I don't buy it Haggis. We had a great water year this year...no restrictions. They are just trying to steal NorCal water by bringing back the old Peripheral Canal deal. It's all political...be sure of that.
Barnidge: Can California finally solve Delta crisis?
By Tom Barnidge
Contra Costa Times columnist
Posted: 04/30/2010 03:45:23 PM PDT
Updated: 04/30/2010 03:45:23 PM PDT
STOP US if you've heard this one before: California has a water problem.
Demand keeps growing, supply is limited, levees are unstable and the ecosystem is near collapse. Farmers in the south want open spigots, fishermen in the north want them closed and politicians don't know what they want.
This mess has been with us since before Arnold Schwarzenegger grunted his way through "Conan the Barbarian." Only now it's worse. The stakes keep rising, but no one can agree on a solution.
The state's longest-festering open wound was reopened for examination last week when the Contra Costa Council invited four experts from local and state agencies to discuss "The Delta's Future: Implementing Water Reform Legislation."
Lester Snow represented the California Natural Resources Agency, Phil Isenberg the Delta Stewardship Council, and Linda Fiack and Mary Piepho spoke for the Delta Protection Commission.
Those are but three of the many organizations that will have input into how to redirect Delta water south, and that fact says as much as anything about the snail-like progress of efforts to date.
Also involved: the State Water Resources Control Board, Department of Water Resources, Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bay Delta Conservation Plan, Delta Conservancy and the National Marine Fisheries Service (apologies to any agencies we overlooked).
Believe it or not, this
is a streamlined version of what preceded. Before the Stewardship Council was created to be the lead dog, as many as 200 local, state and federal agencies were nipping at one another's heels with parochial agendas and tunnel-vision demands.
"At least half the problem of trying to manage the Delta," Snow said, "has been the sheer number of government jurisdictions that have some decision to make. Usually they are jurisdictions with different missions and purposes."
There is a ray of hope now that a resolution is on the horizon, although you will need a powerful telescope to make it out.
The goal, as explained in the Delta Vision Committee Implementation Report: "Restore the Delta ecosystem and create a more reliable water supply for California." Or, put another way: Find a way to send more water south that doesn't muck up the environment.
Isenberg said his group must present a plan by Jan. 1, 2012, which by state government standards constitutes a breakneck work pace. In addition to all the agency signoffs, the proposal must meet standards set by the federal Natural Community Conservation Plan and the California Environmental Quality Act.
It's a wonder anything ever gets done in this country.
Piepho, a Contra Costa County supervisor, expresses cautious optimism that the effort will bear fruit, but she worries that local concerns will be ignored.
"The Delta," she said, "is not simply a plumbing fixture for all the people who wish to use it. It is a significant natural resource for aquatic and terrestrial species."
She blanches at the thought of a water conveyance — the peripheral canal, to you and me — measuring as much as 200 yards wide and 40 miles long. "The 15,000-cubic-feet-per-second modeling that they are using now at BDCP would implode the Delta," she said. "Let's look smaller. Let's see what the science says."
She hopes the plan will, as rumored, be downsized for a tunnel rather than a runway-sized aqueduct. The Stewardship Council soon will name a board of independent scientists who will study the environmental impacts of various proposals. The board succeeds the CalFed Science Program, yet another agency that has left its fingerprints on the project.
Water reforms to be funded by an $11.1 billion bond issue include drought relief projects, waste water treatment improvements, integrated regional water management, water storage projects and environmental restoration of Delta levees. But the bond issue, which comes up for a vote in November, comes with its own set of problems.
Said Piepho: "According to the Legislative Analyst's Office, repaying the bond will cost the state's general fund between $600 million and $800 million a year. There's a lot of pork in the bond unrelated to reliable water supply, and there's not nearly enough money in it to restore the Delta."
For that matter, the bond issue will not pay for the peripheral canal. That expense is to be shared by those who benefit from the newfound water supply, although lawmakers didn't get around to detailing how fees will be assessed.
That shouldn't come as a surprise.
They aren't accustomed to getting this far with a water reform package.
"Leave it better than you found it"