Adding national politics to the Delta stew

On September 19, in morning remarks (read here) to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar tied Delta conveyance to the Administration’s jobs plan (which is of course also tied to the 2012 presidential election).

“In Washington, Congress needs to pass the American Jobs Act and put people back to work right now,” said Salazar. And building Delta conveyance, he suggested, will do that.

He recalled the days when the country worked together to build “the infrastructure that was once the envy of the world.” That’s an ironic lead-in to his subject matter: the Klamath River settlement leading to dam removals, the San Joaquin River Restoration Program to restore salmon runs destroyed by Friant Dam, and the environmental collapse in the Delta caused primarily by the state and federal water projects.

Salazar got so many things wrong about the Delta that it’s hard to know where to start.

He said that water agreements that provided certainty and security for Westerners are at risk. Doesn’t he know that in California, too many water agreements are good on paper only, so there is no real certainty or security?

He said that the health of the Delta is inextricably linked to the security of safe and reliable water supplies. Doesn’t he know that the effort to deliver ever-larger water supplies all over California is the main factor destroying the Delta, and that the health of the Delta depends on limiting delivery of supplies elsewhere?

He talked about working with others in Colorado to defeat a water grab there. But in the Q&A session following his address, Salazar said building a new aqueduct around the Delta might increase the flexibility of water operations in such a way that it could lead to more water deliveries. Apparently he doesn’t see any similarity between a water grab in Colorado and a water grab in California.

Salazar tossed in the predictable canards about more than 25 million people relying on the Bay-Delta for clean drinking water (not true) and about the risk of catastrophic levee failure (grossly exaggerated).

And he had nothing but praise for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s “comprehensive approach” to fixing the Delta, noting that for the past two and a half years his department “has committed a vast amount of energy to advancing the BDCP.”

“We have to remain faithful,” said Salazar, “to the open, collaborative and transparent process that brought the Bay Delta stakeholders together in the first place.”

EXCUSE us – what process is that?

To let the Secretary know what you think of his ideas, you can email

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