Monday blog roundup: Bloggers discuss the BDCP, the Delta Plan, regulated rivers, groundwater, and more

Conversation ran the gamut last week in the blogosphere:

DWR’s Mark Cowin on where we stand with the BDCP: Acknowledging the that the BDCP process has been long, complicated, and expensive, as well as testing everyone’s collective patience, Mr. Cowin says the BDCP has made some real progress since Jerry Brown’s announcement in July.  The documents coming later this month will have some significant changes, he says, such as smaller intakes with state-of-the-art fish screens, gravity fed tunnels, and an accelerated pace of habitat restoration.  Read the full text here from the Southern California Water Committee blog: The Bay Delta Conservation Plan: Where We Stand Today

Valley Economy blog’s Jeff Michael no longer optimistic about the BDCP Benefit-Cost Analysis After the latest meeting of the BDCP’s Finance Working Group focusing on the Benefit-Cost Analysis, Mr. Michael says he’s left with the impression they are not responsive to feedback, and that established benefit-cost principles are not going to be followed.  He gives several examples, including this: ” … Mr. Meral has made it very clear that they would only be looking at one alternative, the Governor’s plan, and comparing it to a no action alternative.  This is a clear source of bias, and is well-known way to game benefit-cost analysis.  At minimum, there should be a strong no-tunnel BDCP scenario (similar to the DPC economic sustainability plan) and a strong small tunnel scenario (similar to the NRDC plan).  The alternatives need not be limited to that, but those two are musts.  If these alternatives are included, then I wouldn’t complain if the No Action alternative were dropped entirely from the analysis. … ”  Read more here from the Valley Economy blog: BDCP Benefit-Cost Analysis Is Going Off-Track

Restore the Delta echoes the concerns:  ” … This economic analysis is looking only at the “positive impacts” of the exporters getting salinity-free water.  The analysis is certainly not considering adverse impacts on the Delta and Northern California, including adverse aesthetic impacts of the massive intake structures.  … ”  Read more from Restore the Delta: Stacking the deck for BDCP

And on a related note about that BDCP Benefit-Cost Analysis:  I interrupt this blog round-up for a moment to direct your attention to the BDCP website, which has posted the power point presentation from the BDCP Finance Working Group Meeting, and the draft of the cost-benefit study scope of work and amendment.  More information, including how to submit comments, can be found by clicking here.  If you’re in the mood to comment, better hurry up – your comments are due by close of business on Wedensday, February 6.  Now, back to our regular programming ….

Smaller tunnel: Yes!  Doug Obegi of the NRDC says there’s growing support for the smaller tunnel alternative: Last month, a coalition of environmental groups (including the NRDC), urban water agencies, business groups and local elected officials released a portfolio-based conceptual plan that included a much smaller tunnel alternative: ” … Since the alternative was released, additional business groups, newspapers, and other interests have expressed support for meaningful analysis of this alternative … ”  Mr. Obegi has compiled at list of supporters and their comment letters as well as relevant media coverage.  Read more from Doug Obegi at the NRDC Switchboard blog: Growing Support for Analysis of Bay-Delta Conceptual Alternative

Smaller tunnel: … maybe … The Delta Protection Commission is split on the smaller tunnel alternative:  The Stockton Record’s Alex Breitler covers the meeting on his blog:  ”  … Some commission members signaled they’d support the state studying that alternative — though they’re not ready to endorse the plan itself.  “We’ve been asking for this for four years — and you’ve repackaged a lot of what we’ve been saying. I believe we need to get this sooner than later,” said San Joaquin County Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller.  “The train is leaving,” said Delta farmer Bob Ferguson, a commission member. “For once, why don’t we get on that train?” … ”  More coverage from the Delta Protection Commission’s meeting on Alex Breitler’s blog: Talking tunnels

Smaller tunnel: No!  There are those who are not enthused with the smaller tunnel alternative:  Admittedly, ACWA’s Water News is not a blog, but I’m including it here for balance.  While some water agencies are supportive of the smaller tunnel alternative, others are not:   “ … In a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and other officials, the coalition expressed concern that a conceptual proposal advanced recently by the Natural Resources Defense Council and others would fall short of meeting the need for adequate and reliable water supplies. The conceptual proposal called for a scaled-down conveyance facility in the Delta (3,000 cubic feet per second as compared to 9,000 cfs proposed by state and federal officials in July 2012) and additional investments in local water supply sources. … ”  Read the letter and more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Business-Labor Coalition, Water Agencies Respond to Conceptual Alternative to BDCP

You like to eat, don’t you? Somehow, “food” is left out of the tunnel discussion, says Harry Cline at the Western Farm Press Blog:  Acknowledging he doesn’t know if the $14B tunnel proposal is the best, we’ve got to do something, he writes, and everyon’e parochial attitudes aren’t helping: ” … San Joaquin Valley agriculture is the bad guy in this debate. Terms like “big ag” and “corporate agribusiness” are bantered around in the discussion. Never is the word “food” used by the opponents of the tunnels in addressing the future water needs of agriculture.  Maybe it’s time “big ag” adopts a parochial attitude. Let’s stop shipping peaches, almonds, pistachios, etc., to Los Angeles. If Sacramento and Stockton supermarkets want table grapes, let them find them somewhere else other than the Central Valley.  Facetiousness like that does not help, but it does reflect the lack of understanding in California’s future water needs while preserving one of the most abundant and safest food supplies in the world.  … ”  Read the full text here from the Western Farm Press blog:  Californians must pull on the same oar to address water crisis

Switching gears to the Delta Plan, Restore the Delta says the Delta Plan is deeply flawed:  ” …It doesn’t contain objectives for improved flows through the Delta, as the enabling legislation requires it to do, because the State Water Resources Control Board won’t complete those flow objectives until next year; it dodges the question of how much water is actually available. Without that information, State and federal water contracts can’t be adjusted to reflect water supply reality; [and] it acts as if the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) will actually be permitted by fisheries agencies, even though it is pretty clear that BDCP can’t meet the goals of ecosystem restoration while taking the amount of water the contractors want. … ”  Read more here from Restore the Delta:  Kicking the can down the road again

And why doesn’t the Delta Plan include desalination, asks the Save the California Delta Alliance?  Discovery Bay resident Eric Jensen, 20 years engineering experience with Hewlett Packard, proposes a plan: ” … 1) Cancel the twin tunnels and instead spend the money to build large desalinization plants inland, close to the existing canal infrastructure. Run them full time, with the excess water being sold to Arizona and Nevada or even further inland.  2) Create water storage solutions for Southern and even Central California [Store excess in Lake Mead, restore the Tulare Lake Basin, replenish ground water]  3) Improve the existing pumps by installing numerous large self cleaning fish filters, saving millions of fish from death at the pumps. This type of filter already exists, you can see one in use near the intersection of Bixler and Denali in Discovery Bay or I can send you photos that I have taken. … ”  I wonder how he plans to move all that ocean water to those inland desal plants, and where he’s going to put all the brine … details, details …  Read more from the Save The California Delta Alliance here: Why isn’t anyone looking at desalinization as part of the plan?

Regulated rivers and natural flow: The FISHBIO blog attended the Delta Science Program seminar, What is a Natural Hydrograph in Regulated Rivers? The Science of Natural Functional Flows to the Delta, and shares some of the take-home messages:  ” … While the seminar speakers voiced different opinions, they agreed on a take-home message: in a highly modified system like the Central Valley, we can’t use the hydrograph alone to restore our river ecosystems to a natural state. We also need corresponding changes to the way rivers connect with the landscape. Relying on river flow alone is like driving a car with only the steering wheel and no gas or brake pedals, one speaker described, pointing out the limitations of focusing on just one tool at a time. … ”  Read more from the FISHBIO blog here:  What’s “natural” in a regulated river?

So what should nature look like, now that we’re in charge and we get to decide?  The Inkstain blog writes: ” … Clumsily, it’s a discussion we’re having now, piecemeal, one prairie and watershed and treeline and backyard at a time. As, for example, the discourse underway today on the vastly altered peninsula south of San Francisco where Stanford University’s eucalyptus-decked campus (an Australian import) is so physically and culturally dominant.  Stanford, it seems, has a dam, which some folks thing ought to be removed: … ”  Click here to read more from the Inkstain blog.

And speaking about deciding about nature looks like, what about the Owens Lake Dust Control Project?  One of the most altered environments in California has to be Owens Lake (check out this photoblog post and see for yourself).  A letter to the editor of the Sierra Wave alleges that the multi-year planning effort to develop a master plan for the lakebed is being held hostage to DWP’s interests:  ” … The Owens Lake Planning Committee met recently (Jan. 28) and I attended as an observer. At this meeting DWP distributed an ultimatum: a list of seven “objectives and components” that DWP “must have” in the Master Plan. The list includes at least a 47,500 acre feet/year increase in water exports to Los Angeles, new groundwater pumping, and a “Lawfully established limit of 45 square miles of dust controls that Los Angeles is responsible to construct and maintain.” This is a back door way of forcing Planning Committee members to accept DWP’s legal position in its outrageous lawsuit against Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBUAPCD) and Ted Schade. … ”  Read more here at the Sierra Wave:  Letter to the editor: Bending to DWP ultimatum

Californians are even more dependent on groundwater than they are on the Delta:  Pointing out that 85 percent of Californians depend on groundwater for at least part of their drinking water, Jay Lund and Thomas Harter over at the UC Davis California Water Blog have posted a groundwater primer that covers everything from where does groundwater come from and why is it important to problems with groundwater and what we can do about it, including needed state reforms:  “ … California will always have groundwater problems, and its dependence on groundwater is likely to increase with changes in demands, climate and environmental regulations.  Success will be in how effectively groundwater is managed, especially in managing groundwater together with other water supplies and demands. Effective management will require state and regional frameworks of information, organization and authorities that help local water managers work effectively and transparently. Effective management of overdraft, salinization and contamination also will require a long-term perspective and serious technical efforts – through the end of the 21st century and beyond. This requires an important, if limited, role for the state.”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  California’s groundwater problems and prospects

And spaeking of groundwater, San Diego’s looking for groundwater in the San Pasqual Valley:  San Diego hopes to join the 85% with USGS’s San Diego Hydrogeology Project. GrokSurf’s San Diego blog checks out what’s going on with project chief Wes Danskin who is leading USGS groundwater studies in San Diego County and is drilling a new well in the San Pasqual Valley.  Get all groundwater-geeky with GrokSurf’s San Diego blog here:  USGS drilling new groundwater measurement well in San Pasqual Valley

Agency proposes to build another ‘Kesterson’:  From the Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood, Lloyd Carter covers the proposal: “A southern San Joaquin Valley water district is proposing to build in 1800-acre evaporation pond to dispose of toxic subsurface drainage water in a scenario early reminiscent of the Kesterson National Wildlife Reguge poisoning in the early 1980s.  The Tulare Lake Drainage District, located in Kings and Kern counties in the Tulare Lake Basin, already operates three drainage basins totaling 3,165 acres.  An Initial Study/Mitigated Declaration filed with the State Cleringhouse on December 20, contended the propsed ponds can be operated safely with minimal impacts on wildlife, offering to “dedicate” 3.6 acres of farmland as mitigation habitat. But the California Department of Fame (DFG) strongly disagrees and contends a full environmental impact report should be done … ”  Read more from the Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood Blog here: Build Another Kesterson? You’re joking, right?

Do you know what your water provider is up to?  Are they planning for sustainable solutions for the future, and why should you care?  Kate Poole of the NRDC writes:  ” .. Knowing where your water comes from matters because we all want to ensure that clean and safe water flows from our tap when we turn it on.  The source of that tapwater determines, in large part, how safe and secure your supply is, now and in the future.  In most regions of California, we have hit hard and fast limits on the amount of water that we can reliably draw from our traditional water sources, including most of the state’s rivers, the Colorado River, and many groundwater basins.  There are alternatives to these traditional sources that can provide the State with a stable and sufficient water supply for a growing population and economy.  But tapping into these alternative water supplies — such as recycled water, more efficient water use, stormwater capture and reuse, and better groundwater management — requires planning.  Is your water agency looking ahead and investing in these 21st century solutions? … ”  Read more from Kate Poole’s blog at the NRDC Switchboard here:  Californians – Find Out Here Where Your Water Comes From, or simply go straight to the website here:  California Water: Is Your City Planning for the Future?  Also, NRDC’s Kelly Coplin blogs about the new website here: New California Water Web Tool Asks, Is Your City Planning for the Future?

And about those sustainable solutions, lamenting the situation on the Colorado River:  The Chance of Rain takes a look at the monthly level of Lake Mead and writes: “ … If the fund of previously impounded water were inexhaustible, we in the dry West would be less crazy relying on growth as a business model. But it’s not. And the lower we drive reservoir levels, the closer we come to shortages being called in contracted deliveries. To understand the balancing act that is managing the Colorado river — how much comes in every year, how much may be let out, and how those flows are likely to diminish in the face of climate change, everyone concerned with western water should attempt to penetrate the recently published Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. … ”  Read more here from the Chance of Rain blog: High good, low bad: Mead in January 2013

And now  …

up_goer_five snippetHydrologist explains himself using only the most 1000 commonly used words in the English language:  A few months ago, the xkcd webcomic posted an explanation of the Saturn V rocket, using only the ‘ten hundred words’ people use most often – ‘thousand’ not being one of them.  (My favorite part of the xkcd comic is at the bottom of the rocket:  “This end should point towards the ground if you want to go to space.  If it starts pointing toward space, you are having a bad problem and won’t go to space today.”  Boy, do I know that feeling!)  Anyway, the Hydro-logic blog takes a stab at doing the same for a hydrologist here:  What I Do, in #1000simplewords

And lastly …speaking of rockets and things, dive team retrieves rocket launcher from the Aqueduct (seriously!) and Thirsty in Suburbia has another corny water joke for you.

Special Note:  Thank you to GrokSurf’s San Diego blog for reposting Emily Green’s tribute to my former position as editor of Aquafornia.

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