Getting things done in the Delta: The Coalition to Support Delta Projects updates the Delta Stewardship Council on their progress

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The Coalition to Support Delta Projects is a diverse group of prominent water stakeholders that came together early in 2012 to explore near-term Delta projects that were widely supported and that would not prejudice the outcome of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan or the Delta Plan.  In August of 2012, the Coalition Delta Stewardship Council heard a presentation from the Coalition, and at the March 2014  meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Coalition members returned to update the Council on their progress.

DSC Taryn 2Although many public and private efforts are focused on improving the conditions of the Delta, the reliability of the state’s water supplies and the health of the Delta ecosystem are still greatly challenged,” began Taryn Ravazzini.  “Whereas the Delta Plan draws on lessons of the past, it also requires and encourages sustainable actions now, and lays a strong foundation for future projects and programs that further the coequal goals.” Some of these efforts will take several years to complete, but realizing that time is of the essence, the Council has expressed interest in near-term actions that further the achievement of the coequal goals, she said.

On the panel today are Marguerite Patil from the Contra Costa Water District, Eileen White from East Bay Municipal Utilities District, David Katz from California Trout, Doug Brown from the Delta Counties Coalition, and Petra Marchand from Consero Solutions on behalf of Yolo County.  Susan Sherry, the facilitator for the Coalition, began by providing an overview of the Coalition.

Susan Sherry, facilitator

The Coalition is a diverse group of individuals who are prominently involved in water policy and conflicts throughout the state, who came together to identify and evaluate no regrets projects,” began Susan Sherry.  “No regrets in the Coalition definition was that it wouldn’t prejudice the BDCP or prior to its adoption, the Delta Plan.”  The Coalition members include state and federal water exporters, flood and water agencies, Delta agriculture, Delta residents, Delta cities and counties, and others.  The core group consists of about 50 members with about another 100 following electronically, she said.

DSC Sherry 2In 2012, the Coalition signed a letter to the Governor identifying 43 worthy Delta projects that should move forward through the regulatory and other processes, and in 2013-2014, the Coalition identified another 22 projects, bringing the total to 65, said Ms. Sherry, noting that there is a handout that lists the projects, their sponsors, and who presented the project at Coalition meetings.  LINK TO REPORT  “Some of these projects are already underway while others require engineering and design work, and others are still at the conceptual phase, so we have sort of a broad range of projects,” she said.

I want to pause here and thank DWR, the SFCWA, So Delta Water Agency and Central Delta Water Agency for financially supporting the Coalition,” she said.

Ms. Sherry said that the panelists will be sharing four projects with the Council that highlight the challenges and how those challenges were overcome, as well as the lessons learned.  Projects were chosen based on the diversity of geography, type of project, the range of challenges, and include successfully completed projects, projects still underway, as well as those that aren’t even started yet, she said.

Marguerite Patil, Contra Costa Water District

Marguerite Patil began by explaining that the Contra Costa Canal is a 44-mile conveyance facility of which the first four miles are unlined.  “It pretty much looks like an agricultural drainage ditch,” she said.  “It was built back in the 1930s.  It was one of the earliest parts of the Central Valley Project, and the design of it was contemporary to the time, but it was really meant for agriculture and not for meeting the needs of an urban agency that serves 500,000 people.”

DSC Marguerite 2As Contra Costa Water District’s service area has evolved, it’s time to upgrade the canal, she said.  The canal is being upgraded in segments, as they were finalizing a grant agreement with DWR, it became clear there were conflicts with DWR’s Dutch Slough restoration project, she said.  “So we very quickly modified the plan,” she said.  “We worked very closely with DWR to do a MOU, we modified the location of that next phase from Segment 5 … the whole point of it was not only to reduce flood risk, but also to improve drinking water quality and improve operations of our facilities as well as the state and federal projects and related objectives.”  Besides the usual challenges, such as financing, there were difficult permitting issues, such as the giant garter snake, she said.  “If anyone knows anything about that particular species, you’ll know it’s pretty difficult, especially when you can’t see it and it doesn’t seem to be there, but you’re still trying to protect it,” she said.

There were the usual issues such as the Western Area Power Administration, landowners, and others, but it was the agreement with DWR that was the most challenging to resolve, she said.  “In the end, it produced benefits, not only for our district in that we could move forward and get some of the project done and hold on to $10 million of state funding that was very difficult to acquire, but actually provide some benefits to the project construction,” she said.  “We were able to land apply some of our dewatering water that comes out of the construction directly onto Dutch Slough, which reduces the amount of water we discharge into Delta, and DWR no longer had to be tied to specific mitigation measures to make us whole for the impacts of their project would have on us, so it truly was a win-win and it was great that it got done last August so everything could proceed.”

Dutch Slough map 2This is why the project was on the coalition list and why it is consistent with the Delta Plan, said Ms. Patil.  “It definitely helps our district provide a more reliable supply of water to our customers, improves the quality, eliminates the risk of failure if that old design of that levee were to fail and flood what’s now a highly developed area, and we no longer are holding up the Dutch Slough restoration project which was identified in the Delta Plan as an early action that should move forward.  It helped us support a project that had a lot of buy-in and support from other parties.”

Funding has been a constraint which we’ve largely worked through by phasing it, she said.  “We’re still looking for $50 million in funding,” she said.  “We think we’ve pretty well tapped out the state in what they are willing to provide, so we’re paddling on the other side of the boat, on the federal side, and working with the Army Corps of Engineers to see if we can get WRDA funding, and it looks like we have some authorization, but as you know that’s just the first step to actually getting appropriations.”

We’re moving on the project right now.  The contractor is on site getting ready to lay down the pipe.  If the weather cooperates and everything goes well, he should be done by early next year, and we can put our Rock Slough intake back on line,” she said.

I also want to acknowledge Eileen from East Bay MUD,” Ms. Patil said.  “One of the other challenges that we had was that we had to take out one of our main Delta intakes, Rock Slough, for a year and a half during construction, because it was very costly to do bypass pumping, but due to some of the great partnerships we’ve had with Eileen and her staff, we can explore ways to use our other intakes or possibly operate the intertie we have with EBMUD to get us through a challenging operational time, so I want to give her a nod of appreciation of her support.”

Eileen White, East Bay Municipal Water District

I’ve been manager of operations for EBMUD for over 14 years and I got to experience the flooding, so I was personally motivated to get these projects approved,” said Eileen White.

The story started with Dante Nomellini and I becoming partners, and we’ve become connected at the hip because we wanted to get the state funding,” she said.  “We applied for 10 projects, didn’t get what we wanted.  We were hoping for 95% state funding and 5% local share …  Dante said we don’t have a deal as we don’t have the money to pay the local share.  I said wait, we don’t want to walk away, there’s an opportunity here.  We’ve got 10 projects and we could improve almost 40 miles of levees in the Delta.  These levees run adjacent to EBMUD’s water supply, our aqueducts which bring water to 1.3 million customers, and we also have interties with a number of agencies, including Contra Costa, and so it’s key to make sure these levees stay intact and that we can provide water to the East Bay.”

DSC Eileen 1You can’t do any major projects with the ag districts without a local partner, pointed out Ms. White.  “They do not have the funding.  We have to prepare the grant applications, they don’t have the staff; EBMUD’s a large organization, I have a large staff, but a little reclamation district doesn’t,” she said.  “So the first hurdle is that we need to support these agencies and they need to have a partner.“

Part of the partnership involved money, and since the state was only going to give 85%, there was a 15% local share, we went to our Board, and fortunately I explained to our board the benefit of these projects in supporting and meeting the coequal goals – that we were going to do some habitat restoration and we were going to improve the levees, bring them up to the Corps of Engineers standards, which would give us a better opportunity to respond to any issues in the Delta.  There were 10 projects with total costs of $41.3 million, the state agreed to $35.2 million, and the local share was $6.1 million.  The EBMUD Board of Directors agreed, but that’s not the end of the story, because it’s not just local share.”

The next hurdle is that the state provides cash advances for up to 95% of the 85% of the state funded costs, she said.  “You can’t tell that to a contractor that you’re going to have to wait.  Anyone who has worked with contractors knows they expect to get paid in 30 days because they have to meet payroll, so for these projects, it left a temporary burden of about $4 million that needed to be financed,” she said.  “Once again, Dante said hey, Eileen, I don’t have $4 million sitting in the bank, and once again, we being a large organization, a large water utility, were basically the bank for these projects.  So the finances is really important as you go forward with these and having a partner for anything the reclamation districts are going to do.”

For these projects, EBMUD agreed to provide the non-refundable local share of $6.1 million, the temporary cash flow of about $4 million, and to maintain the financial oversight,” she said.  “For their part, as their part of the partnership, the reclamation district agreed to execute the agreements with the DWR and agreed to be the engineering of record; they hired the engineering firm and they issued all contracts because all money was going through them, through DWR.”

DWR Delta pipelines #1
Mokelumne Aqueduct

The next hurdle was getting through the Delta Stewardship Council,” she said.  “I came in May of 2010, and our environmental document wasn’t quite up to par, so we had to go back, so you have to be tenacious.”

We just kept working to overcome the challenges, Ms. White said.  “We did a more comprehensive environmental document; Chris Stephens made sure they met all the standards of the DSC, and so I’m proud to say that on July 2011, the DSC approved $20 million for 5 projects.  We hit the ground running.  Working with Dante, hiring the engineering consultant, then we came back in January 26 of 2012 and the Council approved another $13.5 million for 4 additional projects.”

I’m happy to report today, a couple years later, that all nine projects are complete, so I want to thank you and as a result, almost 3 miles of habitat restoration has occurred out in the Delta, we’ve improved almost 40 miles of levees, we’ve put a lot of people to work with the economy down, and a lot of other benefits,” she said.

Another hurdle is that I’m still waiting for $1.7 million, she said.  “These projects have been completed for over a year … It’s working through the bureaucracy and it’s just a fact of life, and I want to be very complimentary of the DSC, of the DWR staff and all the resource agencies we worked with, but it’s just one of the obstacles you need to recognize … Over a year later, all projects are complete, and I’m still waiting for $1.7 million of my cash flow.  This is beyond our local share, this was the paid to contractor.  The contractors have all been paid, they are all gone to other jobs, but to get the completion of everything through the state, it’s just takes time.  …”

Mokelumne Aqueduct at Bullfrog Landing #1 smaller
Mokelumne Aqueduct

The other big hurdle is the environmental document, she said.  “We went forward with all these projects, but there’s one project that we have not gotten approval, we have not come back for, and that’s because it was complex environmental documentation required, there was an endangered species, and we hope to bring that back in the spring, and that would be the final of the ten projects.”

In summary, I think that finances is the biggest hurdle and the environmental documents are the next,” she said.  “You need a good partner, a partner with money – that’s really important to move these forward, and we did step up to plate.  And then what are the benefits? It’s not only the reliability of EBMUD’s water supply and the reliability to the other water agencies in the Bay Area that we have interties with, but also consistent with the coequal goals, a fair amount of habitat restoration. … There is a lot of critical infrastructure that is protected as a result of this, along with the water to the 20 million people in Southern California who rely on the pumps at Clifton Court Forebay because you could have simultaneous failures with levees.  They’ve all benefitted from these projects, so I just want to say thank you to the DSC, to DWR, to USFWS, DFW, and all the resources agencies, but it was a real success as a result of everyone’s approval.”

David Katz, Cal Marsh and Farm Ventures

David Katz began by explaining that Cal Marsh and Farm Ventures is an organization that is dedicated to helping recover the great salmon runs of the Sacramento River in partnership with land owners and the agricultural community.

We’re working in the Yolo Bypass, and the focus of our work is on the Knaggs Ranch, which is the 1700-acre rice property at the north end of the bypass that our company manages with our investor partners,” he said.

David_Katz_the_Nigiri_Project_4_2_14_Page_2We acquired that property over four years ago so we could begin to implement a managed floodplain project to bring back salmon runs in the Sacramento.  Over the last three years, we have implemented a comprehensive science investigation in the bypass with our partners DWR, California trout, and UC Davis.  We’ve definitively shown that in as little as 20 days on the floodplain, the baby salmon thrive, get fat and do far better than the fish that remain in the river.  In fact, what we’re demonstrating and it’s been constantly brought up by the scientists the last 15 years is that winter floodplains are the missing link in terms of revitalizing the salmon runs in the Sacramento River.

We see the potential with our land and our neighbors to do 10,000 acres of managed floodplain in the Yolo Bypass, and we’re basically moving ahead on our own to get this done,” he said.  “We used private money to begin implementing this project, and we see many opportunities to move forward.  We have total cooperation of the landowner community and we’ve addressed all the issues raised by various agencies.”

David_Katz_the_Nigiri_Project_4_2_14_Page_4As for the challenges, it is the setting of priorities and prioritization seems to be the overwhelming question that keeps emerging in all the planning efforts in the Delta, whether it’s in the Delta Plan, the BDCP or others, he said.  “While we have this huge basket of projects that all need to be done, including this list  which is all the repairs and enhancements required to keep the Delta together, and all of this infrastructure, we are unable to focus on the priorities and create a mechanism where we really can do something.”

The 10,000 acres of floodplain habitat is probably the single largest increment that can help to meet the coequal goal of enhancing the ecosystem in the Delta, he said.  “You have a great focus on the tunnels and the water supply; it’s really clear what’s there,” said Mr. Katz.  “But on the other side, in terms of enhancing the ecosystem, there isn’t a process identified or prioritized any major effort that says we can do this; it’s really going to do something for the ecosystem.  So I would urge you to use everything possible to try and really put more force and emphasis on prioritizing key large projects that could really make a difference.”

There is mounting opposition to the water supply half of this equation because the state and other parties have failed to articulate and focus on what the ecosystem side of the equation is, said Mr. Katz.  “Every fisheries and natural resource and conservation group that we encounter in the state of California has easily identified the tunnels and its problems, but when you bring up the coequal environmental aspects, they said, what are you going to do?  What’s the state going to do? The priorities are so poorly focused that the opposition doesn’t even understand what’s out there right now, so that’s one issue.”

David_Katz_the_Nigiri_Project_4_2_14_Page_6There are also regulatory and permitting challenges, he said.  “We’re all familiar with that and the many regulatory barriers and the time and costs necessary to meet them.  I’d like to suggest some focus be put on some kind of overreaching or comprehensive approach to integrating these agencies and their regulatory mission around each project.  Currently the state has some mechanisms to do that.  There’s the salmon restoration program that fish and wildlife has been implementing for years in partnership with the federal government, when they approve a bunch of salmon restoration projects in a region in California annually, they lump all together for a state-managed environmental review and approval projects, and it really makes it possible for all of these entities throughout the state to implement these salmon enhancement projects.  We need a similar mechanism for projects in the Delta.”

The Yolo Bypass is an excellent example where someone has to really somehow integrate the regulatory process and get it to the point where it really moves forward,” he said.  “Every time we have a plan and we have agreement like we do in the Yolo Bypass, the feds say ok, time for an EIR, come back in a couple years, which is basically where we are right now, and we’re sitting there ready to go.

David_Katz_the_Nigiri_Project_4_2_14_Page_8I’m reflecting the frustration of landowners and the many participants in the Delta for that last twenty, thirty years where we’ve been doing a lot of planning and a lot of talking, but we’re really having a hard time moving forward,” he said.  “I think that the regulatory situation and the fact that we’re not really identifying and focusing on major priorities on the ecosystem side are some of the biggest challenges that we’re facing.”

Money has not been a restriction, he said.  “We were fortunate in that the Santa Clara Water Agency and Metropolitan Water District and others provided some grant funding, and now SWFCA is now putting grant funding in it, and finally, the Bureau of Reclamation is agreeing to fund our projects, although it takes them a heck of a long time to ever get money to us, but we’re still grateful, so we’re moving forward with that.  In the long term, it seems apparent that the water users and ratepayers will pay for managing these floodplains, so we sense once we get through all those hurdles, that we’ll be able to address the long term financial needs of the landowners to implement and manage this floodplain project.”

We really feel like we’ve emphatically proven that we can supply the missing link to enhanced salmon populations in the Sacramento River system, and that’s right at the top of the list in your Delta Plan,” he said.  “We would like to move ahead, and we’re just frustrated again, stymied by extended planning process and many, many layers of bureaucratic approval.  So there you have my rant and rave.”

DSC Katz 2Chair Randy Fiorini asked about the acreage of the project.

We have 1700 acres,” replied Mr. Katz.  “Our test projects were focused on much smaller floodplain sections where the science was carried out.  It costs about $500,000 to do a two-month floodplain project on 10 acres in the Yolo Bypass when you really do comprehensive science, and we’ve done that and we’ve had terrific results. Our next project is 150 acres in the northern part of the bypass and we’ve already applied through the fast track process sponsored by SWFCA to see if we could get that through and permitting to do 150 acres.  If we saw a green light, we’d like to begin engineering and planning so we could actually do 1700 acres of floodplain habitat in the northern Delta.”

One of the key issues has been notching the Fremont Weir to provide managed floods during the winter, but what we’re proven is that you can take existing natural floods, retain those floods with simple structures, and manage that floodplain,” he said.  “These fish benefit from 20 days on a floodplain.  So even if we don’t have the notch in the weir to put water on that bypass every winter for a couple of months, we still could do great benefits with the natural floods, and we’re prepared to go forward on that basis and wait until the weir gets notched in five or ten years, and then we can have more habitat, but we could move forward right now.”

Petra Marchand, Consero Solutions on behalf of Yolo County

Yolo Projects Presentation_Page_1Petra Marchand began by giving some background on the Yolo Bypass.  “Since 2009, Yolo County has been cooperating with the state and federal government on proposals to increase the frequency and duration of flooding in the Yolo Bypass for important fish like Chinook salmon,” she said.  “As part of that process, the Board of Supervisors and the County connected a number of studies of the potential impacts of the various proposals.  … They were interested in not only the impacts of proposals on the County and ways those impacts could be reduced, but … if you’re going to do a big project in the bypass that benefits fish, and you want to maintain all of the existing uses in the bypass, which includes agriculture and wetlands and educational and recreational opportunities, how do you provide benefits from this big project to those existing uses.”

Yolo Projects Presentation_Page_2The purposes of this study that I’m presenting to you today is to identify projects that could be implemented in conjunction with any project for fish that would help to benefit farmers and wetlands managers in the Yolo Bypass,” she said.

The consultants and Yolo County staff teamed up with the Yolo Basin Foundation and met individually with all of the farmers, landowners, and wetlands managers in the bypass, she said.  “Remember that in the bypass, the landowners and the farmers are not necessarily the same.  In many cases, the landowners lease their land to farmers, so it’s very important to the County to talk not only to the landowners but also to talk to the farmers and to the wetland managers who are actually on the ground, in the bypass every day.

They worked with stakeholders to select criteria to rank projects, and had stakeholders draw on maps where potential improvements could be made.  The focus was on drainage and water infrastructure improvements that would benefit these wetlands managers and farmers, so they asked the people who knew best what projects would improve drainage and water infrastructure in the bypass, she said. The result was a list of 12 projects and a list of criteria to rank those projects.  “The study is coming out next week, and it ranks the projects from 1 to 12,” she said.

Yolo Projects Presentation_Page_3The projects are located up and down the bypass with five projects in the upper bypass and five projects in the lower bypass, she said.  The projects include weir, drainage canal, ag crossing and road improvements, as well as development of a bypass-wide system for maintaining vegetation and silt in the canals.

I just really want you take away as background that we involved local stakeholders in this process,” she said.  “These are the projects that came from these stakeholders in the Yolo Bypass and the main purpose of the projects is to improve drainage and to improve water supply in the Yolo Bypass.”

Ms. Marchand said there are four key challenges she would like to focus on: funding, local stakeholder involvement, project management, and permitting.  She noted that they have overcome two of them, but for the other two, it’s yet to be seen.

Yolo Projects Presentation_Page_4We received funding for the study from Conaway Ranch, who provided that funding to Yolo County with no strings attached, she said.  “Yolo County was able to do a study and work with landowners without having any specific requirements on them, so they could do it the way they wanted to and reach out to the organizations that they wanted to reach out to.  The second part of the funding that makes this potentially good is that the projects are connected to the larger project to potentially inundate the bypass for fish habitat, and the connection to that larger project makes it more likely to actually see the projects to implementation.”

The second is stakeholder involvement, she said.  “It’s typically a challenge that many of these projects face,” she said, noting that it’s important to have input from the farmers and wetlands managers in a formal capacity.  “Now I feel like we’ve reached the next step where we can actually have open conversations with the state and federal government about these infrastructure and drainage projects.  Most importantly from a Yolo County perspective, the farmers and the wetlands managers feel comfortable with moving forward with discussions about the projects as well because they’ve been asked for their opinion and they understand that the County and the Yolo Basin Foundation are looking out for their interests, as well as trying to work with the state and federal government.”

DSC Petra 1The last two barriers of project management and permitting have not been addressed yet because the projects haven’t moved to the implementation phase yet, she said.  Regarding project management, local governments, especially in places like Yolo County, do not have staff to apply for grants, to manage projects of this size, or to even do a study like this, she pointed out.  “This is outside the bounds of what a local agency or reclamation district or any of these agencies that have a specific purpose really have the funds or the time to do.  Typically a project like this would be in addition to the work that a local agency staff person already has, and that’s generally a lot to ask from someone who already has a full time job doing something else, so in my opinion, that is one of the impediments to moving some of these projects forward.”

The final barrier is permitting, she said.  “We deliberately made sure that our projects have a range of permitting requirements.  We are operating a floodway, so we’re expecting that some of the significant improvements will be fairly difficult from a permitting perspective, but there are other ones like road improvements that should be relatively simple and that we could get going on in a relatively short amount of time.  I think that’s another advantage of this suite of proposals is that there are projects that can move forward quickly and there’s also projects that are going to take a little more time because of the permitting process.”

So with that …

Susan Sherry, facilitator, wraps it up

In preparing for the panel, Susan Sherry said they had a number of discussions with a much broader group, so she would touch on a few to get the wisdom of those aren’t present.

DSC Sherry 1One of the things that I think everyone agreed was with all these projects, there are a lot of project specific challenges, very specific challenges, like the garter snake, historical resources, endangered species, or cultural resources,” she said.  “What’s important is if you don’t have someone who’s a champion and a dedicated manager, a good idea will just drop because you almost need a maniacal problem solver – someone who is so goal-driven on solving problems and understands how to form partnerships.  Everyone said that was almost the most important thing, above even funding. … They were talking about the personality of the project manager, they have to never take no, be there every day, pound on the table, whatever, so that was one thing that came out really strong.”

Another thing that came out was the need for political and landowner support, she said.  “That’s a really key thing, and if people don’t understand that, they won’t’ get very far.

They discussed permitting as a group, choosing to focus on the solutions rather than the barriers.  Four lessons came out of their discussions, she said:

1.  “They said that no matter what you think about what the permitting agencies want, just listen carefully, understand what they are saying, and then just do it.  Don’t fuss with them.  Listen, understand and just move forward,” she said.

2.   “Acknowledge the permitting agencies have way too much on their plate, and that if you ever have the financial resources to help them with their work and hire someone to help them with their work,” she said.

3.  “Understand and mitigate the fact that the agency DNA is really risk-adverse,” she said.  “It’s around scientific uncertainty and it’s around a culture that we have in our public agencies that mistakes are sometimes focused more than successes – personal professional mistakes – so there’s some cultural thing around risk aversion that our folks are saying really gets in the way here.”

4.  “We found that with projects that have a lot of infrastructure by them – country roads, state roads, gas lines, trains, whatever, that makes the project even more daunting because you have to work around all those things,” she said, noting that at meetings, urban water agencies trying to work on levee projects tend to choose islands without a lot of infrastructure because they know every piece of infrastructure is going to be a nightmare.

Discussion highlights

I’m going to read you some of my summaries of the composite testimony,” said Councilman Phil Isenberg.  “Either all or some of you have said the following:  full or near full funding should come from the state or somebody other than us; there should be no strings or not too many, and the state should pay the money to the locals in advance.  Big impact projects should go first, except the really important smaller projects should go first.  Full engagement of local interests, but really fast review and approval by state agencies and no long delays.  That’s my experience with most human activity in the 50 years I’ve spent in public life, but all of those are prescriptions for delay. … ”

DSC Phil 1The thing about the list, of which the first 44 projects cost $828 million with no mention of a cost sharing ratio, and then 21 additional projects now added – the total cost … I’m guessing a billion dollars at least,” continued Mr. Isenberg.  “The problem is … what are the public purposes that should be served and in what order, and what standards should apply on investments?  We know from the studies from the PPIC that when you add up all the money that’s spent for operations, for maintenance, for capital improvements, on water, wastewater and flood control in California, the average total amount of spending is 84 to 86% from local agencies, 12% from the state, and 4% from the federal government. But the debates here are always first about state money.”

I understand why, and I think it’s helpful that you’re wrestling with how to address what are the amorphous policy statutory goals of the state, the coequal goals,” he said.  “But I still don’t see a priority listing of these, because you haven’t been able to wrestle more successfully than we have … How can rational decisions be made when even well intentioned people who now have spent two and a half years putting together a list of projects where the principles are less clear, or no more clearer than they are for us.”

Part of keeping the coalition together was not setting priorities because what we wanted to do was to get a big of a list together for you all and for other government agencies,” responded Susan Sherry.  “We only could do our part, and we in a collaborative process knew that if we start picking priorities, we would bust the coalition up.  Everyone has a role to play in this, and so that’s our role.”

What you picked out of the presentation, it clearly seemed like an over-cynical approach to what we’re saying,” responded Doug Brown, with the Coalition for Delta Counties.

Who did I misquote?” said Mr. Isenberg.  “I don’t think it’s bad; I don’t think its hostile; I don’t think it’s irresponsible to do these kinds of things, but you can’t simultaneously expect a governmental agency to not set articulated principles that you may not agree with.”

That’s not what we’re saying … “ responded Doug Brown and Susan Sherry.

Let me just make a suggestion to you,” said Mr. Isenberg.  “The state law says the coequal goals of water reliability for California, and habitat protection and improvement in the Delta.  Half of these projects are flood control, which may have an impact, the expansions or modifications of the Yolo Bypass are an illustration, but many of them don’t.  They just happens to be projects, good on their own terms, a benefit to local people, but if the benefit is primarily to local interests, it’s a harder reach to argue that the state ought to pay a lion’s share.  The Delta’s always benefitted in flood area from having very low local cost shares.”

DSC Phil v Doug“The majority of these projects are focused on fish benefits as well as flood benefits, ag sustainability – the multi benefit projects that we hear the Delta Plan is encouraging,” said Doug Brown.  “We’ve got something going on here where you have locals who decided that we wanted to figure out what we can do to create fish habitat and we want to move that forward, and we’re a little frustrated with the process. Everyone gets frustrated with the permitting process, but how often do you have locals actually moving projects forward that benefit fish and habitat and restoration?

I understand why a coalition of diverse groups cannot set priorities because the losers threaten to leave or do leave, but it is the setting of priorities that gives consistency, understandable terms, focus and some half-assed chance of expeditious action,” said Mr. Isenberg.

And that’s governments role,” responded Ms. Sherry.  “That’s how we have seen it – it’s really government’s role to set the priority, and we’re trying to set the table a little bit.”

You mentioned the challenge of having so many relatively small, poorly capitalized, slimly staffed entities throughout the Delta,” added Dan Ray.  “I wonder if there aren’t ways to create more JPAs among the RDs so you finally would get a single entity that would have the capacity to carry out a large project. SAFCA is an example of many localities working together to finally get the capacity to do something important, or maybe to use the Delta Conservancy in that sort of way.  They kind of run on fumes now but there might be some ways that they could serve that role as a sponsor and expeditor …

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