Fountain art in front of Seattle's Utilities Operations Control Center

Blog round-up: Bloggers on the BDCP, Delta Dialogues, a game for flood risk, California Water Plan plenary, groundwater levels, fracking and more!

Fountain art in front of  Seattle's Utilities Operations Control Center
Fountain art in front of Seattle’s Utilities Operations Control Center

It’s a feast of items for today’s blog round-up, with something on the menu for everyone’s tastes, so let’s get to it …

State releases lower cost estimates for the portfolio alternative:  The NRDC’s Doug Obegi fills us in on the details of the error:  ” … after NRDC reviewed documents provided by the State to justify the cost estimates in the Secretary’s letter, we discovered that the State had substituted the cost of a 3,000 cfs dual tunnel facility for the cost of a 3,000 cfs single tunnel project, providing misleading information about the cost of the Portfolio Alternative (overstating the cost of a single tunnel project by approximately $3 billion).   Two days ago, the State admitted to the error in a blog post, and we appreciate them acknowledging the error and providing the following corrected cost estimates:  3,000 cfs single tunnel: $8.6 billion; 9,000 cfs dual tunnel: $14.5 billion.  The State made a similar error in the administrative draft BDCP documents, where they used the cost figures for a 3,000 cfs dual tunnel project to estimate the cost of a 3,000 cfs “tunnel” alternative in Chapter 9.B (Page 9.B-4). While consultants for the State have repeatedly said that the Portfolio Alternative was analyzed in Chapter 9, it’s clear that they were looking at a more expensive, dual tunnel project, and equally important, none of the alternatives in Chapter 9 of the BDCP documents or in the EIS/EIR include the benefits of investments in local water supplies, storage, and levees, as called for in the Portfolio Alternative. … ”  Read more from Doug Obegi at the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  State Admits BDCP Portfolio Alternative is Far Cheaper Than It Previously Claimed

A productive session for the Delta Dialogues:  After a frustrating meeting the previous time, Delta Dialogues participants jumped back into it in October’s meeting:  ” … The daylong gathering at Rush Ranch, in Suisun Marsh, was among the best-attended sessions of the dialogues, with representatives from every stakeholder in attendance. Jerry Meral, deputy secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, also attended and participated in the meetings.  “I’m happy to be in the marsh. It’s a lot closer to home, back in the natural world,” said Carl Wilcox of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife early in the meeting. Delta landowner Tom Zuckerman, noting the fall harvest and presence of ducks and geese in the Delta, said he felt optimism, and not just because the time of the year. “I sense the discussion is beginning to open up at long last,” he said, adding that in-Delta stakeholders are beginning to have their concerns heard in debates about the future of the Delta. … ”  Read more from the Delta Dialogues here:  Into the Matrix

Board game teaches Bethel Island residents about flood risk:  A group of five Dutch students recently visited the Delta, wanting to learn how we balance the region’s often-competing needs of flood protection, water supply and ecological health, but they also wanted to contribute something else:  “We had in mind a fun and educational board game that would simulate the interplay between Delta flood risks and development interests.  As with computer models, simulation games can provide insights for better planning and policy discussions on complex, real-life problems. Games have the added advantage of taking into account human behavior. For example, players are likely to respond differently to a simulated flood, provoking discussion over the best course of action. The Delta – with all its complexity, risks and political debate – seemed like a good subject for such a game.  So we developed a Monopoly-like board game that centered on Bethel Island, called “SimBethel.” … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Board game wakens Delta islanders on flood risks

BDCP would be a disaster for agriculture, says the Valley Economy blog:  Dr. Jeff Michael totals up the numbers from the draft Statewide Economic Impact Report and determines: ” … the total net change in farm revenue according to the BDCP statewide economic impact report is $41 million annually.  When interpreting this $41 million, remember this is gross revenue, net revenue or profit is significantly lower.  Also, this is the BDCP’s estimate based on their optimistic water supply and delta salinity scenarios.  I believe the outcome will actually be worse.  How much will the state’s agriculture industry pay to receive these miniscule benefits from the tunnel plan?  … ”  Read more from the Valley Economy blog here:  BDCP Statewide Economic Impact Results Illustrate Why BDCP Is a Disaster for California Agriculture

The lull before the storm, says Burt Wilson:  “I’ve been busy the past six years. Going to Delta Stewardship Council and BDCP meetings. Always commenting on the nefarious goings-on. In-between times I do research. Yes, I actually read all the hand-outs because that’s where most of the mistakes are. Mistakes, you say? Yes, too many to count. All due to the fact that most of the time they don’t know what they’re doing. They just throw it together without thinking and hope we’ll buy it. This has lead me to a number of conclusions with I would like to share with you now. … ”  Read more from Burt Wilson at the Public Water News Service here:  The lull before the storm; BDCP EIR/EIS due on Dec. 13th

The California Water Atlas blog attends California Water Plan plenary session:  Reporting from the session, they say there was much discussion on the future of water in this state:  ” … While orderly, there was much deliberation and hesitation over language and assumptions. Between multiple sessions, and interim discussions, it became apparent, that a clear description of the often nuanced and complex issues facing water users and our environment was of paramount importance. In our review sessions, we could hardly get past a single slide without a twenty minute discussion. The goal was clearly to get feedback, so spending large amounts of time on a single phrase, map, or diagram was not out of scope for such a meeting. I was impressed by the emphasis on communicating to citizens and stakeholders, especially in light of how little budget is devoted to a “public understanding” of water at all levels of government. … ”  Read more from The New California Water Atlas blog here:  Water Plan Plenary 2013

Stability and groundwater levels in the Central Valley:  Veteran journalist Alex Breitler says he learned a long time ago not to accept ‘stable’ as an answer – ‘Dead people are stable’, he was once told.  Applying that though to groundwater, he blogs:  ” … We learned last month that a long-planned reservoir in east San Joaquin County may no longer be worth building, in part because groundwater levels have stabilized, which raises questions about the need for that half-a-billion-dollar project. (Actually, the way the experts are describing it is that groundwater has reached “equilibrium,” which is basically the same thing as saying it’s “stable.”)  On the off-chance you haven’t been paying attention to the scintillating world of groundwater, this is pretty shocking news. For decades local water managers have been saying that our precious groundwater is over-tapped — that we extract more water from wells each year than is naturally replenished by rain and seepage from rivers. … ”  Continue reading at Alex Brietler’s blog here:  Drilling down on groundwater

NRDC says EPA’s fracking study too narrow to assess all risks to drinking water: The EPA has been holding stakeholder workshops regarding its first comprehensive study on hydraulic fracturing:  ” … NRDC representatives have participated in several of these workshops over the past year or so, and after doing so we have serious concerns about several fundamental aspects of the current approach the agency is taking.  We sent a letter to the EPA today, outlining those concerns. In short, we believe that the current scope of the study is too narrow to address the full range of risks that fracturing poses to drinking water. This means that the study as currently planned may fail to fully answer the question of whether or not hydraulic fracturing poses risks to Americans’ drinking water supplies and, if so, what those risks may be. … ”  Scope of EPA fracking study is too narrow to assess full risks to drinking water

Legal Planet’s Dan Farber rethinks climate change adaptation:  “I’ve spent a lot of time and energy talking about the need to adapt to climate change, but I’ve also become increasingly uneasy about “adaptation” as a way to think about the situation.  One of the things I don’t like about the term “adaptation” is that it suggests that we actually can, at some expense, restore ourselves to the same position we would have been in without climate change.  For any given amount of climate change, we can do things that decrease the resulting harms (at a cost), but we can’t eliminate those harms.  Adapting to climate change is like “adapting” to a serious chronic disease — you can get by, with luck, but it’s still not like being healthy. But there’s also an important conceptual issue. … ”  Continue reading at the Legal Planet blog here:  Rethinking “Adaptation”

And lastly … Do take a few moments to fly above the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay in this photo gallery from the Bay Institute; here’s a cartoon picture of a 1968 California water resources map via the Cal Water Atlas blog, and the Water Wired blog posts about Oregon’s ‘Hydro Hogs’ – including one house that uses three acre-feet per year!

Photo credit:  Photo of fountain outside of Seattle’s Utility Operations Control Center by flickr photographer Joe Scully.

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