An inland sea is not an option

Among other charges to the DSC in developing the Delta Plan is the charge to “Protect and enhance the unique cultural, recreational, and agricultural values of the California Delta as an evolving place.”  Much will depend on definitions of “evolving,” but as Machado told the DSC, we can’t single out some portions of the Delta to be protected, because that could threaten the survivability of the whole.

Panelist Gil Cosio of MBK Engineers reminded the DSC of the section of the Water Code stating that “the physical characteristics of the delta should be preserved in their present form. . . .  [The] key to preserving the delta’s physical characteristics is the system of levees defining the waterways and producing adjacent islands.”  While noting that alleviating ALL risk in he Delta would be too expensive, Cosio laid out a plan for levees that would reduce risk and increase habitat values.

Panelist Dave Mraz, Chief Engineer of the Delta-Suisun Marsh Branch of DWR, prefaced his comments to the DSC by saying that he was not necessarily expressing the views of DWR before agreeing that levees do define the Delta.  The levee system, he said, is the key to achieving the Council’s co-equal goals and preserving the Delta as an evolving place.

In an interesting step outside the box, Mrax noted that constructing polders like those used in Holland could reduce the total number of levee miles and make possible the implementation of seismic resistant levees.

Panelists generally agreed that any level of protection is theoretically possible, but choices will have to be made because, as DSC Chair Isenberg noted, “Stable funding doesn’t exist.”

Restore the Delta is finishing up a report on the first day of last week’s DSC meeting, which included panels on 1) Protecting, Restoring, and Enhancing the Delta Ecosystem and 2) Providing a More Reliable Water Supply for California.  Watch for that report by Brett Baker later this week.

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