State Water Resources Control Board submits comments on the BDCP EIR/S

waterboard_logoThe State Water Resources Control  Board, a responsible agency for the BDCP’s EIR/S under CEQA provisions, has submitted their comments on the administrative draft of the environmental impact statement.  Their analysis focused on the CEQA analysis for the preferred alternative (alternative 4) and the State Water Board’s requested alternative (alternative 8).  The Board also focused on whether the EIR/S contained the information needed for processing of water right actions, water quality certifications, and NPDES permits that would be needed for construction; and if there was information that would inform changes to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.

Highlights of their comments include:

  • Specify what changes to water rights, permits, and other approvals needed:  “In order for the Water Boards to determine whether the EIR/EIS adequately addresses all of the proposed actions, please identify all of the changes to water quality objectives, water rights, and other approvals that are needed for the BDCP. Specifically, please identify which water quality objectives are proposed to be changed, any new water rights that may be requested and any proposed changes to water rights.” (1)
  • Provide details on the scientific basis for changes:  “To consider changes to the Bay‐Delta Plan needed for the BDCP, the State Water Board will need to independently review the scientific basis for any changes to the Bay‐Delta Plan and make a determination that those changes are reasonably protective of beneficial uses. To support any changes needed for the BDCP, the scientific basis for those changes should be provided in the BDCP, EIR/EIS or other documentation (including changes to nonfish and wildlife flow objectives).” (2)
  • Discuss impacts on water rights:  “Before the State Water Board may approve a change in a water
    right permit or license needed to implement the BDCP, including a change to the point of diversion specified in the permit or license, the Board must find that the change will not injure any legal user of water. … while BDCP parties may determine that CEQA does not require an analysis of all of the issues pertaining to water right change petition approval (including impacts to other legal users of water and public trust resources), it would assist the State Water Board in its consideration of the BDCP if the EIR/EIS discussed these issues.” (3)
  • Analyze an alternative that reduces reliance on the Delta:  ” … in order for the State Water Board to consider changes to the Bay‐Delta Plan and water rights, the BDCP must evaluate a sufficiently broad range of alternatives. Alternatives that reduce reliance on water from the Delta should be included in this range. Accordingly, it seems appropriate to include reduced reliance on water from the Delta as a conservation measure for the project and as mitigation for impacts associated with impacts related to inadequate water supplies to meet all needs for water within and outside of the Delta.” (6)
  • Consider a broader range of outflow alternatives: It appears all the operational alternatives considered reduce Delta outflow:   “The justification for this limited range of Delta outflow scenarios is not clear given that there is strong information on the possible need for more Delta outflow for the protection of aquatic resources and the uncertainty that other conservation measures will be effective in reducing the need for flow. Specifically, recent research indicates that restoration of tidal marsh may not be feasible, possible, or effective. Accordingly, it appears appropriate to include a broader range of Delta outflows under the decision tree process.” (7)
  • Explain how the BDCP achieves the coequal goals:  “The EIR/EIS concludes that there are potentially significant impacts that are not mitigable. The EIR/EIS should describe how the BDCP is still consistent with the two coequal goals, especially the goal of protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The BDCP proponents will also need to develop a statement of overriding considerations that explains how the benefits of the project outweigh the unavoidable adverse environmental effects.” (12)
  • Effects of multiple restoration projects not analyzed:  “...The BDCP and the EIR/EIS do not appear to analyze the effects of changes in tidal energy exchange that may result after construction and implementation of habitat restoration projects, and how those changes in tidal energy might affect transport of food and turbidity from the restored areas to locations where pelagic species are present.” (14)

The State Water Board staff also reviewed comments received in December of 2012 from NMFS and FWS, as well as the February 2012 red flag comments, and wrote: “State Water Board staff generally support the agencies comments contained in these documents and agree that the issues identified should be resolved.”

To read the State Water Resources Control  Board’s comments in their entirety, read here: SWRCB Comments on BDCP EIR-S 070513

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