Fixing things by fiat

As if driven from the Capitol by the prospect of vocal opposition, Governor Brown announced the latest versionresources buildingof the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) at 10:30 on July 25 in a small room in the Resources Agency building, this monument to mid-20th century bureaucracy. Joining Brown for the press briefing were Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Eric Schwaab, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association).

Not all the media people who wanted to be present were allowed into the room, and the ones who did were carefully screened. Altogether, the announcement had a stealthy feeling, although you wouldn’t know that from watching the television news. One member of the media described Brown as defensive and at times hostile with the press.

As expected, the Governor announced a preferred project for two tunnels with three 3,000 cfs intakes and a 15,000 cfs capacity – “a big idea for a big state” and one he thinks is essential to deal with earthquakes and climate change.   Salazar touted it as the best way to deal with reverse flows that kill fish, and Schwaab said that the new framework is an improvement over previous versions of BDCP, which would not have led to restoration of the Delta.

However, when it comes to flows, we’re supposed to trust the system operators to comply with permits regarding the “how much and when” of adequate water for fish.

Salazar said there would need to be “further clarity on financing,” but Brown said that restoration projects under BDCP would probably be the subject of a general obligation bond. In other words, taxpayers will pay for habitat restoration so exporters can get their water.

Neither environmentalists nor export interests were there to support the Governor. No wonder. The plan as now proposed can’t guarantee ecosystem and fish recovery OR guarantee more water for export.  

Brown’s announcement makes official state/federal “joint recommendations” that became available last week. Tucked into notes in that document is a statement making it clear that fisheries agencies (the Permit Oversight Group) will not be able to make changes to the Biological Goals and Objectives unless the exporters (the Authorized Entity Group) agree. So much for BDCP being science-based.

An AP story last week quoted BDCP program manager Karla Nemeth saying, “We decided to embrace scientific uncertainty regarding the facility’s operation, water flows, habitat restoration and the response of fish.” Embrace uncertainty, smother science.

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