Joint informational hearing on the BDCP, part 1: Secretary Laird, Directors Bonham and Cowin on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Legislators hear from administration officials and Delta stakeholders on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Committee 1On February 25, 2014, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife held a joint informational oversight hearing on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

The hearing was organized around two panels of speakers: the first panel consisted of Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird, Director of Department of Water Resources Mark Cowin, and the Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Chuck Bonham, who gave an update on the plan since the last oversight hearing held last spring.

Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee Anthony Rendon began the informational hearing by saying that although there have been prior hearings on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, today’s hearing presents a different opportunity because the draft documents are currently out for public comment.  This hearing will provide an opportunity for the Administration to describe their proposal, as well as to hear the perspectives of a variety of different stakeholders.

Chair Rendon then set the stage for the hearing:

“In 2009, the legislature passed the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act.  The Act created the Delta Stewardship Council and charged them with developing a Delta Plan.  The Delta Plan is to be a comprehensive plan to accomplish the coequal goals, which are providing a more reliable water supply for California, and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.  The Delta Reform Act required that both coequal goals be done in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place. 

Rendon 1“Planning for the BDCP was already underway at the time the legislature passed the Delta Reform Act.  The Act incorporated BDCP by providing that it would be part of the Delta Plan if it met certain requirements, including that it is a Natural Community Conservation Plan or NCCP.  Once approved, an NCCP allows plan participants to take endangered species that are covered in the plan if they are adequately conserved and managed under the plan.  In return, the state can provide certain assurances to plan participants that as long as the plan is properly implemented and none of the species affected by plan activities are going extinct, then those participants will not have to provide any more money, land, or water than is agreed upon under the plan. 

“The Delta Reform Act also included other requirements for BDCP.  A few of those were that it included a reasonable range of flow criteria, it included a reasonable range of Delta conveyance alternatives, it addresses the potential effects of climate change and flood management, and it has a transparent, real-time operational decision making process to assure the various biological performance measures are met.

“I believe the public is interested in hearing how the administration and various stakeholders believe we are doing to meet those requirements and in resolving other issues.  Please address how you are dealing with science.  Will the ecosystem investments actually aid in recovery?  How will they be measured?  Also, please address financing.  How much will BDCP cost ratepayers and the public?  Are ratepayers and the public willing to pay that much?  Also, please address governance issues.  How will decisions be made?  Who will make the final call on whether an action should be taken or funded?”

Chair Rendon then called Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird, Director of the Department of Water Resources Mark Cowin, and Director of Fish and Wildlife Chuck Bonham forward.

John Laird, Secretary of Natural Resources

John Laird began by saying he would be giving on overview on what has changed since they were last here.  Although the drought has emerged since then and we are trying to grapple with serious situations that are developing by the day, it’s important that we don’t take our eye off the ball in the long-term, he said.

Laird 2Mr. Laird noted that he has presided over a number of environmental impact reports in his 17 years as a local elected official, and it is unprecedented to release an administrative draft six months before the draft as the administration did with the BDCP documents last July.  “The real idea here was to make sure that we had all the information that we had when we had it on the table for everyone because we recognized there are very complex and interlocking issues here,” he said.  “There are the dual goals from the legislature, and it is our goal to constantly narrow the issues and try to resolve against the dual goals in the overall direction of the administration and the federal agencies – to narrow these decisions and try to resolve them as we go along.”

A series of major project changes were announced in August that reduced the impacts of the proposed project.  The footprint of the facilities was reduced 49%, basically cutting the number of acres in half, and the intermediate forebay was reduced by 95%, reducing both temporary and permanent impacts to private property owners and to agricultural lands, Mr. Laird said.  More impacts were shifted away from private lands to public lands, he added.

I’ve personally taken over negotiations with the Delta counties and have been attempting to work with them, because we are committed for a role of the Delta counties in governance and to have them formally have a seat at the table in regard to any project,” he said.  “We are dealing with individual impacts and issues that they have as best we can, making sure they lay it on the table and we are trying to address them.”  Mr. Laird noted that he has also been meeting with each county individually to be sure that their individual issues are not being sublimated in the larger group of the five counties.

More work needs to be done to define the state and federal financial commitments, he acknowledged.

We have finalized the California Water Action Plan, where the secretaries of agriculture, environmental protection agency, and resources have really tried to take a look at the short term – the next five years, and all the steps for additional things, whether it’s conservation or recycling, storage, that need to be done as part of a comprehensive policy,” he said.

In January and February, more than 800 participants attended the twelve public open house meetings that were held throughout the state.  The meetings in Sacramento, Clarksburg, and Stockton had the highest attendance with Sacramento setting the record at 165 people, he said.  There were a broad range of stakeholder groups at every meeting, including environmental, industry, business, water, labor, and local government groups, he said.  “Feedback has been that the participants appreciated the format and the ability to have one on one conversations with technical staff to make sure that they understood things,” he said.

The public review draft of the plan was released in December, and recently the comment period was extended so the total comment period will be 180 days, closing in June, he said.  “Our goal is to make sure that as many people as possible provide comments, all of which will be carefully considered,” said Mr. Laird.  “The extension is not expected to create significant delays in the project, although it will likely extend the anticipated release date for the final draft of the BDCP.”

Several hundred comments have been received by email, hard copy, and at the public meetings, he said, noting that they’ve been from a broad range of groups on a broad range of issues, he said.

The California Water Action Plan released in January will guide that state’s efforts over the next five years with regard to the dual goals, he said.  Some of the issues have been made more acute by the drought, such as sustainable groundwater management and restoring damaged ecosystems, said Mr. Laird.  “We are going to be in position to work as best as we can to adjust, given the current drought.  Quite frankly, the flows are so low in different parts of the state due to the unprecedentedness of the drought, that most allocation systems, most management systems never contemplated flows this low. We are in uncharted territory and the reason the Governor did declare of a state of emergency is so that we can rebalance the system.”

“There are some that represent that its one group pitted another, but we are working very hard for everybody to work together,” he said.  “If we released what we were required to normally in February and March for flows, to keep salinity back out of the Delta, for water quality and for wildlife, we would not have, absent major rains, water in September and October to continue that effort or keep alive what we kept alive in February or March, so we have released an amount that is the minimum we can do to manage that and try to hold back a minimum amount to be able to try to do that in the fall, so we’re doing our best to manage, given this unprecedented situation.”

And with that, he turned it over to Mark Cowin.

Mark Cowin, Director of the Department of Water Resources

The historic drought has placed a lot of focus on the state’s water system and certainly illustrates we have a long way to go to secure sufficient reliability to meet our needs, began Mark Cowin.  It’s informative to note that communities that have suffered in previous droughts have taken steps to diversify and upgrade their water supply systems, and as such, are weathering better than other communities who have not made those kinds of investments, he said.  “Given the hundreds of communities that depend upon state and federal project exports as a fundamental part of their water supplies, we in the state and federal government certainly understand that we’re long overdue for an investment in the Delta,” he said.

Cowin 1The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not the singular answer to the problems we face, but rather a vital component of the broader strategy as outlined in the California Water Action Plan released by the administration last month, Mr. Cowin said.  “Providing a reliable, sustainable Delta water supply has to go hand in hand with all the other actions that are described in that water action plan, including better storage capability, improved groundwater management, and more efficient use of water through conservation, recycling, stormwater management, and other types of projects and approaches,” he said.  “It’s going to take steady progress and investment in projects, large and small, across the state in order to safeguard our water resources for the future.”

“The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not a classic 20th century water supply development program,” said Mr. Cowin.  “I see it instead as a modernization of 50-year old infrastructure that still plays a very important role in California water management.  I would describe that modernization in at least two critical forms.  First, by incorporating modern science and technology with new intakes that include state of the art fish screens located strategically to avoid those harmful reverse flows that have impacted fisheries and therefore impacted water supplies, and also to provide protection from risks related to climate change and seismic risk, as science advances and we better understand just what those risks are.  The infrastructure is also designed with energy efficiency in mind, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with project operations.”

Second, it’s a modernization in its commitment to the ethic of sustainability,” Mr. Cowin continued.  “We’re pursuing a voluntary Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Communities Conservation Plan approach to state and federal ESA permitting that links water supply operations to a recovery or conservation standard for species, as opposed to the current failed approach of mitigating for impacts on a species by species basis.  We’re also striving to incorporate a more robust approach to adaptive management into the program to deal with unavoidable uncertainty that we know we face, and particularly about how fish and wildlife will respond to our actions.”

There are a couple of issues that need further refinement in order to complete the planning process, Mr. Cowin acknowledged.  “One of the key places we have more work to do is in better refining how adaptive management will work over the life of the plan, including what supplemental resources might need to be available to accommodate additional actions as uncertainty plays out and what limits will be placed on those obligations, and as a result of that, how assurances will be defined under the terms of HCP and NCCP programs.  Really the incentive for program proponents under HCPs and NCCP permit are those regulatory and economic assurances that the Act provides for.  Under HCP and NCCP terms, permit holders agree to certain actions, designed to contribute to recovery of listed species and in return, the wildlife agencies agree to limit the requirements for additional resources, including land and water, should conditions change for the species, and those obligations and assurances are really the heart of the BDCP.  It’s what motivates the many water agencies to consider such a major investment that will benefit the Delta for decades to come.”

“That said, all parties that are participating in developing the BDCP also understand that if conditions worsen and that species are in jeopardy of extinction, those permits can be withdrawn, and we essentially end up where we started,” said Mr. Cowin.  “So how we ultimately balance the obligations and assurances is really critical at this juncture.  Obviously the more resources added to adaptive management, the bigger the commitments, the higher the likelihood of the success of the plan.  However, that adds cost and burden and perhaps leads us to an unaffordable plan, so getting that balance right is really the critical thing we’re working on right now.”

Those outcomes will also inform the ultimate costs of the plan, and how we would expect those costs to be split between water supply beneficiaries, the water agencies that are participating in the plan, and the state and federal government on behalf of the public,” he said, noting that 68% of the costs of the plan will be paid by the urban and agricultural water contractors who receive the water.  “Those districts have spent about $200 million in the planning process over the last seven years to get to this stage of plan development,” he said, noting that in the coming months, the boards of directors of all of those agencies will be considering whether they should participate, based on their consultations with experts and weighing the options that are before them.   “I can assure you that every one of those boards of directors are as interested in the accuracy of our cost estimates and the risk of cost overruns as we are within the DWR, the Brown Administration is, and all of you within California’s legislature are.”

Cost containment starts with having the right estimate to work with, one that has an appropriate contingency built in and one that’s not based on a pre-determined number that is considered affordable,” he said.  “That is known as optimism bias in the cost estimating world and it’s something that we’re very aware of, and working hard to be sure it isn’t a part of the cost estimates that we’re putting forward.

“At this point, we have what’s known as a class 3 cost estimate that is based upon what’s considered to be a 10% design in the engineering world,” he said, “so there is much more refinement to be done to have a cost estimate that’s ready for a bidding process.  The cost estimate includes a contingency of about 36% or $3.2 billion –  a significant amount of contingency because of the uncertainty at this level of where we are at in the design process.”

Mr. Cowin said they are concerned about cost containment, and they are doing their best to learn from other mega-infrastructure projects around the world.   “One thing that we will all need to ponder moving forward between the administration and the legislature is if we should expand the Department’s contracting authority to move from a low-bid wins type process, to be able to consider best value in contracting awards,” he said, noting that there are lot of different models for doing this.

Looking back, the BDCP follows the framework adopted by the legislature back in 2009 when we were in the grips of a drought,” he said.  “As it turns out that drought was not as significant or severe as the one we’re in right now, but the Bay Delta Reform Act that was passed in 2009 as part of a larger package wisely acknowledged the importance of the Delta to California as both an ecological and an economic asset.  It set forth the two coequal goals of protecting and restoring the Delta’s ecological function and stabilizing water delivery from the Delta that we’re all very familiar with these days, and BDCP is our best response to those coequal goals, and frankly I think the best and only opportunity we’ve had in our generation to invest significantly in the Delta in a way that will help future Californians.”

Chuck Bonham, Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife

My name is Chuck Bonham, and I think I have the greatest job in the world, which is the privilege to be the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife where each day our staff wake up, committed to our mission which is to manage California’s diverse fish and wildlife and plants, and the habitat they depend upon for their ecological value as well as their use and enjoyment by Californians,” he began.

Bonham 1Our department has a very unique role and I want to illustrate the delicate spot our department is in,” he said.  “We’re your expert agency on fish and wildlife issues in California, but by the same token, we’re reviewing an application that has been submitted to us by the DWR so the opinions I may offer today shouldn’t be taken as predecisional on any outcome about that permit application that’s in front of us.  We’re a permittor; Mr. Cowin and his Department, if this is successful, would be a permittee.”

Currently, our department is reviewing the draft documents, applying our staff and our experts to a chapter-by-chapter review, and this review will occur over the months ahead of us and it will be informed by public input, he said.  “Our ultimate decisions will be influenced by those comments that we receive by the public as well as the response to comments by the lead agencies during this process.”

In regards to adaptive management, Mr. Bonham said: “I think that it’s incredibly important that the content of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan be good, but it may be the case in the long run that implementation will be even more challenging and more important to get right, because the implementation term arguably will last longer than this year or two where we’ll discussing the particular details of the plan content. … That might be a more important place for us to focus now at least as important as some of the specific biological content.”

So in that regard, I think some improvements have been made,” continued Mr. Bonham.  “Specifically in Section 3.6, the document released most recently has clarified the roles, the biological goals and objectives, has clarified the compliance and permitting relationship to those goals and objectives, and has clarified how one would go about modifying any conservation measure in order to achieve a biological goal or objective.  Those are important clarifications.”

Another improvement is Table 7.1, which is found at page 7-3 in the November draft.  “What you’ll see on this table on the left side is a clear identification of all the decisions, broken into project management, adaptive management and monitoring, and water operations,” he said.

The table also clarifies who has final authority to decide particular matters, he said.  These are important clarifications, he said, giving some examples.  “Decision: Adaptive management changes to a conservation measure.  Who has final authority? The Regional director of the federal or state fish agency.  Decision: Adaptive management change to a biological objective.  Who has final authority? Regional director of relevant state or federal fish agency.  Decision: adaptive management change to problem statement.  Who has final decision making authority?  The permit oversight group, which is the regulatory agencies.  Decision: science review initiation and panel selection.  Who has final authority to decide? The permit oversight group, the regulatory agencies.  Decision: Real time operations changes, meaning within a year, how do you change water operations.  Who has final authority to decide?  Regional director of relevant state or federal fish agency.  That is an improvement.”

Another improvement is the dispute resolution process, Mr. Bonham said, noting that the earlier version allowed disputes to be elevated to the Governor’s office or the Secretary of the Interior.  “We heard from the public that that was a political overlay which gave parties in the plan opportunities to exercise the political override that may be different than a biological agency decision,” he said.  “That provision is no longer in the draft that’s been put out for the public and instead, what you’ll see in place, I believe, is a fair dispute resolution mechanism which allows any of the parties to invoke a three panel expert review which is non-binding, which will be done before the final decision making authority but doesn’t control my agency or my federal counterparts final decision.”

“I do think Director Cowin is correct that more conversation is ahead on the appropriate match between the commitments in the plan to biological outcomes, the biological certainty or not around those commitments and the commensurate regulatory assurances,” he said.  “Those need to be in equilibrium, and there’s more conversation ahead to be had there.”

Our department will be making its decision about this plan using the checklist given in Table 1-2 on page 112, called the Checklist for Natural Community Conservation Planning Act requirements, which is literally the statutory list of things we must say yes on in order to approve, he said.  “To give you an example, we must find that the plan integrates adaptive management that is periodically evaluated.  We must find the plan protects species diversity, we must find the plan establishes one or more reserves.  We must find the plan protects and maintains habitat areas, dot dot dot, including we must find the plan has adequate funding with it.  We will make our future decisions based largely on this checklist, and as you noted at the beginning, there’s a final overlay.  The 2009 Reform Act puts the Delta Stewardship Council in the role of an appellate body over our Department’s decisions pursuant to the NCCP Act.”

And with that, he concluded and the hearing moved into the question and answer period.

Discussion highlights

Senator Wolk asked Chuck Bonham what specifically was the Delta’s role in governance, and specifically their land use authority.

In Secretary Laird’s opening statements, he said he was taking the lead with Delta counties, but here’s an issue that’s important to me,” responded Mr. Bonham.  “I say this coming from the conservation community knowing real and lasting conservation outcomes are done best in partnership with landowners.  I’ve seen that across my entire career in California.  The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a substantial habitat restoration endeavor.  It will fail unless we’re doing well working with our local counties and our landowners and our regulated community in the plan area.  So I know our department is very interested in a way in which we could pursue such habitat restoration in partnership with local counties.” He did acknowledge that it is aspirational, but said they are working to clarify that aspiration in the final plan.

Mr. Cowin said that the dialog was continuing with the Delta counties to better define their role in governance, and he noted that there is a footnote in the chapter on governance that indicates that the dialog is continuing to better define exactly the structure of the governance and how decisions will be made regarding land use within the Delta counties.  “I would also note that we have worked extremely hard in refining the alignment of the actual infrastructure to have less impact on Delta communities,” he said.  “We’re very interested in continuing that dialog as well and ultimately we can match the state’s infrastructure needs with impacts on Delta counties as best we can.”

Wolk 1Senator Wolk then asked Director Bonham about the concerns that have been expressed about the effect of the BDCP on the Chinook salmon, and also who has the ability to control the pumps?

From a salmon perspective, particularly when it comes to winter run Chinook going up the Sacramento system, I happen to believe personally that we need a good – meaning biologically appropriate – BDCP to achieve the NCCP standards for salmon, but a good BDCP alone will not get us we need on salmon because there are many more limiting factors to their health,” responded Mr. Bonham.  “For example, 90% of the historical habitat of Central Valley salmon and steelhead lies above very large rim dams, so effectively we are asking these populations to survive in 5% of their historical habitat, which is akin to saying, hey you got a really nice two story house, but I’d like you stay in your kitchen forever.  Similarly, we know that habitat restoration outside the plan area can have substantial benefit for winter run.  … So we need a good BDCP for salmon, but we will need much more than that, in my opinion, to truly recover salmon across all of their life histories.”

In regards to the question of who has the ability to control the pumps, Mr. Bonham said, “I don’t think my answer to this question changes even if a public water agency is a member of the authorized entity group because you can’t take away the legal authority vested in the DWR and the USBR.  Legally, technically, in my opinion, they control the ability to operate the pumps.”  Table 7-1 answers the question, which is who controls changed circumstances, Mr. Bonham said.  “Those biological decisions at a final decision authority are left with my agency, the USFWS, and the NMFS.  Now some are likely going to tell me not good enough still, but in my personal opinion, substantially better than where we were last time you asked me this question.”

I think Chuck described the process of who controls the pumps very well,” said Mr. Cowin.  “We have a defined adaptive management process that ultimately the wildlife agencies will call the shots on.  The question is, how far can adaptive management move operation of the pumps and that’s the balance that I was trying to describe in my opening remarks between the limits of obligations of parties that are voluntarily perusing this permit versus the affordability of the project.  It’s a question of how low can you drive operation of pumps and still have an affordable project, versus providing all of the resources and assets necessary for a robust plan to assure that you meet the biological goals and objectives.”

If the state and federal funds envisioned in the plan’s chapter 8 do not materialize, and no other replacements can be found, what impact would that have on the habitat restoration?, asked Assemblyman Frazier.

We have more work to do on defining the extent of the resources necessary for a robust adaptive management program, so there is more work to do defining the total costs of the plan, and certainly more work to do on defining the cost splits between water contracting agencies and the state and federal government,” replied Mr. Cowin, noting that his federal counterparts have not committed to any of these costs at this time.  “At this point in the planning process, we are obligated to show a reasonable case that funding will be available to fulfill commitments of the plan and that’s what we’re attempting to do in the draft application as prepared in November.  It’s going to take a discussion among all of us, including the legislature, on what’s the appropriate amount of funding that the state should be committing on behalf of the public for this plan, and I want to be clear about that.  This is a decision that we all need to make together, whether this is an appropriate investment for California.

Assuming we get to that place and we do commit to moving forward with this plan, in the event that future water bonds don’t pass or federal funding doesn’t show up, then the plan participants will be placed in a position of deciding whether or not they are willing to come up with additional funding to fulfill the obligations of the plan, whether we ought to cut back on the scope of the plan – perhaps reduce the number of covered species in the plan in order to lower the costs, or to just start over again, essentially in terms of the permitting process, so obviously a shortfall in funding would be a difficult thing to overcome if it’s significant or if it’s delayed,” continued Mr. Cowin.  “However this is a multi-decadal plan and there’s flexibility in terms of when the funding comes, and when those investments need to be made, particularly on the part of the habitat and the other conservation measures other than the infrastructure.  So hopefully we can find a way to work together to get over those shortfalls of funding in a way and keep the plan in place.”

Frazier 1Assemblyman Frazier asked if there was a mechanism or a tipping point that determines when the plan is no longer affordable, and is there a plan B – an alternative in lieu of starting over from scratch?

You do an environmental impact report that has a broad range of alternatives so that if you don’t choose the preferred alternative, you have the other alternatives on the table,” responded Mr. Laird.  “We’ve done hundreds of millions of dollars of science on the species on a habitat plan and we have all the information on the table with a wide range of alternatives.  If for some reason people don’t choose that the preferred alternative as the alternative, there is a wide range of alternatives to decide where to go.  The question for us is to get all the information on the table so the decision makers have that in deciding whatever alternative they think over time would fit.”

To the question of affordability, it’s a difficult question to answer because it has to be made on the part of many parties,” said Mr. Cowin.  “Each of the participating water agencies in this plan are currently considering whether or not they ought to continue investment in the plan.  Each of those boards of directors are going to make their own decisions.  The question at the end of the day is do we have critical mass to move forward in conjunction with agreement on the parts of the state and federal governments that this is a plan we need to fund and advance.”

Assemblyman Frazier asked why general obligation bonds and general debt service are being used to support a project that seems to benefit a limited number of people, as compared to the 37 million people who live in California.  What is the rationale for the taxpayers of the state to subsidize this mega-project?, he asked.

This is the nature of the Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Communities Conservation Plan,” Mr. Cowin replied.  “This is a voluntary permit.  I believe it’s not just up to the water contracting agencies and DWR and BOR, but the state legislature and Congress to decide if this is a plan that we ought to fund and move forward. One choice of action would be to pursue the classic Section 7 permit through the Endangered Species Act, which means we would be obligated to mitigate for the impacts of our project.  Instead we’re pursuing this higher standard of a commitment to contribution to recovery of the various covered species of this plan.  The notion here is that by setting a higher standard, we work hand in hand with the public investment in order to achieve the conservation of species as opposed to just mitigating for impacts, so it’s the public benefit to attain a contribution to recovery of species as opposed to just mitigating for impacts, that is the value added and the justification for a public investment.”

Mr. Bonham then gave his personal view.  “I know you, as a sportsmen and an angler, believe in our department’s mission.  I do happen to believe as an individual there’s a public interest in the idea of designing a conservation strategy that addresses 57 species, across birds and fish, about a place that before 1850 was 540 square miles of amazing freshwater wetlands and 380 square miles of salt marsh habitat and where only 3 to 5% of that habitat is left, and trying to implement that in a way in partnership with local communities and move these species and those habitats to a sustainable spot.  They are not there now.  I actually think there’s a public interest in doing that.”

Pavley 1Senator Pavley said there is so much variability in the cost, and with water agencies deciding whether to be part of the BDCP and City of LA reducing water imports by 40% from the Delta … “If you’re sitting down in Southern California, you just want to know who is left footing the bill and what are those costs.”

We have been having that discussion with a lot of the stakeholders, whether it is the mayor of LA and his staff, or the MWD which provides water to 19 million people as the wholesaler,” replied Mr. Laird.  “They’ve put out various cost estimates.  They are working on it.  It is very clear that some of them are strongly in support of additional recycling and stormwater recapture, but at the same time they recognize that you can’t conserve and you can’t reuse unless you have reliability of the underlying supply.  We look forward to continuing those conversations.  They are all very much still on the table.”

Senator Pavley said they have heard a wild rumor that the administration is considering a water acquisition program where the state, not the contractors, would buy water from upstream users to help meet Delta outflow requirements under the BDCP …

Having sat in your chair for a number of years, I heard rumors all the time,” answered Mr. Laird.  “I think at this point there’s nothing substantive related to that to talk about.  There are various NGOs and other people that have put that issue on the table in conversations and I think the we just continue – this is the perfect close for us, because at the opening we said we’re spending all our time narrowing the issues, trying to resolve them as per the stakeholders, and when it gets to the close, if there’s other solutions, people put on the table, but at this point …

Coming tomorrow in Part 2 …

In part 2 of the coverage of this hearing,  Steve Arakawa (Metropolitan Water District), David Guy (Northern California Water Association), Doug Obegi (NRDC), Marguerite Patil (CCWD), Jason Peltier (WWD), and Larry Ruhstaller (County of San Joaquin, DPC) give their perspectives on the BDCP.

For more information …

  • Click here for the agenda and meeting materials.
  • Click here to view this hearing on the Cal Channel.
  • Click here to visit the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee online.
  • Click here to visit the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee online.
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