Science can be such a nuisance

The Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) met March 29-30. During Executive Director Joe Grindstaff’s report, there was a discussion of the continuing review of comments and responses to the Delta Pan and its EIR. Grindstaff opined that the prospective changes in the 6th Draft of the Delta Plan will necessitate recirculation of the EIR. (So we should all start gearing up for that.)

The Lead Scientist reported on recent scientific articles appearing in DSC-sponsored publications. He noted that one of the new studies reports that newly constructed tidal marshes in the Delta encourage growth of submerged vegetation types which harbor harmful invasive species, thus casting doubt on the efficacy of converting ag land to tidal marsh. Recall that the BDCP is relying upon creation of  60,000-80,000 acres of new tidal marsh to overcome the impacts of fresh water diversions out of the North Delta.

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is proposing to review the 2006 Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay/Delta. At the DSC meeting, there was a heated exchange involving the authors of a letter addressed to the DSC from the AG-Urban Coalition over a proposed response to the SWRCB’s review. The DSC staff asks the Council to recommend that the review consider flow needs, including “a more natural regime for flows, salinity and sediment,” a subject which has been highlighted in virtually every recent scientific review of the health factors affecting the Bay/Delta Estuary.

This looks like a “preview of coming attractions” for the SWRCB’s review, as the Water Board finally seems intent upon trying to understand the Bay/Delta’s needs for its natural water supply. This could lead to a conclusion as to how much water might be available for export in different year types. (Not as much as exporters want.)

(What the DSC’s enabling legislation could have required is that the Delta Plan protect public trust resources of the Bay-Delta estuary and create water supply reliability. But instead of requiring protection of public trust resources, the goal is to ‘restore the Delta ecosystem.’ One of our readers comments of DSC chair Phil Isenberg “You have to wonder whether he has in mind providing Delta through-flows determined by the SWRCB to be necessary to protect public trust resources like salmon – or spending $1 billion on a Nature Conservancy-led land-buying/swamp-making ‘restoration’ spree.”)

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