Blog roundup: More debate on tunnel size and on the role of science, plus random comparisons, salmon hunger games, desal and broken windows, and more

Delta #11 Feb 2013Happy Monday!  Here’s the round-up of recent chatter in the blogs:

The Big Heat – Global Warming, and the Portfolio-Based Approach in the Bay-Delta:  Barry Nelson over at the NRDC Switchboard blog says the smaller tunnel and portfolio-based approach will help the state deal with the impacts of climate change:  “California has done more than most states to understand the possible impacts of climate change on water resources.  For example, in 2006, the state Department of Water Resources developed a lengthy document regarding Progress on Incorporating Climate Change into Management of California’s Water Resources.   That document identified a number of important potential impacts on California water.  It’s worth taking a moment to review some of those impacts – and how the new portfolio-based approach can help us prepare to meet water and environmental needs in a warmer future. … ”  Read more from Barry Nelson at the NRDC Switchboard blog by clicking here.

But opponents say the larger tunnel is better to handle climate change:  From Alex Brietler’s blog, a diverse coalition of urban and agricultural water districts, business groups and labor organizations disagree with the smaller tunnel approach, saying, among other things, that the larger tunnel is better to handle climate change impacts:  “Construction of two new water supply tunnels from the northern Delta to the existing aqueduct facilities, for example, would provide for the necessary reliability and avoid the unacceptable risks of a single-tunnel approach. The improved conveyance is large enough to capture sufficient wet-year supplies and it addresses the need for urban communities to stay on the path of conserving and recycling more water. In summary, it is sized to serve California capably for the next 100 years, as climate and ecosystem conditions are expected to change.  … ”  Read more from Alex Breitler’s blog by clicking here.

Here are two more reasons why BDCP should analyze our proposed conceptual alternative, says Kate Poole: Law and economics: Also over at the NRDC Switchboard blog, Kate Poole says there are two other reasons why the portfolio-based alternative is best.  Besides the economic benefit of not putting all of our water eggs in the Delta basket, there is this:  “The law too is clear that the policy of the State of California “is to reduce reliance on the Delta in meeting California’s future water supply needs through a statewide strategy of investing in improved regional supplies, conservation, and water use efficiency.”  That policy is precisely what our portfolio approach is designed to implement.  Despite efforts to mangle the meaning of this straightforward directive, this Water Code provision means what it says. … ”  Read more from Kate Poole at the NRDC Switchboard blog by clicking here.

Restore the Delta opposes both tunnel proposals:  ““We oppose the rush to build a project that would exterminate salmon runs, destroy sustainable family farms and saddle taxpayers with tens of billions in debt, mainly to benefit a small number of huge corporate agribusinesses on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Barrigan-Parrilla in an article written by Dan Bacher.  The problem isn’t the size of the tunnel, it’s any tunnel at all: “The problem is that the very concept of a peripheral tunnel or canal – regardless of whether it is a single or twin facility – is an outdated, 19th century solution to a 21st century problem. The solution to solving both ecosystem restoration and water supply needs is using creative alternatives, such as those embodied in the Environmental Water Caucus alternative to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels.”  Read more from Dan Bacher at the California Progress Report by clicking here.

More information  on the BDCP requested:  John Herrick of the South Delta Water Agency has sent a request to the California Natural Resources Agency for records related to the BDCP, desiring to raise a few issues prior to the release of the draft documents, expected later this month.  He cites three areas: earthquakes, mitigation, and habitat, saying: “Almost all of the former habitat in the Delta had been eradicated by the 1930s, he wrote; but the decline of fish populations really started in the 1960s. “It does not appear logical or scientifically sound to conclude that more habitat will equal more fish.” … ”  Read more from Alex Breitler’s blog by clicking here.

How ‘Big Water’ spins the science on water policy:  Zeke Grader says he’s heard a lot of fish stories over his lifetime, but nothing that matches what’s coming out of Sacramento, he says, especially this one:  “Their strategy is clear – control the Bay/Delta Conservation Plan that is now evolving by exerting control over agency science programs. They want to determine the questions the scientific community asks, interpret their results and influence how these findings are translated into pumping limits. Their new mantra is “collaborative science.” That sounds good on the face of it – but it’s just another whopper. … ”  Read more from Zeke Grader at the California Progress Report by clicking here.

And speaking of science and BDCP:  Restore the Delta points out that from his written speech notes, Phil Isenberg seems to agree:  “Isenberg mentions the Interagency Ecological Program, the Delta Science Program, and the Delta Independent Science Board, but he isn’t sure that these agencies will be the primary sources of scientific information.  He wonders how much the science effort will cost, and where the money will come from.  It is possible,” he says, “that BDCP intends to depend exclusively on science presented by project applicants, water contractors or advocacy groups.… “  Read more from Restore the Delta by clicking here.

The art of random comparison:  In Governor Brown’s recent State of the State address, he downplayed the cost of the tunnels by comparing it to the London Olympics, writes Alex Breitler, who comes up with several other $14 Billion examples, ultimately concluding: “Seriously, though, lots of stuff costs $14 billion. Anyone can make it sound like a big number or a small number by running a Google search and selectively choosing something to compare it with. … ”  Read more from Alex Breitler’s blog by clicking here.

C-WIN and Friends of the River file comments on the BDCP Benefit-Cost Analysis, saying the proposed scope of work fails to evaluate reasonable alternatives, upstream costs are not being considered, and that several factors, such as climate change, sea level rise, and increased conservation will render the tunnels a ‘white elephant’:  “Past California environmental and benefit cost disasters have ranged from endangering Mono Lake to drying up a 60 mile stretch of the once mighty San Joaquin River to the explosion of costs for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge structure replacement project. Professor Sunding must be on guard to prevent the exporters and DWR from distorting and contorting the benefit cost scope of work to inflict another massive and costly prospective environmental and benefit cost disaster on the public, taxpayers, and ratepayers.”  Read the comment letter from C-WIN by clicking here.

Burt Wilson, Public Water News Service blog, says the BDCP Benefit-Cost Analysis is missing the mark for another reason:  “Where the Brattle Group (and Dr. Sunding) is off course is that they only include effects on water for agricultural and urban uses. They totally leave out any water sold to the oil companies for fracking! … ”  Read more from Burt Wilson at the Public Water News Service blog by clicking here.

Energy companies outbidding agricultural districts for water for fracking:  It’s happenning right here, says Dan Aiello, over at the California Progress Report:  ” … Agriculture water districts from Modesto to Maricopa are reportedly alarmed by the purchasing power of energy companies who are buying up as much water as they can with financial resources traditional agriculture water districts can’t match – as much as three times the rate water districts expected to pay. In Kern county, along Paso Robles Hwy 46 between Bakersfield and the I-5 interchange, Aera Oil’s Kenai Fracking Rig #7 operations, hidden behind a 12-foot solid green wall patrolled by two security guards to prevent public observation of the operations, is busy pumping 1.46 million gallons of California aqueduct water, along with chemicals, steam and sand under high pressure into the soil every week … ”  Read more from the California Progress Report by clicking here.

The Salmon Hunger Games: The FISHBIO blog takes a look at how scientists are working to improve the forecasting for the return of Chinook salmon on the Columbia River:  ” … Once juvenile salmon leave their freshwater streams and enter the ocean, the culling that occurs in the first brutal months largely sets the number of fish that grow up and return to spawn in two or three years. The ocean is a complex and shifting arena where many poorly understood factors can make or break a teenage salmon’s shot at survival. In a paper published in the journal PLOS One last month, scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service and Oregon State University identified key ocean factors, such as the abundance of prey and major ocean trends, that can better predict the number of fish that will live to make a river homecoming. … ”  Click here to visit the FISHBIO blog.

Water storage: Why we need it: The Northern California Water Association blog says this winter is proving why we have storage in California and why some areas could use even more:  “December of last year brought a torrent of both rain and snow to California with much of that water simply running off the hills and into the creeks, streams and rivers and through the Delta out to the ocean. While we need water flowing through the Delta to maintain water quality, it is those storm flows that create an opportunity to even out the winter peaks (and valleys) with the summer (very dry) valleys. … ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Association blog by clicking here.

Desal and broken windows:  The ‘broken windows fallacy’ argues that spending money has intrinsic value because jobs are created, regardless of value.  The Inkstain blog writes:  “The reference to broken windows is the argument’s ‘reductio ad absurdum’ – hire one person to break a bunch of windows, and a second person to fix them. Certainly the people hired to break and fix windows make out OK under the arrangement, but does society benefit? … ”  As the Carlsbad desal plant supporters make the jobs argument, is this an example of broken windows?  Read more from the Inkstain blog by clicking here.

Water issues for the 113th Congress:  The Water Wired blog has a link to the Congressional Research Report: Water Issues in the 113th Congress.  Click here to read the report at the Water Wired blog.

And lastly … Photos from an afternoon in the Delta:  On a recent business trip to Sacramento, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon in the Delta.  You can check out my pictures in this post on my photoblog by clicking here.

NOTE:  The blog round-up is a compilation of relevant and sometimes irrelevant commentary in the internet world of California water.  Inclusion here is not meant to be construed as an endorsement of that position, and exclusion is not meant to be construed as rejection of a position either; I simply might not have seen it. The more views represented here, the better, in my opinion.  So, if you have an item of interest that you think should be included, please email me.  –Maven

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