Hearing held on Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Nov 18, 2011
by WLJ

The California General Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee held a hearing on the status of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) in late October. Participating in the hearing were members from the Legislative Analysts’ Office, the deputy secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, and members of the legislature.

Funding, transparency and consistency with the 2009 comprehensive water package were key topics at the hearing on the BDCP.

State, local and federal agencies plan to release a draft Environmental Impact Statement/ Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) on the BDCP by June 2012.

Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, chairman of the committee, voiced concern that water exporters will have unprecedented control over the content and focus of a plan that would steer the state’s water policies for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for next 50 years.

Huffman stressed that the BDCP must be designed as part of a larger strategy to restore the Delta and recover key species. He pledged to continue asking tough questions on options to be analyzed as part of the BD- CP, including potential conveyance solutions.

In an effort to establish a Statewide Water Plan (SWP), the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has begun conducting a planning process to provide the basis for the issuance of endangered species permits necessary to allow the operations of both state and federal water project in the Delta for the next 50 years. In order to begin to construction planning process, DWR must ensure that they have covered and completed the necessary requirements for the protection of endangered species.

Water exporters, including Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which represents 26 communities in southern California from Los Angeles to San Diego, will pay for the $240 million study to determine how they can restore the amount of water previously taken from the Delta.

The plan also includes increasing the Delta by 7 million cubic feet annually, along with preserving endangered species.

The goal of the voluntary funding is to ensure that the project is carried out in a “beneficiary pays” manner, ensuring that there is proper buy in and equitable funding from stakeholders, according to the California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA).

While this funding mechanism will likely work for this initial planning phase, the cost of construction for the SWP is estimated at $12 billion; a fee that is not easily paid for by stakeholders alone, CCA said in a pressm release.

According to the Legislative Analysts’ Office, numerous hurdles exist to finding proper funding for the next phase of California’s water delivery system, and it is unclear at this time how DWR will proceed with this plan.

California has had more than its share of water battles over the past century, with environmentalist groups repeatedly fueling the coffers.

Environmentalists argue that there is a general disinterest in the environmental degradation and species extinction in the water battles, and a refusal to commit to conservation and regional sustainability measures.

Los Angeles currently faces water restrictions and reductions, with San Fernando Valley ground water problems and court-mandated restrictions from the Colorado River and Eastern Sierra. These challenges have led water exporters to turn to the last viable source from which to import water, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. — WLJ