Going through the motions, reluctantly

Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) chair Phil Isenberg never hesitates to work himself and everybody else through lunch. His plan for last week’s DSC meeting was to work right through to 6:30 on Thursday – two hours beyond the scheduled adjournment – so that no one had to come back on Friday. He got special permission from West Sacramento City Hall.

Besides Isenberg, Council members Nottoli, Johnston, and Gray were present. Council members Fiorini, Nordhoff, and Marcus were absent.

On the agenda were reports on the Draft Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, the Levees Program, and the Delta Protection Commission’s Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP). It was mid-afternoon before the Council got to the ESP and presentations by Delta Protection Commission Executive Director Mike Machado and ESP authors, economist Dr. Jeffrey Michael and engineer Robert Pyke.

The ESP includes 38 Recommended Strategies and Actions for Economic Sustainability, and DSC staff took issue with some of them. There was discussion; there were public comments. Time marched on.

Council members Johnston and Nottoli (both representing the Delta region) advised against hurrying through. Anyone who had made other plans for Thursday evening missed part of the discussion, and everyone was back Friday morning, as originally planned.

Among recommendations staff thinks are inconsistent with the Delta Plan:

  • Economic impacts of habitat creation and development of facilities for export water supply should be fully mitigated. Isenberg appears to think this will set a bad precedent for other projects elsewhere.
  • Maintain and enhance the value of Delta agriculture. Staff thinks this is inconsistent with preservation of the Delta as an evolving place.

Staff identified several Recommendations for Habitat and Ecosystem Improvement as either inconsistent with the Delta Plan or premature, since they relate to something the BDCP might do. Council member Johnston told a community group in Stockton last week that he is just as glad that the BDCP wasn’t completed in time to be part of the Delta Plan. He wants to talk about land use, and he doesn’t think that economic sustainability trumps the coequal goals. Other council members also seem inclined to pretend that BDCP’s massive conveyance proposal isn’t there.

Central Delta attorney Tom Zuckerman was impatient with quibbles about protecting the economic sustainability of Delta agriculture. In public comments, he noted that the whole point of the BDCP is to protect agriculture in Westlands. “If we’re going to spend billions figuring out how to move all that water,” he said, “why not protect Delta agriculture?”

Staff requested that Delta Protection Commission representatives meet with them to discuss the ESP – something that should have happened before staff wrote their initial report. There was no time because of the rule that things have to be noticed 10 days in advance of a DSC meeting.

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