Blog roundup: Normative science, megaprojects, State of the State reactions, smaller tunnels and permeable levees

Here’s a rundown of some interesting water and policy blog posts of recent weeks:
Normative Science:  Scientists should not become stealth policy advocates: OSU’s Robert Lackey is concerned that policy-based science is becoming more common and argues against ‘normative science,’ which he defines as “information that is developed, presented or interpreted based on an assumed, usually unstated, preference for a particular policy choice.”  He writes: “Using normative science in policy deliberations is stealth advocacy. I use “stealth” because the average person reading or listening to such scientific statements is likely to be unaware of the underlying advocacy. Normative science is a corruption of science and should not be tolerated in the scientific community — without exception.”  Click here to read the full post.
Megaprojects and risk — the review:  David Zetland at the Aguanomics blog reviews the book, Megaprojects and risk: An Anatomy of Ambition, and says this book reminds him of several large infrastructure projects like the BDCP: “The main point that FBR make, in clear and painful detail, is that megaprojects (projects that have big financial, economic, social and/or environmental impacts) usually fail because their proponents and constructors do not bear the risk of failure when estimating the cost of constructing the project or demand for its services once completed. The risk is instead carried by taxpayers who end up paying more than expected to fund a project that’s less useful than promised.”  I’m adding this book to my reading list!  Click here for this post from Aguanomics.
State of the State Reaction … or not:  And speaking of large infrastructure projects, during his state of the state address, Governor Brown breifly discussed the BDCP.  Alex Breitler from the Stockton Record gathers up responses, and the Inkstain blog ponders the lack of applause
Smaller tunnel proposed:  Barry Nelson at the NRDC posted at the Switchboard blog about a new “portfolio-based” conceptual alternative to the BDCP: “Rather than focusing exclusively on a large Delta facility and Delta habitat restoration, as the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan largely has, this approach proposes a more diverse portfolio of investments, both in and outside of the Delta.  The results of our initial analysis are promising,” he writes.  “This conceptual alternative shows how California can develop a plan that would shrink the size of a Delta facility, strengthen protection for the Bay-Delta ecosystem, lower total costs and deliver more water to water users.” It also calls for 40,000 acres of habitat restoration, much less than the BDCP is currently proposing.  Click here to read Barry Nelson’s post at the Switchboard blog.
And echoed here:  Kate Poole, Barry Nelson’s colleague at the NRDC, agrees with Barry:  “… [T]his alternative provides a fertile approach for resolving California’s perennial environmental and water supply challenges in the San Francisco Bay-Delta and will allow us to restore this incredibly important estuary and secure California’s water supply future for decades to come.”  Read Kate Poole’s post at the NRDC Switchboard blog by clicking here.
But what about ag?  The Valley Economy blog notes the absence of agricultural interests in the coalion:  “I didn’t notice any agricultural water agencies on the NRDC water agency support letter.  I don’t think their small and still very expensive tunnel, and their portfolio of alternative water supplies provides a lot of value to agriculture, both outside and inside the Delta.  While the 3,000 cfs tunnel has the advantage of being cheaper and thus leaving more money to invest in the rest of the portfolio, I’m not sure a $5-7 billion, 3,000 cfs tunnel with 4 to 4.3 maf of average exports is a good investment compared to a no-tunnel BDCP with potentially more levee and habitat investment.”  More thoughts from the Valley Economy blog by clicking here.
Western Delta Intakes Concept and Permeable Levees:  Robert Pyke’s Western Delta Intakes Concept has been generating some buzz lately.  But what the heck is a permeable levee?  John Bass was curious so he took it upon himself to find out: “I was particularly taken with his completely counter intuitive idea for a “permeable levee.” Curious, I spoke with Dr Pyke a couple of weeks ago. We exchanged sketches and a few mails, and his useful and critical input helped me develop a diagram that illustrates the sequence of how such a levee might be built.”  Click here to learn how.
The Western Delta Intakes Concept is not new, says the Cal Watchdog blog: “this “new” plan is just a rehash of several plans proposed from the 1950s up to 2008.  …Pyke’s plan apparently is an undisclosed rehash of the 1957 and 1960 proposed Western Delta salinity control facilities authorized under the State Department of Water Resources Bulletin No. 60 in compliance with the Abshire-Kelly Salinity Control Barrier Act of 1957, the Montezuma Hills Canal Plan of 1977,” and others, Wayne Lusvardi writes:  “Pyke’s plan is anything but new. And like all plans for refashioning the Sacramento Delta, it has already been “studied to death.”  Click here to read the full post from the Cal Watchdog blog.
And lastly … Blogger Emily Green notes my 5+ years as founder and creator of Aquafornia, and helps me say goodbye to all my former readers in this post from the Chance of Rain.

One Response

  1. Robert Pyke

    The Cal Watchdog claim that the Western Delta Intakes Concept which has been developed by myself and a small team of experts is a re-hash of an old DWR Bulletin or is “.. is anything but new. And like all plans for refashioning the Sacramento Delta, it has already been “studied to death” is simply nonsense. Amongst other things, the concept of extracting much more water in wet years and storing the excess over the annual demand in order to compensate for extracting little or no water in dry years has never been seriously studied. This is the only way to provide water supply reliability and reduce the stress on the Delta at the same time. The concept has been well-received by a wide variety of interests that includes not only Delta interests and environmental organizations but also San Joaquin Valley farming interests and urban water agencies. Without exception, people that I have talked to privately have agreed that it holds promise for addressing everyone’s concerns and deserves further study but many of these people cannot endorse the concept openly at this time for political reasons. That’s fine. I understand that. Everyone has the right to act both against their own interests and the common good if they choose to do so. But this is an important enough issue that it deserves to be discussed on the basis of at least some facts rather than just making stuff up.

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