Playing the numbers

Dr. David Sunding and the Brattle Group did a good job of producing what they are being paid to produce: an economic justification for exporters to pay for BDCP and Delta conveyance. 

To do that, the Brattle Group had to ignore the economic effects of this project on the rest of California, including the Delta.  (Stockton attorney George Hartmann observed that leaving the rest of the state out of an economic analysis of BDCP is “like marrying yourself.”)

Among the assumptions behind this analysis:

  • The level of exports will continue in the range exporters have been getting – somewhere between 4.9 maf and 5.3 maf per year on average. 
  • Current construction trends in arid portions of Southern California, on cheaper land with bigger lots, will continue, and people there will keep putting in lawns and golf courses.

If science calls for reduced flows, or if demand in Southern California changes (in response to higher water rates, for example), presumably the Brattle Group could adjust their model.

Although Sunding left economic costs to the Delta out of his analysis, the analysis took credit for recreational benefits in the Delta resulting from habitat restoration and “a more attractive Delta.”  This, he said, was worth $12 billion to the people of California.

His analysis also took credit for reduction of earthquake risk to water supply, partly by overstating the risk; partly by omitting seismic risk to transfer infrastructure outside the Delta; and partly by ignoring the costs to lives and infrastructure in the Delta if the state invests in tunnels and ignores Delta levees. 

Bob Wright of Friends of the River speculated about how much it would cost (maybe a couple of million?) to get an analysis like this that included everybody affected by the BDCP/tunnel project.  Unfortunately, there’s no one to pay for that, now that the legislature has refused to move ahead with Assemblymember Berryhill’s bill calling for a cost-benefit analysis.

We do have Dr. Jeffrey Michael’s report (which Sunding referred to as a “little 10-pager”) showing a cost of $2.50 for every $1 of benefit.  That’s what you get when you look at the bigger picture.

Related Posts