This week, the California Natural Resources Agency will begin rolling out the highly-anticipated draft documents for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), the controversial $14 billion plan that proposes a new diversion facility in the north Delta and two tunnels to carry the water under the Delta rather than through it, as well as over 100,000 acres of habitat restoration. The documents will be released in three stages, with the first four chapters to be released on Thursday and a public meeting following on March 20th. The draft documents are the latest iteration in an ongoing process since 2006, and another step towards the release of final Plan documents, possibly later this year.
The Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is a comprehensive plan for the Delta with the stated goals “to advance the restoration of the ecological functions and productivity in the Delta and restore and protect water supplies provided by the SWP and CVP” (BDCP, 1.2, Feb 2012). The BDCP proposes to accomplish these goals by constructing new infrastructure that will substantially change how water is conveyed and managed in the Delta, while at the same time, employing a comprehensive suite of actions to restore habitat and reduce the impacts of biological stressors on the Delta’s ecosystem. Also included in the Plan is a robust program of scientific research, monitoring and adaptive management.
The BDCP is being prepared as a Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) under California’s Natural Communities Conservation Planning Act and the state’s endangered species regulations, and as a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) under federal endangered species act regulations, and is intended to result in regulatory stability for the state and federal water projects.
Included in Thursday’s release:
The conservation strategy, which consists of multiple components designed to collectively achieve the goals of the BDCP. Biological goals and objectives define the expected outcomes of the Plan. The February 2012 draft documents listed 214 biological goals and objectives.
Conservation measures are the specific actions that will be taken in order to achieve the biological goals and objectives. Most notably, “Conservation Measure 1” encompasses the construction of the new facilities in the North Delta, as well as operations of both new and existing water infrastructure once the new facilities are operational. Other conservation measures address habitat restoration, methylmercury management, predator control, urban stormwater management, and other ecosystem stressors. There are 22 conservation measures proposed for the BDCP.
The adaptive management plan is a specific process that requires carefully designed management actions, assessment of the effects of those actions, and subsequent adjustments of those actions as necessary to improve outcomes. The BDCP’s adaptive management program will include monitoring and research, as well as compliance monitoring to ensure the BDCP is meeting the statutory and permit requirements, and effectiveness monitoring to ensure conservation measures are meeting their intended objectives.
The decision tree for determining water exports, highly anticipated and yet to be seen, is an adaptive management process that, rather than determining a fixed number for water exports, will instead evaluate a range of criteria to determine how much water can be exported.