Out on a limb in Santa Clara County

We’re used to MWD and Westlands being dismissive of Delta communities. For another example of regional chauvinism, let us turn our attention in a direction we usually don’t consider: west, toward the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which was a member of the BDCP steering committee.

On May 10, the SCVWD’s board will get its own briefing on Delta issues and the BDCP, along with a PowerPoint similar to MDD’s (but without the photos of the massive dredgers and tunnel borers).

Santa Clara County relies on water from the Delta for 40 percent of its annual water needs. Part of this comes from the State Water Project, part from the Central Valley Project. The County gets another 15 percent of its water from the San Francisco PUC’s Hetch Hetchy diversion upstream of the Delta.

That’s a lot of imported water to “protect, maintain, and develop.”

The memo to the SCVWD board describes the Delta in the misleading way that we can all recite by heart: hub of water supply, drinking water to 25 million Californians, subsided islands, fragile levees, and so on. In its discussion of the BDCP, the memo to the SCVWD board describes the proposed new Delta conveyance facility as “conservation measure.”

Says the memo, “The California Resources Agency and U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) are now considering how best to continue to incorporate stakeholder and public involvement in the process.” Their answer: “As a first step in revising engagement, the BDCP Management Team was recently expanded to include more representation from fishery agencies and water contractors, as well as an environmental representative.” (That must be Saracino from the reliably compliant Nature Conservancy.)

That’s an odd idea of public involvement in the process. But it indicates how far Interior is from embracing all the stakeholders involved.

So far planning costs to SCVWD have involved shares based on their use of State Water Project and Central Valley Project water. Interestingly, a large percentage of CVP deliveries in the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority (SL&DMWA) go to wildlife refuges and the San Joaquin River water rights contractors. Refuges don’t pay planning costs, and the exchange contractors pay at a reduced rate. So the Bureau of Reclamation has been using federal appropriations to help cover those cost shares.

That makes federal taxpayers “beneficiaries,” doesn’t it?

But all may not be well with funding. “Several smaller agricultural water service contractors within the SL&DMWA have expressed interest in stepping out of the next stage of funding, and the Activity Agreement within the SL&DMWA is currently being amended to allow this. Staff has estimated the potential shift in costs, and believes that as long as the largest contractor (Westlands Water District) remains committed to funding Delta Planning costs, the District’s share of funding . . . should remain within 10 percent of total SL&DMWA funding.” Which is all the District board agreed to.

Westlands walked out of the BDCP process last fall when it appeared that they wouldn’t be guaranteed the level of export reliability they wanted. They seem to be back onboard and happy again. They must have gotten some pretty good assurances from the state and the feds.

A coalition of organizations impacted by diversions from the Delta is asking Deputy Secretary Hayes to direct Interior Department agencies to revise the Notice of Intent (NOI) for the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan so that it is consistent with currently acknowledged actual water supplies available rather than promising “up to full contract deliveries.” Click the link: Coalition LTR to read the letter.

But when it comes to ignoring water supply realities and paying lip service to public involvement, the Brown and Obama administrations look a lot like the Schwarzenegger and Bush administrations. Or in the words of The Who, “Meet the new boss; same as the old boss….”

Related Posts