Blog round-up: Bloggers on BDCP costs and benefits, Delta dialogues, a revuelta, climate change and the new normal, and more!

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San Luis Reservoir, 34% full; taken June 9, 2013

While most reservoirs around the state don’t look too bad, the same can’t be said for San Luis Reservoir, only at 34% of capacity when this picture was taken on Sunday.  However, this week’s blog round-up is filled to capacity.  Here’s what everyone had to say:

$55 billion is really what the BDCP will cost, says Restore the Delta.  Check their math here:  BDCP costs, “from the horse’s mouth”

Will the taxpayers have to subsidize the tunnels?  Jeff Michael at the Valley Economy blog takes a look at a paragraph from Chapter 8 and writes:  ” … It is difficult to interpret this language, but two things are clear.  First, the water contractors want the government to pick up more of the BDCP cost that is currently allocated to them, and are trying to use uncertainty as a justification.  Second, the costs of the tunnels may not be allocated among contractors proportional to the water received, directly contradicting the public statements of the Metropolitan Water District and opening the door to the urban subsidy of agricultural water.  This would be a major change, but is not unexpected to me or anyone else who long ago realized that the tunnel financing assumptions simply wouldn’t work. … ”  Read more here:  New BDCP Documents Say Taxpayers May Subsidize the Delta Tunnels Due to Uncertainty Over Tunnel Impacts

How much Metropolitan will pay is still in flux, says Tim Brick, retired MWD chair in this interview with The Planning Report:  ” … Met is the largest member of the state water contractors, so we’ll be paying for a large part of the plumbing facilities that will be part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Metropolitan has played an active role in supporting the science, research, and planning that has gone into the development of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The state and federal government will pursue the facilities and improvements, and we’ll pay for it as a contractor to the State Water Project. Met’s hope is that it will pay a quarter of the cost of the facilities that are estimated from $14 to $20 billion—so that’s a significant part. Whether some of the other entities involved in the Bay Delta Solution, particularly the agricultural entities in the Central Valley, are ready to pay their share proportionate to the water and benefits they’ll received from the project, is still uncertain. So whether Metropolitan is going to end up paying for more than a quarter is an important question that needs to be resolved. … ”  Read Tim Brick’s full interview at The Planning Report here: Tim Brick, Retired Chair of MWD, Opines on Met’s Priorities & Options

Felicia Marcus talks about the BDCP and more during her keynote speech at the Los Angeles River Summit, as posted at The Planning Report:  ” … The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is fraught with high-stakes rhetoric, and most of the airtime is reserved for the building of the tunnels to shuttle water under the fragile Delta that is now susceptible to collapse from sea level rise, storm surges, and earthquake, but at its heart the project is heavily about reconciliation and restoration, moving the point of diversion for 30 percent of the water that comes to Southern California, let alone what comes to the Central Valley. Under the current system, huge pumps were put in just the wrong place. This was prior to the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) or the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA), which would have required looking at all of the reasonable alternatives for configuring the system and would have required going with the least damaging alternative absent a compelling reason not to do so. Had NEPA and CEQA been in place the pumps would never have been put solely at the bottom of the Delta. The State Department of Fish and Game said not to put the pumps there because that location would be a killing machine for fish. And it has been.  So the state is now trying to move those pumps, creating a different diversion that will give flexibility to not generate reverse flows–so the salmon can find their way out to sea and home again. That’s on top of tens of thousands of acres of restoration—one of the biggest restoration projects being proposed in the world. The devil is in the details, sizing, flows, etc., and it is far from done, but the effort and the aspiration is enormous. … ”  More here from The Planning Report:  Los Angeles River Summit Keynoted by Felicia Marcus

The BDCP is illegal, says Friends of the River, who write a strongly worded letter to the federal agencies: ” … As recently explained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) “There is clear evidence that most of the covered fish species have been trending downward.” (USFWS Staff BDCP Progress assessment, Section 1.2, p. 4, April 3, 2013). USFWS, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) have submitted insightful and scientifically sound comments (also known as the “Red Flag” comments) on the Administrative Drafts of the BDCP. Your legitimate concerns have not been addressed by the BDCP lead agencies and have jeopardized your ability to complete your ESA obligations. The laws being violated or to be violated by the ongoing BDCP process include the ESA and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The purpose of this letter is to summarize several of the most profound illegalities and deficiencies for you. We urge you to refrain from providing your stamp of approval on the BDCP and to keep pushing for an endangered species-centered approach towards Delta governance. … ”  Read the full letter from Friends of the River at the Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood blog here:  A letter from Friends of the River to federal officials about fatal flaws in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Outdated population forecasts used in calculating BDCP benefits, says Jeff Michael at the Valley Economy blog: ” … To understand its significance, you have to realize that shortages from the estimated levels of urban water demand are driving the vast majority of the economic benefits BDCP is calculating.  So it is critically important to estimate urban water demand with best and most current information.  Specifically, for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino and Ventura Counties, the growth projections used in BDCP are taken from their 2007 Regional Transportation Plan, and in San Diego it is based on “Series 11” from 2006.  Both of these projections are out of date and have been replaced by the local planning agencies with much lower growth projections that incorporate the results of the 2010 census.  Likewise, the California Department of Finance released updated projections for these counties in 2012 and again earlier this year in 2013 that are the official estimates used for state planning and are now driving housing and transportation planning at the county level.  The 2050 DOF population projections for California are about 15% lower (51 million instead of 60 million) than the projections commonly used a decade ago that are still being used by the BDCP.   … ”  Read more here: New BDCP Economic Studies Use Outdated Growth Forecasts to Project an Artificial Water Shortage

The Delta Dialogues are back with phase 2:  A project of the Delta Conservancy, this facilitated discussion between Delta stakeholders returns for a second phase and the group jumps right into to discuss governance:  ” … The exchange appeared to establish the question of governance – and how to build a better governance regime for and around the Delta – as the central question of Phase 2. Chapter 7 of the BDCP consists of 30 pages of governance. Few words of praise were said about the particulars, with even those who participated in its drafting emphasizing that it could be changed and improved.  The participants listed and discussed what they wanted to see in a governance plan. Seven principles were discussed. Governance should be transparent, be fair and balance different interests in the Delta, provide meaningful representation for in-Delta interests, especially local governments and farmers that have felt excluded, work incrementally, deter litigation, encourage participation, and create an environment for building relationships. … ”  Read more here:  The Delta Dialogues Are Back, and Better

Delta dialog maps: “Dialog maps” are created from the discussions, live on a screen in the room as it happens.  You can check out the dialog maps here.  May 2013 Dialogue Maps  Learn more about the role dialog mapping is playing in the process here: Tackling a Wicked Problem: Water Issues!  How the Delta Dialogues Project Is Using Dialogue Mapping to Build Shared Understanding

Less scary BDCP stats:  Whoops.  A miscalculation of pile-driving strikes.  Not 34 million but 700,000 instead.  Check it out here from Restore the Delta: Correction

It’s a Delta revuelta, says the California Watchdog blog:  A revuelta is ‘organized opposition or a conflict in which one faction tries to wrest control from another.’ Without a vote, the plan lacks political legitimacy, says blogger Wayne Lusvardi:   ” … The Bay Delta Conservation Plan would bring no extra water for Central Valley farmers or Southern California cities.  As Steven Greenhut describes the project, it is an engineering fix for a political and regulatory problem.  Water deliveries to farmers and cities have been shut down for frivolous lawsuits to protect freshwater fish.  Ninety-three percent of these fish end up eaten by predator fish anyway.  Instead of fixing this regulatory overkill problem, a $25 billion entire re-engineering of the Delta is being sought.  Thus, there is no public legitimacy for the project based on either cost or fish habitat restoration. The unacknowledged problem is one of political legitimacy — the justification of authority not by coercion, but by consent — that is, consent by the people, or by a substitute consensus of legislators, the governor and the courts.  The central problem of the Bay Delta Plan is that it has vainly sought legitimacy by regulatory, scientific, legislative and judicial authority. … ”  Read more here from the Cal Watchdog blog: Would another Burns-Porter Act resolve the Delta revuelta?

Climate change and the new normal:  The California Water Blog says our decades-old water allocation framework needs to change:  ” … as with so much about California, there really is no “normal” when it comes to amounts of precipitation and streamflow in this state. Those metrics vary greatly from year to year, making them fairly unpredictable. For example, this water year (Oct. 1 – Sept. 30) began as one of the wettest on record, like 1983. But since January it has been drier than the driest year of record, 1976-77. For allocation purposes, this water year is classified “dry” for the Sacramento Valley and “critically dry” for the San Joaquin Valley.  This water allocation framework, however, is unrealistic in a changing climate. … ”  Read more here:  The new ‘normal’ water year in a changing California climate

When did you first discover your love of water?  Michael Campana over at the Water Wired blog reposts a thoughtful post by AWRA president Carol Collier, who expresses her concern for today’s generation, who have many indoor activities:  ” … Personally I’m worried about how the priorities of the youth of today will impact our future environment. On the one hand they have greater exposure to environmental teaching in school and are better recyclers than their parents, but will they have that more rounded understanding of the natural world and a deepseated love of the environment, whether it be mountains, rivers or the sea?  If fewer and fewer of our youth gain this love of nature, what will be the future of local and global conservation? Can there be another ground swell of environmental protection as there was in the late ’60s- early ’70s?  Will the environment be a priority? … ”  Read more here from the Water Wired blog: When did you first find your love of water?

Honorable mentions“This is a different river,” quotes the Inkstain blog, Just Another Water Grab, says Burt Wilson of the Public Water News Service, the Mono-Logue on getting the word out on water conservation, and check out this Southern California newspaper insert on the BDCP and other California water issues.

Maven’s extensive photo library of California infrastructure, waterscapes and more is returning to the internet:  I am in the process of uploading them onto flickr.  I am only about 50% done – still to come:a little more SWP water infrastructure, the Owens Lake Dust Control Project, the Salton Sea, the Colorado River Aqueduct, and the San Andreas Fault … but I have already a lot done.  Take a sneak peek here:  Maven’s photo sets on flickr

And lastly … Masterful storytelling:  Alex Brielter tells the story of an old silver mining town high in the Sierras and one woman’s grave in this engaging post on his blog:  Winnie’s resting place

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