  Many of these lands could go out of production due to salinization anyway.  This is a much better use of taxpayer dollars compared to the $8 billion to $12 billion cost of building Sites and

Temperance Flat reservoirs which would produce less than half a million acre-feet of water annually.  Implementation of our alternative would eliminate the need for a Peripheral Canal or Tunnel proposed by the BDCP, which would cost an estimated $23 to $53.8 billion, according to a study conducted last year by Steven Kasower and Associates.”

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