Kicking the tires of the BDCP

Phil Isenberg, Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC), reacted to last week’s announcement by Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar with more support than we’d like to see from the chair of a body that will have authority to incorporate the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) into the Delta Plan for the California Delta. (Read his comments here.)

It’s a “big deal,” says Isenberg, that the co-equal goals (water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration) will now be the measure of success for BDCP. But that’s what the 2009 Delta Reform legislation requires the DSC itself to ensure. If the DSC wasn’t going to apply that measure to the BDCP, then who was?

The water export tunnel for this new version of the peripheral canal “just got a lot smaller” says Isenberg. He says the pumping capacity of the underground water pipes has been reduced to 9,000 cfs. Then why was the announcement for two tunnels 33 feet in diameter or larger, just as has been discussed all along, even before the number of intakes was reduced?

Isenberg applauds the declaration that science will guide water operations, saying this “breaks new ground.”   But later, he wonders if the BDCP biological goals and objectives will include new updated Delta water quality flows. He wonders how the BDCP will ensure that “independent, neutral science is involved in both water supply and ecosystem decisions.”

He wonders about investments in “improved regional supplies, conservation, and water use efficiency.” So do we.

He wonders if BDCP will “shift its focus from a species-by-species evaluation under the Endangered Species Act, and move toward restoration of the Delta ecosystem as a whole.” We wonder that to.

He wonders about a secure source of funding for habitat and other conservation measures mostly NOT financed by contractors. So do we.

He wonders how the BDCP will meet its pledge to continue investment in Delta flood protection and Delta communities. So do we.

Isenberg says that “When BDCP is finished, the Delta Stewardship Council will likely review the decision by the Department of Fish and Game that it meets the tests of law. When that happens, I will kick the tires of the BDCP to see if it complies with federal and state law.”

This off-hand acceptance of the idea that things are moving along pretty much as they should is especially disturbing. It reflects how governance under the DSC has from the beginning been a time-consuming and costly rubber stamp for a plumbing project that even now has only the flimsiest policy to support it.

The Delta Stewardship Council under Isenberg still can’t seem to think in terms of stewardship of the Delta.

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